St. Paul And The Broken Bones. Alabama Shakes. Nathaniel Rateliff. The list soul revivalists has grown exponentially over the last five years and to that list, one ought to add The Commonheart. Hailing from Pittsburgh, the R&B band will be taking the Weinberg Center stage Thursday as part of the Tivoli Discovery Series. We recently caught up with the group’s lead singer Clinton Clegg to talk about the Pittsburgh soul music scene, where we should eat in their home city and what plans they have for 2018.
You guys are from Pittsburgh. What’s the soul/R&B music scene like there? Overall, how is the Pittsburgh music scene as a whole?
Soul/R&B music in Pittsburgh is alive and well right now, but that’s not a new thing. You can go as far back as Jimmy Beaumont and The Skyliners, a legendary Doo-wop group from Pittsburgh, and other legends still doing it today, like Billy Price. There is a strong history of the genre here and we are trying to continue that.
Have you ever been to Frederick before? If so, what are your memories of it? If not, is there anything you’re looking forward to the most?
We have never been to Frederick but we are all excited to see the venue and bring our sound to everyone. I’m also a huge Clutch fan, so it’s cool to play their hometown!
Pittsburgh has always been a good food town. If I came to Pittsburgh tomorrow, where would you recommend I eat?
Oh wow, great question. Maybe Kaya in the strip for fried chicken, or Tessaro’s in Bloomfield for a burger, but I’d probably send you to Nadine’s in Southside for the fried Jumbo. If you want good recommendations, you’ll need at least a week here!
There’s an obvious correlation between you and a band like St. Paul & The Broken Bones — are there any modern day bands currently that you’re into? Any acts that would surprise us to know you like?
Oh man. Yeah, I love St. Paul — tremendous group. The work they are doing along with other great groups, like Nathaniel Ratliff and the Night Sweats and Alabama Shakes, are paving the ground for the reinvention of a classic sound. We look up to them. As a band, we are so diverse in what we all listen to. In the van, it can go from Chance the Rapper to Ahmad Jamal pretty quickly. But we certainly pay attention to what’s happening in our genre today — a ton of Dap-Tone records. Lee Fields is king! And we are currently on the road with JJ Grey and Mofro, so we have been jamming them pretty heavily in the van as well.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
My mother bought me a B.B. King record when I was teenager, so that was step one. I became obsessed with blues and soul and when I got to Al Green. It all stems from there.
Can you give us names of some Pittsburgh bands we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet?
Wreck Loose are friends of ours They are a tremendous piano pop-rock group. Absolutely killing! Paul Luc, who is Americana/Folk. His songs are timeless, he’s great! There truly is some real talent in Pittsburgh.
2017 appears to be a pretty big year for you guys — what do you have in store for 2018? Any big plans?
Yes, record number two will be coming out at some point and we plan to release it nationally and tour behind it. We are all excited about that!
What are some of your favorite venues to play and why?
Small rooms, big rooms, indoor, outdoor, there are so many great venues across the whole country. The 9:30 Club in D.C. was amazing. We were there last night so let’s go with that! I loved that room!
What do you think is the most perfect song ever written and why?
“Stand By Me” by Ben E. King. It’s timeless.
And, finally, what can we expect from your upcoming show here at the Weinberg?
You can expect a powerful display of emotion that makes you feel something. It’s new and fresh but you’ll be familiar with it. The evening will be like a good meal, and you won’t leave hungry.