Level Up: The Star Stuff of Clint Breeze

Photography by Jake Moran

Carrington “Clint Breeze” Clinton is 30 years old and days way from releasing his tenth album, a solo project titled S.E.L.F. (You read that right. His tenth.) For context, I’m 35 years old feel like I’ve achieved something if I finish reading a book longer than 200 pages. So, to say I am impressed by this man’s C.V. would be accurate. And meeting him in person, y’all, it was even better than that.

It goes like this: Clint walks up to PATTERN after he’s had a full day of work at CFI School 27, and he’s genuinely happy. He greets his stylist and lifelong friend, Chantelle Ellis, at the door and literally breezes into our studio to get started. This is a person who loves being alive.  A person who reminds you that we’re all made out of star stuff.

We chit-chat as things are getting set up for the shoot. He tells me about teaching first graders to play ukulele. About plans to go to Denver soon for a much-needed break with friends. About a home video with Chantelle’s cousin from one of his earlier birthday parties—a story lost on me but one that clearly delights Chantelle. 

After the shoot’s over, Clint and I settle into our conversation about S.E.L.F. and his process. I’m struck by two things, Clint’s commitment to living with a sense of purpose and leveling up in everything he does. It’s clear that music is life and that Clint is really proud of this album.

S.E.L.F., which stands for Soul, Evolution, Love, Fear, is Clint’s eighth solo album, but it’s filled with a lot of firsts. Except for one song featuring Rob Dixon, Clint plays everything himself. The lyrics and vocals, also Clint’s. The entire project was recorded in a studio, and Clint stresses how the studio aspect changes things, “You might really like the first take. The second take not so much. And the third take is good, still not perfect, though, you know? But those imperfections become part of the art.”

Clint says the momentum of his two projects in 2020 (Clint Breeze and the Groove’s Endtime Overture and a solo Christmas album, I’ll Be At The Crib) paired with the relative quiet of 2021 gave him the space he needed to bring his vision for S.E.L.F. to life. Which isn’t to suggest he wasn’t busy, he says, “I was working on the lyrics wherever I could find the time. Usually during study halls when the kids were working on other things.” But the change of pace and the drive to level up on past success, resulted in a body of work that embraces a variety of styles and Clint’s knack for weaving them together.

“I’m like a sponge. You’ll hear Afro-punk, hip hop, jazz.” We joke that you probably won’t hear any country, but Clint goes on to demonstrate a clear understanding and respect for the omitted genre, anyway. Clint say’s you’ll also here a conversation with his paternal grandmother on the first track. He sees her not only as a family matriarch but as a sort of template of how to be in the world. Rob Dixon, among other musical and personal mentors, gets a similar nod. It’s clear that he’s soaking in more than musical styles.

At this point the PATTERN team is starting to drift out the door for the day. Clint and I wind down our conversation with details about the upcoming release party on October 22 at the Storefront Theater in Broad Ripple. (We all, by extension of this exchange, have a personal invitation to join.) There’ll be a screening of a documentary about the production of S.E.L.F. by Tai Payne, and Clint will give a live performance of the album. We laugh about the idea of pulling together a band for this show—a group of folks who will essentially be pretending to be Clint.

Then he walks out the door with same the graciousness enthusiasm he arrived with leaving me to think about star stuff and how people like Clint and projects like S.E.L.F. bring that to life.

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