JD Clayton is the epitome of a Real Deal. There’s no artifice surrounding the Arkansas-born singer and songwriter. No glitz. No pretension or mythology. There’s a refreshing lack of gratuitous posturing or creative conceit. Clayton is simply a guy who has things to say and does so clearly and without clutter — but with an earnest and tuneful sensibility that makes listening to his songs on his new album, Long Way From Home, as easy as sitting in the cool breeze on your front porch.

Clayton co-produced Long Way From Home with Thomas Dulin at his studio, The Planetarium, near Nashville’s Berry Hill neighborhood. The 10 tracks reflect the immediate, live-in-the-room approach that marked Clayton’s favorite music, from the acoustic-tinged optimism of “Hello Good Mornin’” to the rustic stomp of “American Millionaire,” the honky tonk swing of “Goldmine,” the anthemic drive of “Heartaches After Heartbreak,” the psychedelic British flavors of “Cotton Candy Clouds” and the classic, Bakersfield-leaning country of “Different Kind of Simple Life.” Clayton’s take on the early 20th century standard “Midnight Special” hails from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version but with plenty of Clayton’s own stylistic touches.

Clayton’s recordings were mixed by Craig Alvin (Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town, Hanson) at Cypress Moon Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., and mastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. But Clayton was alongside for every step of the process, “I’m really big about trying to learn how everything works. I want to be a student of how it’s all put together. It’s just amazing that both the mix engineer and the mastering engineer, these Grammy Award winners, were kind and gracious enough to let me sit in and watch them work. It means so much more to me listening back to the album, knowing what all the little pieces are and how they were put together to make it sound the way it does.”

Clayton’s mission now is taking that music out into the world and bring his intimate and impactful songs to an audience, “It’s been one hell of a journey. I can’t wait to see what’s around the bend.”

Fort Smith, Arkansas. Where would you go if you were to take a visitor to your favorite places in your hometown?

Well, first I would invite them over to my house for a stiff drink or an espresso depending on what time of day it is. I would then proceed to show them my vinyl collection. After that, you have to visit downtown. Fort Smith’s downtown rests right on the banks of the Arkansas river and was the original backdrop to what we call the “wild west.” You must try AJ’s. One of my favorite restaurants in Fort Smith.

2018. Debut EP, Smoke Out The Fire. The track, “Brown Haired Blue Eyed Baby,” had more than two million streams on Spotify. What is the backstory to the song?

It was one of the first songs I had written and I wanted it to be a love song for my wife. I finally was able to take it to the studio in early 2018 where members of Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors helped me bring it to life. It has been a product of Spotify’s fine-tuned algorithmic machine. It has just slowly grown each day little by little.

Moving from Arkansas to Nashville. 2020, the pandemic hit and you lost your job, went to work for a landscape company, running irrigation and planting trees. 2021, went into the studio with songs written during that first year in Music City. How did songwriting help you navigate the uncertain times?

It helped me get through everything you just laid out. My first 3 years in Nashville were filled with heaping piles of chaos. My wife and I, two kids from a small town, were thrown to the wolves in Nashville. We had to grow up and learn how to work the town. The songwriting was what helped me stay focused on why we moved in the first place.

Debut album, Long Way From Home, releases on Jan. 27. The songs include details of your upbringing, the region where you were raised, and recent life experiences — including becoming a new father. The songs show gratitude and newfound appreciation for what was almost lost due to the pandemic. The title track is your message to your mom about the need to chase your dreams, regardless of the obstacles. It’s the story of every Nashville songwriter who is missing their mama. What was your mom’s reaction the first time she listened?

She just about cried her eyes out. She loves the song so much but as you can imagine it’s tough for us to listen to it together. It’s a story we’ve all heard so many times but I felt like I had found a new way to tell the story with this song.

The new album includes four tracks from your Side A EP. “American Millionaire” has been described as ‘defiant.’ What inspired the song?

A friend and I met up to write a song. During the write, I randomly muttered the words “Monday mornin’ round 6 am.” I got home later that evening and wrote the rest of the song in an hour or so.

2022. First year to tour. As you prepare for the new year and more dates on the road, can you describe how it felt to take the stage on tour the first time?

It was truly a dream come true. It felt like everything I had been working towards for the last 5 years was starting to pay off. I can’t wait to get back out there and start working again.

What was it like to play at the legendary Exit/In, opening for Kendell Marvel?

It was like stepping back in time to an older version of Nashville that I had never seen. There were people there that wanted to see and hear real music. I was sharing the stage with acts that I had watched since I was a kid. And when we tore into our opening set the place went crazy. It was an unforgettable night.

What message would you hope fans take away from your music?

I hope they take some happiness. I can’t promise anyone joy but whatever their walk of life this music is meant to encourage.