Busy Claes still seeks full-time job
By MIKE McILVAIN
Sean Claes has traded his Spanish for mucha musica in the very musical city of Austin.
The 33-year-old Laredoan has spend a decade cutting his own niche into Austin’s well-known music scene as a freelance writer and photographer when not editing magazines, or promoting any of the several bands there. Add family duties as dad to 2-year-old Marlee with wife Jodie and you have someone hard to track down – unless you type By Sean Claes into almost any Internet search engine – then the trail warms up fast. Claes is in hot pursuit of music news and new sounds and out of his Plum Creek home in Kyle, some 15 miles south of Austin’s music-busy 6th Street. Life has been that way since finishing college in nearby San Marcos 10 years ago; increasing after each review, feature or music news story is published or added to cyberspace.
Claes also serves as publicity chair for his neighborhood newsletter, but daughter Marlee has added more to his rapport with musicians, breaking barriers that a guy with a notepad and a lot of questions can’t.
“We were at a music festival in Gruene. Marlee was with Walt Wilkins’ little boy and she beat Corey Morrow in a foot race,” Claes said from his Kyle home. “It’s nice to see these musicians out of their main element.
“It’s a fun business to be in and things are snowballing for me. It’s a fun ride and I enjoy being able to invite my family into my work circle. It’s nice, so I try to be careful who I’m with.”
Most anyone with Claes is well-known somewhere, or getting there. Some of the bands and musicians he has interviewed include Hootie and the Blowfish, Phil Anselmo, Jet, Los Lonely Boys, Grupo Fantasma, Slayer, Cyril Neville, Jason Mraz, Shadows Fall and Chris Duarte.
Many of Austin’s musicians will never be known beyond the bars and local venues they play in, but a few might be known worldwide and Claes’ scene isn’t about fame. He seeks to soak it in and enjoy the music and inspired words he might not have written, otherwise.
And Claes misses very few opportunities to write, and even fewer to work, despite leaving 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night to family priorities regardless of what deadlines might be approaching.
Claes has no shortage of deadlines as editor of Austin’s free monthly entertainment INsite magazine and as music editor for San Antonio’s new quarterly Iungo magazine. Claes estimates spending an hour a day on INsite duties except for two days “solid” on deadline “to make sure it’s done.”
Iungo work takes up some 40 hours every couple of months. The neighborhood newsletter gets some 40 hours a month. It’s bands and music promotion that takes up the rest of his work time, but he is searching for more regular full-time work.
Like any other music writer he would like to write for Rolling Stone, Revolver, or another major magazine, but sees plenty of potential in the promotional side. He is a minority in that field by birth.
“The studios smile if you are not a girlfriend writing press releases,” he said. “There are a lot of bands out there and they are good, but very few get much of a showing when people just walk by the bar and might come in. It’s a business and bands have to approach it with some kind of business sense, or they’re gone tomorrow.
“I’d love to stay here. There are a lot of Americana Country bands I dig.”
Claes says he is talking with several recording studios to become their house
writer, putting together press kit information for bands under their labels.
Claes likes good music regardless of its genre.
“I don’t give negative reviews,” he said. “It’s a waste of space, a disservice to the band and comes off like I’m just stroking my ego.”
Any ego stroking, if needed, could come by training young writers at INsite, which doesn’t pay contributors, but allows entertainment-minded journalists the chance to get a few bylines and enhance their portfolio. Claes points out that a few of his writers have gone on to paying jobs.
Claes wants to improve his life, too, but he likes his neighborhood and the friendly, entertaining ambience the Austin music scene provides.
“Hopefully, I can grow my business, so people outside Austin will call me,” Claes said.
Sean and Jodie together heard the calling of Austin-area music and its important place in their lives the night they were married.
Tying the knot in Oct. 2001 in San Marcos and with the reception in Seguin, they were close enough to Gruene Hall where the Derailers and their bass playing neighbor Ed Adkins were playing. The new couple showed up in tux and wedding dress and left when they heard Derailer number “There Goes the Bride.”
They continue to frequently find themselves at that band’s gigs to the point of being almost too familiar.
“We thought we were going to be arrested as Derailers stalkers,” Claes said, chuckling.
Notes: If you want to attempt to keep up with the very busy Sean Claes look online at: www.seanclaesdotcom.blogspot.com, www.seanclaes.com, www.myspace.com/seanclaes and many, many other Internet sites. Claes also has a photo exhibit up at Kyle’s Lucky Cup Coffee Shop.
Bands Claes is working with:
Shawn Fussell Band - (http://www.shawnfussell.com/); Jason Allen Band - (http://www.jasonallenband.net/); Hellapeño - (http://www.hellapeno.com/).
Note: A print version, similar to this blog-posted story appears in the July issue of LareDOS, found in Laredo, Texas.