I’m thrilled to share the following interview with Catholic dad and musician Sean Clive. His latest CD, What I’ve Settled For, is simply awesome! I enjoyed learning more about Sean, his family and his musical background – I hope you enjoy our conversation and that you’ll check out his great music at www.SeanClive.com.
Please introduce us to yourself and your family.
People call me Sean Clive – probably because my mom and dad gave me that name. I love being married to Jennifer (Buckley) Clive – high school sweetheart, college sweetheart, married since 1995. I am the lucky dad to five children (so far) – Emma, Maggie, Brigid (Biddie), Seamus and Eoin (pronounced Owen) – affectionately known as the “Clive Five”. Both Jen and I are the oldest of 5 children. So the excitement of our family life has been ingrained for many years. We live in beautiful upstate NY (central NY – near Utica) right between the Clive and the Buckley homesteads – close to everything and everyone. We are parishioners of St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish in Chadwicks, NY (where I grew up). I am the choir / music director at the parish (and have been since 1994). Although I sing at 2 Masses on Sunday, Jen brings the wee ones to 10:30 Mass when people are the friendliest to lots of crazy kids. 🙂
How did you come to a career in music, and specifically a career in Catholic music?
I grew up in a house where music was always present – my mom LOVED to sing. She was also one of those extremely loving and insightful moms. She knew what was best for me and what I would enjoy long before I had a clue. It was my mom who set me up with guitar lessons and pushed me to join the school choir – when being a boy and singing in choir were generally mutually exclusive and definitely not “cool”. In college as part of the Colgate 13 (an all-male acapella singing group – check out I Can See Clearly Now on the Double Indemnity Album – http://www.colgate13.com/album_info.php?AlbumID=19), my fear of audiences slowly faded and my enjoyment for performance increased. Upon graduating, our new priest was told (by my mom) that I would be willing to lead the then new music program at St. Anthony’s. I have been doing that since.
I loved music ministry in the Church – especially when everyone sings. I have been blessd with a parish of singers. But I have loved all kinds of music since I was a boy. So, I felt compelled to begin to put the two together. I am Catholic and love my faith – I am a musician and love music, so combine the two and you get me. Of course, I would not classify my own music as all that liturgical (though some songs can be used liturgically – such as the Glory To God from Amazed). Much of my music is more – listen, relate and enjoy music.
I should say that my Catholic music “career” is part-time as I still need to support a family of five hungry caterpillars. God blessed me with a great job right after I completed college which has given me the opportunity to also glorify Him through my family and my music. But, after many, many hours of prayer and discernment, we feel that full-time music ministry is not what we are called to do (at this time). If God has other plans, which is His perogative, we’re ready for the challenge.
WISF is basically Amazed on a light steroid regimen. The new CD involved the same people as Amazed (my wife and I, David Smith, producer extraordinaire and Jacob Souva, graphic design and artist), so it is similar in that way. It is also similar to Amazed in that the music is a little different than what is out there right now in both Christian music and Catholic music especially regarding production, songwriting and presentation. The new CD, like Amazed, is a truly “indie” project. It was funded through the generosity of our friends, fans and family. Both are the result of an outpouring of love from everyone involved -from prayers and words of encouragement to generous monetary gifts.
With WISF, however, the songs are more personal in nature, more mature, more about me / us. They were written over a longer period of time and most are about things that we have experienced (that most of us experience in one way or another) as Catholics, as family, as parents, as friends, as spouses, as children of God. The songs deal with struggles and pain as well as joy and love. Of course there are the strong praise songs (especially The Everlasting which won the Christian category in the 2007 Songdoor International Songwriting Competition) and Christ Reigns (written by Dave Smith and Nick Cardilino who cowrote the 2007 NCYC Theme song “Discover the Way”).
Each album we’ve released has had a song for or inspired by my mom (who died in 1997 of breast cancer). She was the kind of person who shared her faith whether you knew it our not through her words and the way she lived her life. This CD is like her – the songs are about regular life through the eyes of a regular old cradle Catholic, who loves his family and his God more than anything else. It is really the kind of CD that anyone can enjoy. If you don’t like guitar, you might be out of luck. I think the CD “rocks”, as does our auxilliary bishop who loved the music when he heard it.
Speaking of Amazed, what was it like to win the recognition you earned as Songwriter of the Year and Song of the Year at the Unity Awards?
We actually won Pop/Contemporary Album, Producer and Graphic Design, too. So I was completely blown away! I really couldn’t believe it. I get choked up even now thinking about it. But it was really great, especially since people still say, “who?”. It’s nice to be unknown so that I don’t have to deflate my head too much. There is little pressure when you’re down here doing my music thing with God at the helm. When you don’t have the record deals to deal with, you rely completely on God’s blessings through other people to make things happen. But it was pretty cool to hear my name so many times during the awards. I really did not expect that response. It was an honor to be considered amidst the many talent Catholic musicians from around the world. And lucky me – I got to announce Jaime Cortez’s award – I love his music!
Of course, it never would have happened without Dave Smith who helped to make the song (and CD) what it is. He really poured so much of himself into it – I am so glad to share the awards with him. The recognition really was one of those moments when the unknown can use what God has given and come away with the gold without anyone really knowing.
Back to “What I’ve Settled For”, what are some of your favorite songs on the CD and the stories behind them?
I really love all the songs on the CD, but my favorites are listed below.
Radio-friendly faves –
The Everlasting – This song is based on Psalm 90 and was written with Dave Smith in about 3 hours. This is the song that won the Christian Category of the Songdoor Competition.
Into Your Arms – This song was written as I reflected on my mom’s life and death and also the then current struggles of a family friend and fellow parishioner, Richard Kies. He was struggling with cancer and like my mom, even near the end, was able to come to Jesus in the Eucharist as He came to them to fill them with His presence. The image I pictured was based on my own imagination of how it is at that last breath as we fall into Jesus’ outstretched arms into eternity.
Christ Reigns – Dave Smith teamed up with Nick Cardilino (co-writers of the NCYC 2007 theme song Discover The Way) to write this powerful song. It was inspired by the theme for the 2009 NCYC Kansas City event. When I heard this song, I LOVED it and loved singing it.
Personal faves –
The First Day – a rock song written for my new baby, Eoin. It follows him from birth to when he eventually leaves the nest (sniff, sniff).
Just What I’ve Settled For – With 5 kids, the looks, the stares, the questions are sometimes overwhelming. It is so easy to share your faith when the subject of conversation is your “big” family.
Kids Are Great – my tongue-in-cheek song for my #3 baby. She is the “one” every family has one of. And she is SO AWESOME! She’s just sometimes a little much. “The stories are true and I’m not lyin’ a day with Biddie might leave you cryin'”
Ordinary Way – My tip of the hat to one of my favorite sonwriters, David Gates. I love his music and I love my wofe, so this is my love song to her. I wish it was more. But sometimes what it is, is all it needs to be.
Turn Away – Much of the lyric for this song was penned by my wife, Jen. It was based on a troubling experience and the thought that the same could happen to one of our babies.
What has it been like to work with such a talented producer as Dave Smith?
God has blessed me with a great friend who happens to be (in my opinion), one of the best producers out there. I am so grateful that our paths crossed the way they did. I trust Dave with my songs (and if we lived closer, I’d trust him to watch my kids :-)). I send him a song, he knows what I like and then he sets it up with his instrumentation. It is amazing. Sometimes he surprises me on his take to a song, other times it ends up exactlty how I had envisioned it. What is also so awesome is that we share a faith and a similar perspective on life. We love God, we love our wives and our kids, and we love to share good music with people. I hope that more people recognize and work with this amazing man and producer. I also hope that God keeps us working together well into the future.
Who are some of your musical influences, both Catholic and secular?
I feel like I’m influenced by everything that is good out there – at least the good stuff I like. Beatles, Matt Maher, Steven Curtis Chapman, Joel Hanson (PFR), Bread (David Gates), Switchfoot, Moody Blues, Chicago, 80s hair bands, 70s soft rock bands, celtic bands, and so many others – I just love a good song even if it is cheesy Barry Manilow or some random disco song or a cool folk song by John Gorka. Growing up, my mother was a showtunes fan – she was Maria in the Sound of Music in High School, so by 5 years old, I had memorized the soundtrack. Music was all around all the time. I actually have a hard time in the silence.
What are your plans now that the CD has been released? What comes next for you musically and personally?
My hope is to do at leat 2 concerts / gigs a month (above my regular church responsibilities). Since I like to include my kids in the concerts, it makes for a family friendly night (or afternoon or weekend) and keeps us all together. I hate being away from home – it just rips me apart to go to sleep without kissing all my babies goodnight. Like the Journey song”Faithfully”, beaing apart ain’t easy. And my heart really can’t take too much of it.
We are in the process of setting up some concerts herre in NY and the Northeast. So, perhaps people will be able to make a show or two. I would love to be part of some of the big Catholic events like Steubenville East and Proud 2B Catholic. But the doors have not yet opened for those events, yet.
Personally, the garden we grew for the first time last year doubled in size this spring, so that will keep us busy with tomato plants, peppers, pumpkins, etc… I also hope to get out and fish with the kids a little more this year. This year I promised my Emma that I would not hook her like I did last year. I think I’ll be praying to all the apostles as so many were fishermen.
Are there any additional thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
Feel free to check out the music for free (it streams free – both of the new CDs – on my website). If they are in the Northeast, keep me in mind for concerts or events. We have a van for the fam and are ready to travel.
We love to hear what people think of our music – compliments only 🙂