See William Clark Green Bring Circus to Life in 'Ringling Road' Video - Rolling Stone
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See William Clark Green Bring Circus to Life in ‘Ringling Road’ Video

Texas chart-topper stars alongside clowns, acrobats and bearded ladies in new, off-kilter clip

Ringling Road” — a twisted tale of circus freaks and vice from sharp-tongued country-rocker William Clark Green — comes to life word-for-word in its eerie, coulrophobic new video.

“We wanted to hit a couple of levels,” Green says. “We wanted it creepy, but also just dark. The whole idea of the song is what goes on at a circus or a carnival after everyone leaves, and what happens is basically everyone gets pretty fucked up.”

Green has struck a chord with fans in the Lone Star State with three Texas Radio Number Ones (“She Likes the Beatles,” “Hanging Around” and “Sympathy”), but with “Ringling Road” — his first music video and the title track of his third album — he imagines a surreal patch of Texas most people would never dream of.

Featuring a muddy, twangy groove that’s always a bit unsettled, a carnival barker’s chorus and a recklessly drunken sing-along, Green wrote the song with Randall Clay and Ross Cooper about a bare stretch of dirt in Eastland, Texas. According to local stories, Ringling Brothers bought hundreds of acres of land there in the 1920s intending to build an amusement park. But after the park plans fell through, the company continued to use the land as a rest stop for circus trains, setting the stage for rowdy, surreal situations like those in Green’s story.

Full of vibrant debauchery and kooky characters, Green says the video shoot almost turned in to the story it was trying to tell. “I got to drink beer in a goofy costume for about ten hours,” he laughs. “The big deal was the monkey, we had to have a monkey. Her name was Tara and she was actually in Pirates of the Caribbean.”

With Green playing the part of a suspiciously-sketchy ring master, the video follows a Dick Tracy-esque murder-mystery plot complete with a dead clown, befuddled police detective and never-ending cast of possible suspects — like the beer-chugging bearded lady and coked-up trapeze artists, played by Green’s band members. Green tries to persuade the detective there’s nothing to see — a tattooed man kissing a snake lady or a drunken clown throwing shoes at a bear are perfectly normal, after all — but soon the story takes an even darker turn.

For Green, though, the real fear had to do with his first experience in front of a camera. “I was so scared,” he admits. “We make fun of each other in the band pretty bad, and I was afraid I was gonna do something so ridiculous that I was gonna have to hear about it for a year or two.”

Green’s third album, Ringling Road, rose to Number 18 on Billboard‘s country albums chart after being released in April, and he’s currently touring across Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas, with dates scheduled through December 1st.


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