Local worship leader to rock stage this spring for a chance at Grand Ole Opry

Published 3:22 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2024

By his own admission, 49-year-old Chris Clem was once deep in a battle against addiction. 

Since taking his last drink in August 2009, the lifetime singer and guitarist – and current worship leader at Calvary Christian Church on Redwing Drive – has seen his life turn around for the better. 

This spring, it will go one step further. 

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As a finalist in the prestigious The Sound of Small Town America competition, Clem will represent Winchester in Nashville, TN, on May 28th at 7:00 p.m. at the Texas Troubadour Theatre. 

The finale, where they will announce the winner, takes place the next day at the Grand Ole Opry House on May 29th as a part of the Inspirational Country Music Association & Awards, beginning at 5:30 p.m. 

“It’s an opportunity to sing and perform a song I wrote on one of the grandest stages in country music,” Clem said. “It’s an opportunity to share the message of the song that I wrote, which is basically a message of hope.” 

The song, titled “Broken Chains”, serves as a personal testimony for Clem – who overcame addiction with the help of resources such as Celebrate Recovery. 

Riding with a motorcycle group called Broken Chains JC, a fellowship of bikers and bike enthusiasts that have acknowledged healing through Jesus Christ, Clem was encouraged to write and perform the song. 

Recognition has been swift. 

“The song’s done well locally,” Clem said. “It’s done real well in Stanton. It was actually one of the most played songs by their DJs in 2023…It’s done well throughout the network of recovery throughout the country. That’s what the song was intended for was to serve a recovery audience.” 

The Inspirational Country Music Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to deepening the impact of Christian country music, has welcomed performers from various states. 

Acknowledging that he uses his music to inspire others, Clem also performs at recovery meetings, jails and with street ministries. 

While worship leaders may not always get the same notice that other musicians do, it was by fortunate happenstance that opportunity arose. 

“I got a call that they were having this showcase in Owensboro for a shot [at the competition]. I rolled my motorcycle all the way out there…we got to sing right at the banks of the Ohio River,” he said, noting the showcase occurred at a street festival. “There’s so much young talent…there [were] two or three of us that were older that got the call that we’d made it,” Clem said.

The performance is far from the only rewarding aspect. 

The victor will also have a chance to complete a recording project with renowned musician Cody McCarver, formerly of the music group Confederate Railroad.

Actor John Schneider, most famous for his role as Beauregard “Bo” Duke on the “The Dukes of Hazzard” and a frequent collaborator with McCarver, will also be associated with the label. 

Clem states that the opportunity offers much personal excitement. 

“I’ve been playing music and singing since I was eleven years old,” he said. ”I’ve spent a whole lot of my life practicing and preparing.” 

However, he also reiterates what he finds most useful about music. 

“I think what I do at the jails and the recovery houses, that’s the most important,” Clem said. “Music lightens people up. It helps them heal.”