The Hippo


May 25, 2020








Skyler Clark-Hamel. Courtesy photo.


When: Friday, Feb. 26, 5 p.m.
Where: Boston Billiard Club, 55 Northeastern Blvd., Nashua

Next stop Nashville
Skyler plays one more for the road

By Michael Witthaus

 Perhaps Sir Paul McCartney didn’t get any respect at Tyga’s Grammy after-party, but for one young musician, he’s an inspiration. At age 14, Skyler Clark-Hamel watched the former Beatle on stage at Boston Garden and sensed his future. 

“I went, ‘That’s what I’m going to do, that’s going to be my life — a performer,’” Skyler said in recent phone interview. Like Bono, he’s known by just his first name.
In middle school, Skyler cobbled together a bedroom studio with money earned from lemonade stands and bake sales. He spent his high school years making records, singing and playing everything on all of them. Most important, the hungry aspirant never missed a chance to be in the spotlight. 
“I was in the choir, acted in plays, musicals,” he said. “Any way that I could get on stage and perform was what I wanted to do.”
This single-mindedness netted him an acceptance letter from Berklee College of Music. Skyler spent a few years there but left before graduating — an oft-told tale among the Boston school’s alumni. 
“I had a band, Band of Thieves. We’d just recorded our first record; we were looking at a manager and possibly touring,“ he said. “All of the signs pointed toward leaving school, getting out there and making it happen.”
The path eventually led to Nashville, “where it seemed all my dreams were about to come true,” Skyler said. 
They did — for a year and half. Then everything crashed to earth. 
Within six months, the band broke up, management evaporated and Skyler split with his high school sweetheart and moved back to New England. Others in his situation might have surrendered at this point. But Paul’s words — “get back to where you once belonged” — rang in his head. 
So Skyler worked even harder, crisscrossing the country for over 400 shows. A song written around that time, “Writing on the Wall,” became a mission statement: “I’d rather take a chance than take the fall,” he sang. He earned a performance on X Factor. Though he didn’t win the television talent contest, the experience taught him plenty. 
“It helped me realize I was capable of playing in front of thousands of people and captivating them,” Skyler said of his audition for the series at the Providence, R.I., Dunkin’ Donuts Center. “It felt so natural, fun and free to be in front of a crowd like that … a great learning experience. Also, it peeled back the curtain; you realize, oh, yeah, these are just TV shows. They’re not make it or break it.”
The intervening years produced a pair of albums and a fun side project with Charles Berthoud called Skyler & the Brit. In January, he began releasing outtakes from those sessions on his SoundCloud page, one a week. Lately, however, he’s feeling the tug of Music City again. After playing a final show at Boston Billiard Club in Nashua Feb. 26, Skyler will return to Nashville and take another shot.
“I was the first one to head down, then I came back,” he said. “Now all these guys I went to school with have moved there and I’m following them.” 
Singer-songwriter Liz Longley and keyboard player Alex Wright, currently supporting country star Brett Eldredge, are among the Berklee pals he plans to look up.
Now almost 25, he’s ready for a new chapter. 
“I’m excited about Nashville; everything is happening there, all kinds of music,” he said. “I’ve been Skyler myself for so long that a band like the Eagles — a bunch of singers and songwriters sharing lead, backup and harmonies — I would love to try something like that.”
The Nashua show happens one night before he loads up and pulls out of town. 
“It’s a bar gig, which I haven’t done in a number of years. I’ve stuck to clubs, theaters, but I wanted to play one last show before I moved,” he said. 
He’ll do three sets, from 5 to 8 p.m. 
“People can come and go as they want, reminisce with me before I head out.”
As he plans his drive south, he knows success won’t come easy. It’s no longer Macca’s music business, after all, but a world of possibilities keeps Skyler energized. 
“You can basically write your own rules and make it up as you go,” he said. “It’s too exhausting to be pessimistic, looking for all the ways it won’t work. I spend that energy trying to figure out ways it will.”

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