'Like a dream': Isaac McClung records live album in McAlester

Aug. 1—It's a wrap.

Singer/songwriter Isaac McClung played to a sold-out house while recording his new live album Saturday night at Spaceship Earth Coffee in McAlester. It's believed to be the first album recorded live in a McAlester venue.

McClung performed 12 songs for possible inclusion in the album, then threw in a couple of extras he said he hadn't planned on performing, but suddenly felt compelled to do so.

At times it appeared difficult to tell who was having a better time — the audience which greeted the end of each song with a rousing ovation, or McClung, obviously pleased at the response and flashing an occasional grin as he told the stories behind his songs.

Jeremy Beaver, co-owner with Adam Gronwald of Spaceship Earth Coffee at 345 E. Choctaw Ave., welcomed the audience and reminded them they were attending the recording of a live album.

"Feel free to do whatever you want," he said.

Artist Braden Hobbs opened the concert with a short set, then introduced McClung.

"The world needs more people like Isaac McClung," Hobbs said. "This guy's the man."

Stepping up to the microphone, McClung told about how he was driving home to Stillwater one night following a performance in McAlester and he thought about how Spaceship Earth would be a great place to record a live album.

"Then Jeremy called and asked 'What do you think about recording a live album here?'" McClung termed it "a serendipitous moment."

McClung performed solo with an acoustic guitar, with the sound augmented at times by an effects pedal at his feet.

His set included "I'll Hope For You," showcasing his melodic vocal style, followed with "Cheap Seats." McClung sang some haunting lyrics: "It's 5 a.m." he sang. "I'll lay down, but there'll be no rest for me, except from 1,000 cuts."

Between songs, McClung told how he used to perform in the same building when it was known as Prairie 345. "I never thought I would love McAlester as much as I do," he said. "You guys have been so good to me."

McClung also told the audience why he wanted to record the live album solo, with just him and his guitar.

"I wanted to give people an idea of what it's like to see me live," he said. "I don't always have a band with me. That's why I wanted to do something like this."

McClung demonstrated how he could rock with only a guitar on his uptempo song, "Devil at the Door," a folk-like tale of an unwanted visitor, which included a bouncy, rhythmic interlude, closing with the lines "Get the hell of my property. You'd better be running."

Another highlight included his song, "Spark." McClung introduced the song, then played his guitar with a percussive effect, almost snapping the strings, as he sang "It just takes a little spark."

As McClung finished to enthusiastic applause, he told the audience "I laughed at myself when I realized this is the 2022 version of 'This Little Light.'"

He also related told he'd written a song about an artist he admires.

"Johnny Cash has been a very big influence on me," McClung said. He related how he had spent a lot of time alone while attending college and he saw the theatrical version of the love shared by Johnny Cash and June Carter, a reference to the film "Walk the Line."

McClung said after seeing the movie he felt inspired to write what he originally titled "A Song Johnny Cash Would Know" — his take on a song Johnny might have sang to June. "You were my best friend and you've shown me the light, I'll be a better man because of you," he sang.

When McClung finished his set, he thanked the audience for attending and said "This is my home away from home." He's already booked for a return performance at Spaceship Earth on Aug. 27.

It's expected to take a few months for the album to be released. First, there'll be a selection of which tracks to include, then mixing of the album tracks, and manufacturing of vinyl and discs. McClung said he's leaning toward naming the new album "Live From Spaceship Earth." It follows his previous release, "The Last Wildflowers."

McClung told the News-Capital recording the live album in McAlester had been a special experience for him.

"I had an amazing time," an obviously elated McClung said following his performance. "It was like a dream. It's one of my favorite moments in my musical career."

McClung isn't the only one who enjoyed the experience, based on audience reaction to his set. Austin Maddux and his wife, Erika, were among those attending the concert.

"I thought it was really good," Austin Maddux said. "They're both folk-style singers. Isaac — his voice just cuts through you."

Erika liked the show as well.

"I loved it," she said. "It was wonderful."

Stormie Dreadfulwater and a friend drove from Stillwater to McAlester for the show.

"I love Isaac's music and it's worth it to hear him live," she said. "I love it every time I hear him."

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.