Interview in Cincy Groove
Interview by Scott Preston
While you read the interview, feel free to listen to “Lions” from Samantha’s yet to be released album, You (Understood).
You (Understood), (to be released June 8) is a more mature, experimental album for Crain, who’s 23 now, and is her “attempt to preserve my contact with some human beings, 16 to be exact.” These 16 people affected her through the writing and recording of these songs, and the album is her monument to those sporadic and revered chapters, captured forever through these songs. With You (Understood), Crain once again looks closely at life and people and is able to conjure a mood to bring the listener into her own magical world where the ordinary is weird and small things take on significance. Crain’s voice is a marvel and once heard, impossible to forget. Rolling Stone wrote: “Her voice is gorgeously odd — all fulsome, shape-shifting vowels that do indeed billow like fog. But while her moody country rock is full of dark themes, she rarely gives in to them.” She has been compared to Joanna Newsome and Cat Power but her phrasing and inflections are uniquely her own.
Cincy Groove: Are you excited for your CD Release show on 5/29 back home in OK? any special plans for the show?
Samantha Crain: Yeah I’m really looking forward to it. I rarely get to play in Oklahoma because I’m traveling so much and last year I didn’t even get to have CD release parties so I made it a point to be back home for the release. We’re having one show in Tulsa at the famous Cain’s Ballroom and then another show in Norman at the Opolis, the venue that the Starlight Mints run. We are having pre-show pot luck meals for anyone that wants to come and hang out. That should be fun. I’m also excited about the bands that are opening the shows. Zeb Dewar and the Fed are a band we are on tour with right now. They’re from Southeastern Ohio but based out of Portland, OR. I’ve been traveling around with them all winter down in Mexico and up in the Northwest. They’ve become some of my best friends. Student Film, Ali Harter, Brine Webb, and Turnpike Troubadours are all great Oklahoma bands and good friends of mine and I’m excited they are playing as well.
Cincy Groove: What caused you to switch from a singer/songwriter sound to more of a indie-rock sound?
Samantha Crain: I’m just trying to not get bored. If I do anything for a good amount of time, I’m going to get bored and start resenting it. For example, right now I’m only taking two-lane highways while I’m touring, no interstates. I’ve gotta change the way I’m seeing the country if I want to stay interested. Same thing with music. If I’m gonna keep writing songs, I’ve gotta change the instruments or the amps or the time signatures or something, just to keep interested.
Cincy Groove: When did you decide to pursue music as a career?
Samantha Crain: I don’t really believe in careers. I just let seasons in my life go for as long as they will and work hard at whatever I’m doing. I don’t plan on doing any one thing for my entire life. If that is how it evolves, so be it, but I think I’m too curious of a person for that.
Cincy Groove: Who have been some of your favorite musicians you have had a chance to perform with?
Samantha Crain: We toured with William Elliott Whitmore for a while which I loved. He is a truly good person and great performer. And Frontier Ruckus, although I’ve never actually toured with them, we’ve collaborated in recording and done guest performances at each others shows before. They are good friends and Matthew Millia is the most talented poet I’ve ever met. Berry was the first band I ever toured with and collaborated with and I love them dearly. They played on my first EP and have played a huge part in my development as a person and a musician.
Cincy Groove: What advice would you have for musicians who handle their own booking?
Samantha Crain: Get someone else to do it.
Cincy Groove: What have been some of your favorite places to play?
Samantha Crain: Whitewater Tavern in Little Rock, AR, Casa Cantina in Athens, GA, Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, OK, Pickathon Festival outside of Portland, OR
Cincy Groove: What bands do you like to go see when you aren’t performing?
Samantha Crain: Some of the best live bands are Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Dr. Dog, Pokey LaFarge, and Frontier Ruckus.
Cincy Groove: Tell me about your new album You (Understood). What were some of the inspirations for the new songs? do you have a favorite song?
Samantha Crain: The new album are sorta just close up looks at my experiences over the past year with 16 people. Nothing to spectacular but just normal, everyday episodes of life that I zoomed in on not so ordinary details. My favorites songs on the new album are “Equinox” and “Santa Fe”.
Cincy Groove: What shows are you looking forward to this summer?
Samantha Crain: I’m looking forward to playing in Canada with First Aid Kit and also looking forward to playing Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri with Zeb Dewar and the Fed
Cincy Groove: When was the first time you got “geeked out” over performing with someone?
Samantha Crain: I was really meek when we toured with Justin Townes Earle. He is such a larger than life personality, a true entertainer, and a sort of Elvis or Frank Sinatra figure. I was in awe of him.
Cincy Groove: What do you like to do when you are not performing?
Samantha Crain: Cutting the heads off beanie babies, reading about permaculture, buying knives, and kissing boys.
Cincy Groove: How was your experience on the Cayamo cruise in Feb?
Samantha Crain: I got sorta sick. And the thought of being trapped on a boat freaked me out. I wanted to take a 5 mile walk in one direction and could only go around and around. Seeing Buddy Miller play was great though.