This song came out of the volatility of the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest that accompanied it. Rising Appalachia had always built their brand on political activism, so the 2020 events in response to the death of George Floyd and other acts of police-related violence hit them especially hard. "Clay" is not directly about any of those things, but it came out of that pressure cooker.
The song is a sound portrait of Rising Appalachia's home in the Appalachian Mountains. As Chloe Smith told Songfacts, the song is, "Abstract poetics framing the black mountain of our Appalachian home."
Robin Thicke and his mom, Gloria Loring are the first the first ever mother-and-son to have both tallied top 10 singles on the Hot 100 as solo artists or duos. Loring reached #2 with Carl Anderson in 1986 with "Friends and Lovers" and Thicke topped the chart in 2013 with "Blurred Lines."