Wisconsin-based singer, guitarist, songwriter, and Iraq war Veteran Kevin Warren Clark released his song “Let Go” on December 5, 2023.
“Let Go” is a song about the cycles of trauma and addiction. “It’s about the love/hate relationship that comes along with substances and their lingering effects.”
Below, Kevin describes the songwriting process when writing music.
“The song pretty much wrote itself, mostly in the course of a night. I set up to record and the riffs and melodies just kept coming. Most of the writing and recording was done between 9 PM and 9 AM, and the lyrics and melody came really quick; I just wrote what I was feeling and sang it as honestly as I could.”
“I have four kids and my wife is working out of town a lot; so, I’m constantly juggling time to find a space in there to write and create music. It’s probably better that way because it seems like the more time I have, the more I overthink things and they start to sound stale of not genuine.
The night I recorded “Let Go,” I set up all the gear in my kitchen and just went for it. Once ideas started coming, I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t know where it was going or how it was going to end, but I was very satisfied when I listened back to the final guitar harmony. It sounded complete, so I just let it be.”
Listen to “Let Go,” and check out our interview with Kevin below.
MIM: What does this project mean to you?
Clark: Lyrically, the song means a lot to me. I’m a raging alcoholic and a mostly-disgruntled veteran with almost two years of sobriety under my belt currently. These experiences have given me a lot of perspective into my own psyche and lack of ability to deal with the problems in life without substances.
I also make a tasty buffalo chicken pizza. I think it’s hard to really get people to feel what the anxiety is like that comes along with addiction, so the guitars in the first part of the song are supposed to give kind of an uneasy feeling and the time signature is in 3/4 and has kind of an evil swing to it.
Everything leads to sort of a breakdown into the chorus, where I tried to create an airy vibe to loosen the mood a little bit. It’s kind of like the dopamine hit that comes when you get that first shot or take the first hit. It feels great for a minute, then you just wonder when and where the next one is coming from. When you’re addicted to something, it becomes your god. You spend all your time thinking about it.
You’re never satisfied with anything, and you never care about the beer you’re drinking or the hit you’re taking right now, only the next one and where you’re going to get it. I spent 20 years in that cycle, desperately trying to manage it and failing miserably at every turn.
MIM: Who are your biggest musical influences?
Clark: My top five influences are Tony Iommi, Dimebag Darrell, Zakk Wylde, Burton Cummings and Ted Nugent. The guitar influences are obvious, but I think Burton is the most forgotten and underrated singer of all time. I’ve never heard anyone in my life who sings with as much passion as he did on the early Guess Who records.
I’d say that “Live at Last,” from Black Sabbath and the Guess Who’s “Best of the Guess Who,” probably had a greater impact on me than any other two records. Outside of those, there are too many to count. My style was derived by nickel and diming my way through thousands of songs and albums, stealing little tidbits here and there from all the greats and kind of doing my own thing with them.
MIM: What inspires you to create music?
Clark: I can get inspired by almost anything. Stories, arguments, emotions, thoughts, things I see or hear; all kinds of things inspire creation in me. My whole life has become art. I’m a professional photographer by trade and have been for almost 20 years now. The world is absolutely amazing, and completely insane.
I don’t know how people aren’t inspired at this point in our history. The push/pull of our current system and place in humanity feels like it’s reaching critical mass, and we (the regular people) are stuck right in the middle of a cataclysm of polarity that wants to consume us. We are living out an uneasy imbalance of information and medication, and despite its insane effects, this is a very interesting time to be alive. I tend to find it all very inspiring.
MIM: What is one piece of advice you would tell your younger self, or anyone who is pursuing a career in music?
Clark: I don’t have any advice. I’m seeking advice. I’ve been out of the music-creation game since 2006. Production has changed, distribution has changed, venues have changed, promotion has changed, the whole music industry has changed and doesn’t even look like the shadow of its former self.
I’m reading as much as I can, and actively spending as much time as possible promoting on social media. I personally think that this is probably the best time ever to be an independent musician. Yeah, Spotify seems to rip off artists, but the reality is that when we were all producing and selling CDs at shows, we were all just hoping to make enough money back to make more CDs.
Do I think we’re getting ripped off by the platforms? Yep, but we’ve always gotten ripped off. Artists make art, regardless. I wasn’t expecting to make much of a profit. Right now it’s the wild west again, which means that if you’re willing to do the work, then you will build an audience. Only now, people all over the world can listen if the want. More money would be nice though if possible.
MIM: Do you have any tours or concerts planned in the Minnesota area?
Clark: My band, Dirt River, has shows scheduled through most of the spring already and we’re booking for summer and fall. We’re on a holiday break until Jan. 13. Upcoming shows are: Jan. 13 – La Crosse, WI, Dewey’s Side Street Saloon Jan. 20 – Winona, MN, Twin Bluffs Feb. 3 – Sparta, WI, Club 16 Feb. 10 – La Crosse, WI, Robins Nest
MIM: What can listeners look forward to from you?
Clark: I’ve got an EP of straight-up rock & roll songs coming out on Christmas Day that I recorded during my drinking days. It’s a lot of fun. Then on Jan. 19, my first full-on thrash metal track drops.
MIM: Anything else you’d like to add?
Clark: I do a lot of work with and for veterans organizations. I’m an Iraq vet and we struggle with a new bag of issues, other than those of previous generations. Americans are resilient by nature. Our ancestors traveled to this place from all over the world to get away from tyranny and shitty, oppressive states of being in their homelands. So, we’re figuring it out.
That said, this is the first time in our history that veterans have had as many as 10 combat deployments under their belts. As a result, the idea of reintegration into society seems almost impossible for a lot of us. I write about that a lot too.
A lot of my issues with substance abuse came from trying to deal with my own experiences overseas; trying to assimilate back into a society that made absolutely no sense anymore. It still doesn’t but now I’m sober and confused, instead of drunk and confused.