SAMANTHA FISH • In a League of Her Own

Remarkable Blues Guitarist, Vocalist, Songwriter Set to Headline The Freeland Blues Festival Saturday • August 24th

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, National Music, Artist Feature,   By: Robert E Martin

21st August, 2019     0

The big buzz circulating musically in the region this weekend is Samantha Fish, who will be headlining the Freeland Blues Festival happening this Saturday, August 24th at Tittabawassee Township Park. Fish grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and started out playing drums, but switched to the guitar at age 15. Voted Best New Artist at the 2012 Blues Music Awards in Memphis and Artist of the Year in 2016 by the Independent Blues Awards.   Joining Fish on the roster of this weekend’s Freeland Blues Fest is Saginaw’s own Blue Master Larry McCray, Wayne Baker Brooks, and Jake Kershaw.  According to festival organizer Paul Koch, this weekend’s festival is also going to be filmed for an upcoming documentary.

With her 6th solo album, Kill or Be Kind, being released on Rounder Records on September 20th, Fish says her mission on this album was to “really set these songs up so they have a life of their own. Strong messages from the heart - that’s what I really set out for.”  Indeed, what comes across immediately on hearing the album is the extraordinary level of songcraft on its eleven tracks, the way these songs are so smartly put together to deliver a potent emotional impact.

Anyone who has ever heard Fish’s previous albums knows that she has earned a place in the top rank of contemporary blues guitarists and that her voice can wring the soul out of a ballad and belt out a rocker with roof-shaking force. “I think I’ve grown as a performer and as a player,” she explains. “I’ve become more respectful of the melody. You can go up and down the fret board and up and down your vocal register, but that’s not going to be as powerful as conveying a simple melody that people can really connect to and sing themselves.”

Asked how she got interested in this whole arena of Blues-oriented rock and if there was anything in particular that informed her ears and sensibilities while growing up, Fish breaks her origins down into two parts. “My first musical influence was listening to FM Rock radio stations,” she reflects. “I’d pick up the guitar and listen to Jimmy Page and found most of the players I looked up to played soulfully and were Blues oriented; so from that, I kinda started backwards and fell in love with R&B, Soul, Motown, all at the same time before getting into Delta Blues and finding the history of that.  Also, growing up in Kansas City, which is a blues and jazz town historically with a long line of players coming out of there, I found a lot of people in town playing this style of music and found myself gravitating towards it.”

With the state of the music business nowadays focused more upon touring that recording, what does Fish find to be the most challenging component right now as she’s attempting to carve her own career through this forest of uncertainty that is the music business?

“You know, there’s a lot of challenges,” she admits. “The music industry is forging into unknown territory so mainly I go with the flow. I’ve been at this awhile now, but compared to other blues players on the scene since the 1990s, there’s been a huge shift in the touring world.  On the other hand, at the time I came up the world already changed and gone through its de-construction, so it’s the only world I knew. What I find of paramount importance is making a personal connection with fans because that’s how you build your fan base.  Albums are important and great, but the thing they can never reproduce and give away for free online is the personal connection. I think that’s the one irreplaceable factor of live shows. You can record them and put them on YouTube, but you can also feel the difference. My strategy is to focus on forging that personal connection one at a time. It’s how you build your business and what I’ve always focused on.”

“On the other hand, I wouldn’t have had a chance in this business if not for YouTube or the internet,” she continues. “I came up at a time when the viral thing was still kinda new and was fortunate to have a couple videos go viral. All of a sudden I started selling more tickets and CDs as a result of it, so I find it important to ride the balance between the old and new.”

In terms of the direction music is heading with so much crossover going on and different genres melting together, how does Samantha carve her own unique niche out of that collective hodge-podge?

“That’s a tough question. What am I but an amalgamation of all my influences and inspirations churned-up and turned up to the world with my voice, guitar playing, sound, and perspective? Everybody was a unique perspective, so what’s so special about mine?  That’s hard to answer.  I do know that I feel I’m good at connecting with people at the show and always try to go back to what made me fall in love with music and the feeling I had when I was first affected by live music, so I’m really touched by what’s happening on stage and always try to channel that and make people feel something. The only way to do that is by giving part of yourself.”

“It’s hard to pinpoint where anything is anymore with the shifting and mixing of genres going on,” she reflects. “Because the world has become so accessible with the internet young artists have all kinds of music at their fingertips and I think you’ll see more and more of that - people mixing things they like together and creating new sounds and music.  Being a guitar player and having a unique voice on that instrument and also singing at the same time, all my influences are filtered through that and mixed together that makes me unique; but that’s a tough question to answer.”

When asked how she feels her songwriting skills have evolved, Samantha is equally candid. “I have some rules and assumption when I approach writing a song,” she explains. “First, I’m never going to make a song that’s a vehicle for a guitar solo. This was my first album where I was the only guitar player and that was exciting and unnerving at the same time.  For me when approaching a song the key element is to tell a story. One of my favorite songwriters is Tom Petty and when I saw him live with The Heartbreakers, which is my favorite band, 20,000 people were singing along with his songs because he has a way of telling a story that applies to everybody.  There is something so brilliant about that - telling stories people can relate to.   Maybe its autobiographical in a sense, but you’re telling a story that you want people to connect to.”

“When it comes to my songwriting, I want to pick up universal themes and experiences that people share and for the musical part, I always structure it around the mood of the topic. What I love about doing albums is that you can sandwich yourself between 11 or 12 songs and take people on a trip. With this new album in particular, I want to tell good stories and I want the guitar to play a huge part in telling that story, but in a different way. I want to give my guitar playing a different flavor and different colorations.”

“That’s what I love about Jack White,” she concludes. “Every time he comes out with something it has a different feeling to it. His guitar playing is always the star of the show in a lot of ways, but it’s like a supporting cast member.”

Tickets for the Freeland Blues Festival happening Saturday, August 24th, are only $20 in advance and $25 the day of show and available by clicking the link below.

The show starts at 3 PM and overnight camping is available.






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