Ant Clemons Is Just Getting Started [Q&A]

Ant Clemons is ready for the spotlight. The LA-based singer/songwriter has been a budding songwriter in the LA scene for a few years now. He's secured placements with Luke James, Kali Uchis, and Noah Cyrus to name a few. His biggest break was when he appeared on "All Mine," track three on Kanye West's 2018 project, Ye. Since then, Clemons has been nominated for multiple Grammys, collaborated with Pharrell and The Neptunes, performed with Kanye West at Coachella, and much more. But where did his story start?

Ant Clemons grew up in Willingboro, New Jersey. Willingboro is a small town about thirty minutes outside of Philadelphia. The oldest of three children, Ant described his childhood as a creatively expressive environment. Besides singing in his church choir, and his budding career as a Michael Jackson impersonator, young Ant would perform with his sisters at family events. "We wanted to be the Jackson Five so bad, but my parents only had three kids." The creative gene came from his parents. His father had a famous falsetto and his mother was a trained dancer. Music was always played in their household. "I equate my childhood to The Cosby Show. We had some great times. I remember having amazing times at Christmas. Music was always on in the house. Someone was always singing or trying to sing."

Clemons' seemingly perfect childhood definitely had its share of trials and tribulations. Around 2009, his parents got divorced and he ended up moving with his mom to a small town called Pennsauken, right outside of Philadelphia. In the wake of the divorce, Clemons began taking his singing and songwriting more seriously. Shortly after moving to Pennsauken, he met Frankie Hill, Julian Tabb, Michael Stargel, Ross Richards, and Theo Robinson. Like Clemons, they were also into making music. Shortly after, they formed a group called The Committee. "To this day, they're some of my best friends. We were all working on music 24/7. So, it was a great way to transition into my new surroundings and distract me from some of the things I was going through."

Being a part of The Committee helped Clemons sharpen his writing and singing skills. To make money, Clemons started waiting tables at a Red Lobster in his town. As his ambitions grew, he wanted to get closer to the music industry and make his career as a songwriter a reality. For a lot of people, the first step in that journey is tasking a trip to Los Angeles. Describing his first impression of LA, Clemons says "I only stayed for like a week and a half, but I knew from the time I walked out of LAX that this is where I needed to be. It's nice all the time. Everybody was always smiling. This is the best place in the world. Like, I have to be here"

Lucky for him, his bosses at Red Lobster were extremely supportive of his dream. "They knew that music was my number one priority. So, when opportunities popped up in LA, they were more than supportive. They wiped tell me "go out there for as long as you need. Your job is here for you when you come back." His family was also a major source of support for him. "Having supportive parents was everything. At the time, I was living with my mom. So, she was the main push, but both of them are just hella supportive of anything my sisters and I ever wanted to do. I know that not everybody grows up with that kind of support. But I had amazing parents that set an amazing foundation for me to just be whoever I wanted to be. None of my successes is possible without them."

In 2017, Clemons made the full time move to LA. When he first got to LA, he was sleeping on couches and floors. Triangle Park, an LA-based music production crew, let him crash with them. But there was one caveat - He had to write one song per day. Reminiscing on that time, Clemons said "I just knew God wouldn’t place me anywhere that I wouldn't be able to succeed. I had a motivation get off the floor, so I was working really hard. Back when I lived near Philly, it was normal to make seven or eight songs a day. When I came out to LA, I saw that people were working at a different pace, so I put my head down and kept going. I learned that what I thought was normal was going to be the thing that set me apart from everybody else.

Things started moving for Clemons in Los Angeles when he met fellow Willingboro native, Ryan Toby. Ryan Toby was part of the early 2000s R&B/Hip-Hop group, City High. Bonding over music and their hometown connection, they started making music together. This relationship led to Clemons working with Luke James which is how he landed his first placement as a songwriter on "Drip." Around this time, he was also introduced to the Producer Bongo By The Way. When they first got in the studio together, they made eleven songs and they were locked in ever since. Bongo would go on to introduce Clemons to Jeremih which was the catalyst for Clemons' big break.

When Kanye West was recording Ye in Wyoming, he asked Jeremih to come to Wyoming and work on music for the album. One of the ideas he played for Kanye was an idea that he made with Ant Clemons. This idea turned into "All Mine." It was at this point that Clemons' life would change.

Being featured on a song with Kanye West can instantly change your life and bring you a massive amount of attention. Describing that time of transition, Clemons says, "Ye's album dropped in June and by September, I was with him 24/7. We went from Chicago to SNL in New York, back to Chicago, and then to Uganda. It was all happening so fast. It was crazy."

Entering the orbit of a revered musician like Kanye West could be very unnerving, but Clemons said being around West was quite the opposite. "The crazy part of working on music with Ye was that he was just a big fan of whatever I was doing. He would say 'Bro, I want you to just be you. Keep being you. Do whatever makes you, you. Just keep doing you.'"

Fast forward to Coachella 2019. Kanye West has invited Clemons to perform a song, "Water", made earlier that week, for an Easter edition of Sunday Service. Describing that moment, Clemons said, "For me, it was like when the Jackson 5 performed with Diana Ross for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was amazing. I’m performing at Coachella for the first time by praising the Lord with one of my favorite artists of all time. God is too good"

"Water" would go on to appear on West's gospel album, Jesus Is King, later that year. In recent years, West has shifted his musical focus to Gospel with the release of Jesus Is King and the upcoming Jesus Is Born. Knowing that Clemons is a man of faith, I asked him how his faith has helped him navigate the treacherous nature of the music industry. He said, "God's timing is always immaculate, and I learned not to question what happens. If you have a strong relationship with God, he will lead you through any situation"

A lot of artists would be happy living in the light of Kanye West. But Clemons has way more to do. Speaking on his transition from songwriter to a solo act, Clemons said, "I wanted my first official release to be something undeniable. I wanted something that showcased my songwriting abilities but was also relatable. I think "Four Letter Word" is such an amazing song. I want my music to be played now and ten years from now. Not only is it an ode to a relationship I was in but it's about my relationship with God. I was happy to talk about it in a cooler way with up-tempo and contemporary sounds and being able to work with Timbaland on the song was a dream come true. My goal for the project was to tell my story and approach it like the artists I was inspired by."

His debut EP, HAPPY 2 BE HERE has something for everybody. "I wanted to tell my story. I wanted to take the listener on a journey with cool concepts. I wanted to talk about love. I wanted to have something people could dance to. I wanted to tell stories. Most importantly, I just wanted to create songs people could listen to every day."

I would say Clemons has achieved his goal. Look out for more music and collaborations from Clemons. Stream HAPPY 2 BE HERE below.

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