One on One with Samantha Fish
Samantha Fish Is Down Home With the Blues
by Joe O’Gara
For someone who makes their living being out on the road the biggest part of the year, you would think that when it comes time for a break from the job, the highway would be the last place that you would find them, but not in the case of blues musician Samantha Fish. Lately, when she’s had a break from being on the road playing music, this Kansas City native has not been staying at home.
“Actually, I’ve been traveling a lot when I’m off the road,” Fish admitted with a laugh. “I’ve been getting to go and hang out in different cities. I’m looking to relocate soon, so I’ve been wanting to spend time in different places. It’s been a good summer, a lot of fun.”
And her constant companion when Samantha has been away from home “taking a break” from work?
“I always have the guitar with me,” Fish replied. “Just in case I’ve got a night off and I want to work on some songwriting. If you’re a guitarist, you should always have a guitar with you. I try to escape every once in a while, but I end up feeling bad if I leave it behind.”
Not that Samantha and her band have had much time off the road as of late. They have been touring quite a bit in the past year in support of her last studio album Wild Heart.
“We love being on the road,” Fish said. “We’ve been having a great couple of years.
“My agency keeps asking if we want time off, but I feel like if people are requesting us, and they want us to come, then we’ve got to strike while the iron is hot. And they haven’t stopped calling yet, so that’s a good thing!”
Produced by Luther Dickinson, co-founder (along with his brother Cody) of the blues band North Mississippi Allstars, Wild Heart is the well-crafted result of several new experiences for Samantha, both in and out of the recording studios.
“Luther is amazing,” exclaimed Fish. “He’s one of my favorite guitar players, a creative guy who has some amazing ideas. I was really lucky and fortunate to work with Luther. I have been a fan of his for years.”
One of the other new experiences for Samantha was the recording process for Wild Heart. The album was recorded in several different studios: drummer Brady Blade’s Shreveport, Louisiana studio, where they laid down basic rhythm tracks and vocals; Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch Studios in Hernando, Mississippi, and finally at both Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios and Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.
And the route that musicians travelled between Shreveport and Hernando was the backroads in Mississippi and Louisiana, as opposed to the interstate. Such travels seemed to stimulate Fish’s musical inclinations.
“You gotta take inspiration wherever you can,” Fish pointed out. “The landscape and the scenery down there just drives the music of that region. It’s inspiring, it really is. It’s amazing the kind of ideas you can come up with when you’re in the mood and you are inspired by the nature around you. I’ve felt that before.”
Something else that Fish tried for the first time, in putting together the material for Wild Heart, was songwriting with someone else. Samantha co-wrote five of the songs on the album with Jim McCormick, a talented songwriter who is based in Nashville.
“(Co-writing) is not something that I am accustomed to,” Fish acknowledged. “But I loved working with other people. It’s kinda cool to bounce ideas off someone else. And to make something that’s beyond something that’s happened to me. When you work with someone else they can take it give the songs more of a universal appeal.
“I worked with a great guy, Jim McCormick, who is a phenomenal songwriter. His job is being a lyric doctor in Nashville, just taking songs and making them broader stories that people can connect with, while keeping a more cohesive story in mind.”
Fish conceded that it was a challenge for her to write songs with someone else, having previously written music by herself. But Samantha added that she did learn a lot from the experience with McCormick.
“There were times where we sat in a room and didn’t leave until the song was finished,” Fish said. “And there were times where I’d send him the idea for a song, from miles away. One time I had the verses completed but I was having trouble with the choruses. I got ahold of Jim and he shot me an idea. We fine-tuned it, and there it was, the completed song.”
“I think it can sometimes get muddy when you are writing about your own experiences. I learned a lot. It’s always a challenge going into a situation like that, working with new people because you’re so used to doing things a certain way.”
The material on Wild Heart can best be described as no-frills, hill country blues. With Samantha’s gritty vocals and guitar playing, backed by Dickinson and Blades, the music definitely has an authentic feel to it that gets the listener’s attention from the opening notes of the album’s first track “Road Runner”.
“(The album’s sound) is definitely raw,” Fish admitted. “The recording style reflects that. The way we recorded the album it comes across as raw. We were down in Louisiana and Mississippi, and we ended up doing (the album) pretty quick. We worked with some of the best hill country musicians on the album. I think that genre has a pretty strong influence throughout the record.
“Hill country blues, that’s the kind of blues that inspires me the most. I think that’s really a broad term for me, knowing how traditional a band like the North Mississippi All Stars can be. It’s pretty much where I come from in my writing for Wild Heart.”
As for future plans, Fish admitted that “next year is going to be pretty exciting for us, as well as the fans.
“We will have a lot of music for everybody. We’re working on it right now, and during the next couple of weeks the project will be taking shape. But we will definitely have some new music next year.”
(Samantha Fish will be at The Warehouse in Carmel, IN on Thursday, October 27th. Showtime is 8 p.m. For tickets, go to www.liveforethemusic.com.)
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