Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: The Michael Clem Band

MICHAEL CLEM. (Photo: Jack Looney)
MICHAEL CLEM. (Photo: Jack Looney)

Michael Clem of The Michael Clem Band moved away from Northern Virginia nearly a decade ago, but he hasn’t been a stranger to the region since relocating to Charlottesville in 2008. And he will be coming back to his old hometown on Saturday, Jan. 7 for a special birthday show at Jammin’ Java in Vienna.

He has been playing shows to celebrate his birthday for six straight years, but played his first eleven years ago, to celebrate his 40th birthday. “Those guys have been kind to have me back every year for the last six years for the same weekend,” Clem told the News-Press from the middle of the University of Virginia’s campus in Charlottesville.

“So the birthday show started there and I branched out down here last year with a full band….Last year [my birthday show] was very centered around my album release and I had a lot of guests, particularly in [Charlottesville].

“This year, we’re branching out a bit to some newer material, some thoughtful covers. I’ll be showcasing some guys in my band to let them do their thing. So it’ll be a wide range, a smorgasboard.”

As Clem mentioned, last January he released his sophomore album, Fifty Clementines, which was released on his 50th birthday. The album came ten years after his debut album, 1st & 40. He also released an EP in 2010 with The Michael Clem Trio, which features Rusty Speidel and Thomas Gunn.

Clem said that he’s been pleased with the reception Fifty Clementines has received in the year since it was released. “I’m pleased with my own cottage industry response,” he said. Many of the fans of the band Eddie from Ohio that he was in have stuck around for his solo work.

“I’m ever so grateful for that. I just count it as an absolute blessing and miracle that even without new product that faithful Eddie from Ohio fans still go back into The Birchmere to go see us,” Clem said. He said that Eddie from Ohio, which has slowed down in terms of creating and releasing new material over the past decade, will be playing a trio of shows at The Birchmere the weekend after his birthday show at Jammin’ Java.

Clem isn’t a stranger to collaboration, and the number of featured guests on Fifty Clementines is a testament to that collaborative ethos. There was a practical reason for him featuring 30 other musicians on his latest album.

“There are some instruments that I simply can’t play,” Clem said. He maintains a light and humble attitude toward collaborating with so many people on the album. When asked what the other collaborators brought to the table on Fifty Clementines, he said “immense talent and aptitude.”

But, moments later, he offered an apt metaphor for how he viewed the creative process on Fifty Clementines. “I am an architect with a blueprint for a song,” he said. “And they’re my outside contractors – electricians, carpenters and plumbers – who beautify the place.”

• For more information about The Michael Clem Band, visit