“This is a story that is true, and false, and I don’t know which one it is,” says William Clark Green of “Ringling Road,” the debut single and title track of his third album.
The 28-year-old singer-songwriter — riding a swell of buzz that extends from 2013’s Rose Queen and its two Texas radio Number Ones, “She Likes the Beatles” and “Hanging Around” — is talking about a long-forgotten circus train’s rest stop in Eastland, Texas, but he’s trying to be fair since some locals deny it ever existed.
Whether true or not, the idea was too interesting to pass up and became the inspiration for a dark, country-rock brooder about beer-drinking bearded ladies and cocaine-fueled acrobats, all with a dangerously unhinged groove. It’s the first taste of Green’s much-anticipated Ringling Road album, out April 21st.
“The story I’ve heard is that Ringling Bros. bought this property in Eastland, like 400 or 500 acres,” he tells Rolling Stone Country. “Their plan was to build an amusement park. . . but it didn’t end up happening and this land was just vacant.
“So what I’ve heard is they would come through on the train and let their elephants and everybody out to rest a while. It’s public land now and you can see there’s old tracks that come right up to the lake, and you can just picture it in your head.”
After telling co-writers Ross Cooper and Randall Clay (who actually happens to be a former circus roustabout), dirty details about the world of misfit performers started pouring out.
Complete with a creepy banjo and whiskey-drunk sing-along, Green’s song turns the innocent circus clowns and noble ringmasters you thought you knew into wild, untamed creatures of the night.
“It’s really more about (Clay’s) experience and what he witnessed in the circus,” says Green, “which is that it’s like the music business or the rodeo circuit — it’s just this drug-infested, crazy, behind-the-scenes party.”