The Red Clay Strays: Finding Their Own Way to Stardom
Written by Eric Mitts. Photo: The Red Clay Strays. Photo by Robby Klein

No one is more surprised by the seemingly overnight success of country-rock outfit The Red Clay Strays than the band members themselves.

“It’s been surreal really,” bassist Andrew Bishop said. “It was just last year we would get excited for selling 100 tickets, and now it’s like no matter how many we put on sale, the shows just keep selling out.”

That string of sold out concerts all across the country includes the band’s upcoming tour stop here in Grand Rapids at The Intersection on July 13 – as well as the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre this past spring, and a three-night stand at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville this fall.

One of the fastest-rising bands of the year, The Red Clay Strays came from the dirt, literally naming their band after the soil in their native Alabama. And despite their sudden breakthrough, the band has churned their way through tour after tour, honing their unmissable live show gig by gig since forming the band back in 2016.

“I think those hard times are what has kept us together,” Bishop said. “The five of us have been through a lot together. For years we spent more time together on the road than with our own families. We’ve been there for each other for a long time, and have developed a brotherhood.”

Made up of Bishop, lead vocalist/guitarist Brandon Coleman, electric guitarist Drew Nix, electric guitarist Zach Rishel, and drummer John Hall, The Red Clay Strays are currently nominated for Emerging Artist of the Year at the 2024 Americana Music Awards.

The band’s breakout single, “Wondering Why,” off their 2022 album, Moment of Truth, went viral late last year on TikTok, ultimately leading the band to crack the Billboard Hot 100, and amass a huge following.

“I’m super surprised by the support of people on TikTok,” Nix said. “For a while I didn’t even want to make us an account, but I started seeing other artists I respect making theirs, and making cool content so I thought why the heck not… What’s wild to me is we’re not doing any cringy dances or anything, we’re just putting performances and lyrics up, and they resonate with people.”

Nix added that the band didn’t really start making any kind of impact on TikTok until lead singer Brandon Coleman’s brother, Matthew Coleman, took over their socials.

One of the band’s co-songwriters alongside Nix, as well as the band’s videographer, Matthew Coleman works as an offstage member of The Red Clay Strays, and has played a big part in their recent rise.

The band’s sound, however, goes way back, to the roots of Southern rock, pulling in influences from honky-tonk records to Gospel and soul, showcasing their strong sense of shared faith, and Brandon Coleman’s powerful voice.

“Well, honestly we never strive to sound like anyone,” Nix said. “I think the ‘classic’ sound comes from the music we listened to growing up. For me, personally, my dad listened to a lot of blues, so naturally I
gravitate towards that sound.”

“We all come from different musical backgrounds that we grew up on,” Bishop added. “Those different individual influences are what meshes together to make our sound.”

The Red Clay Strays formed out of what was once a cover band, with Bishop citing early influences like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Sturgill Simpson.

This past May, the band had the opportunity to open for living legends The Rolling Stones.

“The opportunity means the world to us,” Nix said. “The Rolling Stones are an entire chapter in rock and roll history. Just to know that Mick, Keith and Ronnie appreciate our music enough to give us a shot at
opening gives us some sort of indication that we at least ain’t that bad.”

Shortly after their stop in Grand Rapids, The Red Clay Strays will release their second album, Made By These Moments, on July 26, via RCA Records.

“I’m just really excited to put it out in the world,” Nix said about the new album. “We recorded it with our dream producer Dave Cobb, and it sounds better than anything we’ve done. The journey of this album really is a reflection on the human condition, and the natural ebbs and flows of life. I’m hoping that a lot of people find hope through our album and, if they’re dealing with anything, that they don’t feel alone in it.”

The band has released three songs off the new album already, “Wanna Be Loved,” “Devil In My Ear,” and “Drowning.”

“Songs like ‘Drowning’ are purely therapeutic for me when I’m writing them,” Nix said “I do a really bad job at pulling my feelings together into words when I am trying to get things off my chest. I really write
those songs for myself, but also it’s a topic that I know that others are struggling with. Personally, when I hear a song that resonates with something I’m going through it helps me realize that I’m not alone. When you realize you’re not alone, I think that helps you realize there’s people you can talk to, and connect with, and work through whatever struggles you’re dealing with.”

The song’s origins come from Nix’s time driving an Uber 10 to 12 hours a day, struggling to stay out of debt back in 2021, just a few short years from the band’s incredible success that shows no signs of stopping now.

“We’re selling more tickets than we ever have by far, and the crowds are getting more and more excited,” Nix said. “So there’s this feedback loop of energy that makes our shows more fun than they ever have been. Nobody could ever make a better drug than hearing thousands of people singing along with you on a song that you helped create.”

The Red Clay Strays
Wsg. Justin Jeanstone
The Intersection, 133 Cesar E Chavez Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
July 13, 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show, SOLD OUT,