Clayton Mann, Nashville’s up-and-coming rising star, is coming to Albion this weekend.
Mann is described as having a powerful tenor range, “that’s sweet on the high notes with enough baritone on the deep end to make your spine crawl,” according to his website. It has been said over the past decade that Mann has a powerful voice that belies his age.
His performances are described as high-energy, as he tantalizes his audience’s ears with hard-charging, rock-inspired contemporary country music - with a touch of soul, citing Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, KISS and many others as his inspirations from an early age.
“I grew up exposed to a lot of rock-n-roll and the blues, artists Queen, AC/DC, KISS, Elvis, Tom Jones, BB King.” With encouragement from his Papaw Doc, Clayton began singing Elvis tunes at the age of 3.
He said those that inspired him include Waylon Jennings, Chris Stapleton and Brothers Osborne. “Those artists that live on the edge of outlaw country inspire me.”
“I’m also inspired by Freddy Mercury of Queen; KISS, who has a very regimented, extreme work ethic; Elvis Presley for his performance qualities and how he related to an audience and Elton John, for his master of the piano…”
According to Mann, “…it is important to be authentic and true to yourself,” especially for a songwriter.
“I like the hard charging guitar sound of rocking up country music.”
He not only sings, but is known for his writing, as well. Furthermore, he has had vocal lessons with a trained opera singer, is a trained rhythm guitarist, playing both electric and acoustic guitars and can also play some bass guitar and cello. He added, “piano…is another instrument I am currently learning to play.”
Mann’s parents, Mike and Julie (Reburn) Mann, are originally from Mount Carmel, but moved to Glen Ellyn before Mann was born. Family, to include his grandparents, still live in Mount Carmel. “Ever since I can recall, I spent all my summers in Mount Carmel, so it’s like home to me; as equally as Chicago.”
“I hope to get to know the people of Albion just as well, because I used to pass through Albion every time I came south on 130 to Highway 15 by the corner gas station onto Browns, Bellmont and finally, my Papaw’s, in Mount Carmel. I love being here, and I hope y’all invite me back.”
Mann has a lot of memories of Mount Carmel. “I have had so many good and memorable times here. It’s very relaxing for me to be here. Every summer, I went fishing with my Papaw on the Wabash and in the ponds by the Mount Carmel Golf Course,” where he also learned how to golf.
“We ate at the famed Taco Tierra on Main Street and Twin Rivers down by the river, then we’d get ice cream from Famous J’s on Main or the Tastee Freez. I learned to ride a bike here, and my Memaw would buy all our clothes from the Attic…I like going into Constance Folsom’s Backyard Markets on Main Street where we always get fudge and coffee, too. Mount Carmel treats me like family because this very much is my family.”
Mount Carmel, he said, is where “my Papaw taught me about Elvis, Tom Jones, rock music and supported me to continue to do what I love.”
Mann started at a young age. Living in Glen Ellyn, outside Chicago, he began playing in Chicago dive bars at just 11 years old. At 13, he was admitted into The Recording Academy, which oversees the Grammy’s. What fans may not know, though, is Mann, along with his two older (twin) brothers, Bryce and Jonathon, were known as REBELMANN®, where Mann was the lead vocalist, in the early part of the decade. Looking back to being a musician during his school years, he said, “when other kids were out playing football and soccer, I was on stage in Chicago bars playing rock-n-roll music to an adult crowd. It was hard for my peers to relate to my goals and aspirations.”
REBELMANN was voted “Most Talented Teens” at the 2012 Chicago Music Awards; placed 2nd at the 2013 Hard Rock Chicago Battle of the Bands (based on a coin flip!); and placed 3rd in the Best of the Midwest Battle of the Bands 2013. They played at the renowned Whiskey-A-Go-Go on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip twice in 2011, opened for LA Guns on New Year’s Eve 2011 and toured with the national anti-bullying Teen Nation Tour in 2014, which performed at NASCAR’s Charlotte Motor Speedway that fall.
While attending Rock n’ Roll Fantasy Camp at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in 2012, Mann was able to not only meet, but jam with KISS idol, Gene Simmons. Several indie articles of the time note that Simmons’ was blown away by Mann’s personality and skills. A picture of the two was later featured in the Southwest Airlines magazine ad for Rock n’ Roll Fantasy Camp.
As for local performances, REBELMANN performed a benefit for the Wabash Valley College basketball program at the American Legion in Mount Carmel in 2012. They also performed at the 2011 and 2012 Ag Days in Mount Carmel. Mann headlined solo at Mount Carmel’s Fantastic Fourth Weekend this past July, and has played in and around the area over the years.
“My most memorable experience is playing the Wildhorse Saloon last fall. I never gave my parents the experience of a prom or homecoming, and they were able to attend this performance in Nashville with my Grandma Janet from Mount Carmel. I was very proud to be on that stage and in that moment,” he shared.
As much as he loved Chicago, and Mount Carmel, he now considers Nashville to be his home. He feels he will continue to home base out of Nashville throughout his career; he’s already made the mental transition and the “songwriting community becomes like family down here, so being present is almost a requirement.” To see him, to hear him speak - it is hard to believe just a few years ago he was living in the Chicago area. He has become Nashville.
He reminisced, “One of the biggest obstacles [I overcame] was packing up and moving to Nashville after I just graduated high school in 2018. It was sort of a blind move. I didn’t know anyone in Nashville, I had no industry contacts there or friends. It felt very isolating.” He said that his frequent trips to southern Illinois helped prepare him, though.
At 18 years old in Nashville, he said he just started walking across the street, “…on Demonbreun (a string of songwriter bars in Nashville) five nights a week, and park[ed] myself there trying to learn the ropes of Nashville and ingrain myself into the Nashville songwriting scene. It was a huge emotional challenge, but I’m glad I stuck it out and made it through that.”
Mann took off for Nashville in 2018 and hasn’t stopped since. He released his debut solo single, “Cooler,” at the end of May, and come November, his follow-up single, “One Day at a Time,” will be streaming on the airwaves. Recently, he’s been spending a lot of time in the studio, working on the final mixing and mastering for that second single. He said, “the projected release date is Nov. 6 to Spotify, Apple Music and all streaming platforms.”
Mann is just 21 years old (barely), and has a lot to share with the world. He said he should have three to four more original songs out this year, and will be back in the studio to record his third single in November, which he hopes to release in December. He also said there were “…a couple more to be released first quarter, 2021.”
Mann said, “it’s an emotional and physical challenge, 24-hours a day. It’s a grind: trying to write music, come up with valid song topics that appeal to a wide audience, tour with my band, navigate all the various COVID requirements (which are different everywhere) and maintain my day job is a juggling act. But I love what I do and that makes it worth the effort.”
“I would love to perform with Chris Stapleton. His album, “Traveler,” inspires me to write country music.” He said would also love the chance to write with Tom Douglas and Tony Lane. “They’re just fantastic songwriters and storytellers here in Nashville.”
Pre-pandemic, Mann said he was on a stage, three to four nights a week on Broadway in Nashville - “that’s my day job to help pay my bills. I was actually on stage when the health department came in and shut us down. They yanked us off stage in the middle of a song. So my daily performances ended in that moment,” in March. He continued, “my band was also in the midst a heavy tour schedule where we were out on the road every weekend performing. It was a great place to be, then it all stopped, very suddenly.”
That hasn’t stopped him, though. He said he feels very blessed during “these interesting times,” and he and his band are able to stay active, playing about once a month up until recently, when Broadway began opening back up. He is glad to be back on stage performing acoustically, though he hasn’t been playing with a full band because of Nashville’s restrictions on indoor activities during the pandemic, though he has also performed in Missouri, Virginia, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and of course, Mount Carmel. And soon, Albion. “It’s like coming home for me.”
In the near future, he noted he and his band are scheduled to perform in Virginia, a casino in Missouri and “I have other gigs that are scheduled, but we are playing it by ear as venues continue to reopen. But we are on the burner in several locations - just waiting on the call.” All of this on top of regular performances in Nashville as a house band at at Tequila Cowboys, The FGL House and Nudies Bar.
Mann plans to be touring the country on a bus - never flying, he hates it - in the more distant future. Next summer, his band is a supporting act at Country Fest in Cadott, Wis., between main acts Kane Brown, Brothers Osborne and more. Immediately after that, they are headed to Heartland Stampede in Topeka, Kan. where they are a supporting artist with Luke Combs and Toby Keith. “Then,” he said, “ we continue to Greeley, Colo. for the Greeley Stampede.” Maybe he’ll get on the docket for a 2021 Fourth of July celebration in southern Illinois.
The Albion Area Chamber of Commerce reached out to Mann over the summer to see if he would be interested in headlining the Albion Fall Family Fun Day scheduled for Oct. 3. “…we’re very excited to be invited into your town and perform,” he said. “I’m grateful to the Albion Chamber who came out to the Mount Carmel Fantastic Fourth Celebration so we could get acquainted. My dad actually went to school with Doug Hawf, who is a fantastic fiddle player performing with Dennis Stroughmatt and the Honky Tonk Circus.”
Mann will take the stage at 8 p.m., following performances of award-winning Christian band from Mount Vernon, Judah First Band; Albion resident Dennis Stroughmatt on his fiddle with the Honky Tonk Circus and Dave and Abbi (David Lane and Abbi Cook), who will be on the stage entertaining between sets.
Mann said, “we’re excited to be a part of this and I love that Albion is gonna rock right through all this stuff and just keep on keepin’ on! Love it that y’all are living life!”
Clayton Mann has a message for the residents of Albion, and the surrounding communities. “Just a final word of thanks to the sponsors: Citizen’s National Bank of Albion, the Albion Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Dennis Stroughmatt for doing the sound, (his band is fantastic and playing as well), Jessica Evans, Amy Winter and all the Albion Chamber members. I am just so grateful to be a part of this.”
“Come on out! Enjoy the chowder, the food, the vendors, the crafts and the music. We’ll stay after the show, so come say hello. Come on out and support Dave and Abbi - a great local musical duo; another local fantastic band, Dennis Stroughmatt and the Honky Tonk Circus; Judah First Band, and us. We’re excited to be invited! We hope you’re excited to come out! I appreciate all of it and hope to be invited back every year! Clayton Mann.”