Music: Light it Up

Paige Clem unveils debut album

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“I have a lot of different influences,” says songwriter Paige Clem, “but it’s interesting that a lot of what I listen to isn’t necessarily what comes out of me.”

San Francisco songwriter Paige Clem describes herself as a free spirit, which is what led her to move from her hometown in Alabama to the Bay Area nearly 20 years ago. Yet, Clem still shows her roots every time she performs her old-school Americana music.

After 20 years of playing locally, Clem recently assembled her songs into a debut album, Firefly, which gets a massive release show on Friday, March 9, at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael.

“It’s funny—there’s a song on the record called ‘Long Time Coming,’ and it’s not about me, but it does speak to the record for sure,” Clem says. “I have an actual bucket list of all the things I want to do, and I’ve always wanted to make an album.”

Clem played piano as a child, wrote poetry in high school and melded the two in college when she got her first guitar. “I gravitated more towards creating things—making music versus learning it,” she says.

Clem established her name in the Bay Area by performing often, hosting residencies at local venues and organizing songwriter-in-the-round events. “I had all this material, but there was this big hurdle in my mind between performing and recording,” she says. “A lot of it was just not knowing what the process was like.”

Clem says that the support of the community allowed her to finally complete her album. “I feel like it’s very much a collaborative thing.”

Throughout Firefly, Clem hints at influences like jazz, blues, gospel and more, though the album is a straightforward collection of confessional, reflective country-folk songs.

For the album-release show, Clem is gathering all of the friends and musicians who’ve helped her on her way. “We’re going to have a lot of folks up on the stage,” she says. “It feels like a good way to celebrate the project.”

Paige Clem, Friday, March 9, Terrapin Crossroads, 100 Yacht Club Dr., San Rafael; 8pm; $15-$18; 415/524-2773.

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