Photographer: Manuel Vazquez Musician: George St. Clair

Photographer: Manuel Vazquez
Musician: George St. Clair

Part western balladeer, part borderland chronicler, songwriter George St. Clair is a master of conjuring feelings and images of lives past and present. Growing up on the high plains of Texas put George in touch with the vastness of the American West, and his songs evoke the dry deserts, rolling grasslands, and high mountains of his West Texas homeland. Living for the past several years in the UK has given him a renewed perspective on the land where he grew up, and these reflections take shape in his new 2018 album Ballads of Captivity and Freedom.

George St. Clair’s family background of ranching and wildcat oil prospecting spurred him to probe the controversial history of that part of the world in his songwriting. He grew up in and around places where vicious battles were fought over the possession of land, and where large numbers of indigenous people were corralled into encampments. George’s bilingual mother made sure to regularly take her children deep into Mexico, where they learned Spanish and acquired a broad view of what it means to be American.

He began singing as a child in church, yet despite this moral background his love of music compelled him to steal a friend’s guitar and take it out to his family’s New Mexico ranch, where he began learning in earnest. George St. Clair went on to cut his musical teeth in Austin, playing Country, Flamenco, and Salsa, and co-founding the band Soniquete, a stalwart of Austin’s Alternative Latin music wave. However, it was while immersed in Latin American music that George’s ideas for melodies and verse still came almost always in the form of country ballads - a type of sound and feeling that was simply in his blood. George St. Clair found his voice in heartfelt narratives about life in the American West.

For over 20 years George has pursued a career as a professional archeologist and anthropologist, which involved living for extended periods of time in remote places in the American Southwest, Mexico, Peru, and Brazil. While in Mexico, his travels crossing and re-crossing the border further ignited his historical imagination and sharpened his awareness of life in the region. This path eventually brought George to London, where he got his PhD in Anthropology, followed by a few years of lecturing and research at the London School of Economics

All the while his reading, writing, and further reflection kept fueling a vision that would emerge in his songwriting - a nuanced, poetic voice full of wit and rigor, ever-grounded in his connection to home. While music was never far out of the picture, over the last few years the time came to put all his energies toward it. Bringing all his experiences together, songwriting emerged as the way for George to find his true voice.

George St. Clair draws on influences from the western country tradition, Mexican folk, and 1970s Texas balladry to narrate hidden stories of the past and present. His songs tell of struggles between native Americans and white colonizers, and examine the plights of migrants to the US. A formidable songwriter with his own sound and point of view, George St. Clair penetrates beyond the standard view to take the listener to places and times where untold possibilities once existed, and still do.