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Hotel Cafe Tour: Samantha Crain

“One bus, one band and a bunch of friends on the road.” It’s the tag line to what has become one of the most successful singer-songwriter tours of the last few years. And this time around, the Hotel Café Tour is giving it up to the women. Launched by that now venerable Hollywood venue with a reputation for breaking new talent, the tour has been throwing together headliners and local emerging singer-songwriters for the last four years, showcasing their music as much as the convivial atmosphere that the café is known for on jaunts across the United States and the United Kingdom. This year’s tour, kicking off October 9 in Santa Barbara, California, features 18 of the most promising new female voices (including a few familiar favorites) to hit their stage in recent times.

“There are so many tours where it’s a bunch of guys and this was an opportunity to show an area where females are dominating the current market,” says tour co-founder Josh Neuman. “We wanted to bring diverse artists together from many different cultural and musical backgrounds. It’s always exciting to see how people will get along out there and what collaborations come from it.”

In this series running throughout the duration of the tour, which concludes November 18 in Los Angeles (check for dates, tickets, and more on the featured artists at each venue), puts the spotlight on the women who’ve caught our ear and the reasons we think you should tune in to them, too.

Evolution of a song: “They were short stories that I had that had turned themselves into songs,” says Crain of the EP, whose tracks explore the themes of betrayal and redemption and the shadowed places in between. “I usually don’t do that anymore. That happened when I first started writing songs. Because I’d written stories when I was little, and because I was studying English in college, I had a lot of experience writing stories and fiction but not a lot of experience writing songs. So it seemed that a natural way to start writing songs was to bypass the story to get to the song. It was a good way for me to gather up topics and figure out how I wanted to phrase words and just kind of build the songs.”

Foundational beginnings: Although music was never a focus growing up, Crain, a Native American of Choctaw descent, developed an early appreciation for good music, thanks to her dad, who played guitar and sang. “He had a great record collection: Fleetwood Mac, and Credence Clearwater Revival, and James Taylor. I heard those records growing up and I think it was just a good introduction to me thinking more, ‘Maybe I just want to see what all this is about,'” says Crain, who started teaching herself to play guitar at 17. “If I had picked up that guitar not having been exposed to all that great music, I don’t think I would have had that same drive or passion for music. It would have just been me trying to recreate what my friends were listening to in the car on the way home from school.”

Breaking away: At 19, Crain packed up her belongings in a van and began touring the United States. While she performed by herself for about two years, a little more than a year ago she hooked up with drummer Jacob Edwards, bassist Andrew Tanz, and multi-instrumentalist Nate Henricks to form the Midnight Shivers. “I get a sense of freedom from touring and playing music that I definitely know I wouldn’t feel if I was just working in Shawnee, Oklahoma,” says Crain, who admits to leaving college out of sheer boredom. “Growing up in a small town like I did, there were a lot of things about the world, and people, and other views on things that I was not going to learn sitting in a small private college in Oklahoma. I needed to experience things outside of my world, and these were things I was going to learn by actually talking to people in New Orleans, or New York, or wherever and just seeing things for myself.”

Liberating spotlight: “Being on stage, you lose all inhibition to what’s around you. It’s just completely the opposite of how we’re supposed to live in the world,” says Crain, who sees her music as a barometer for measuring both artistic and personal growth. “We’re supposed to be so aware and self-conscious; you know, people will say ‘make sure you pay attention to what you’re doing so you’re not embarrassing yourself or wearing the wrong thing.’ But whenever I’m on stage, all those inhibitions go away and it’s just me playing songs for people and complete freedom.”

One of the girls: “I’m really excited about [the Hotel Café Tour] because I never get to hang out with girls, and most of us girls are probably thinking the same thing,” says Crain. “I don’t know how it is in L.A., where most of those girls are from, but we operate in a male-dominated field … This will be a break from the boys.”, written by Naila Francis

  • Posted on October 18