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Paste Artist of the Week

Artist of the Week: Samantha Crain

Samantha Crain is not your stereotypical Southerner.

Every bit a rural Oklahoman, the twenty-one-year-old with Native American blood and a penchant for tinkering with any instrument she can get her hands on, is rooted firmly in the ideals of folk music. She is earthy and honest, opts for traditional over trendy attire, and can tell a story like nobody’s business. Crain records most of her material in low-key settings—a friend’s basement in Greenville, Illinois birthed her new EP, The Confiscation—and cites artists in her hometown scene as her biggest musical influences. The unassuming singer-songwriter comes across as grounded and extremely proud of her origin—characteristics of a true folk troubadour. It’s not until she starts talking about her obsession with aliens, aspiring to be a traveling side-show performer if she wasn’t a musician, and the process of capturing sounds from outer space that you start to understand that Samantha Crain is, well, just a little bit different.

“I always wanted to be a performer,” says the Choctaw singer-songwriter. “I was in college studying English literature but I probably would have joined the circus after graduation if I wasn’t doing music.” A college-derived appreciation for the written word led Crain away from the big top and down a musical path where she drew influence from “short-story writers and poets [more so] than other lyricists and musicians.” In her aural narratives, the Native American spirituality of N. Scott Momaday’s In The Bear’s House just as likely influences the songstress as the violence and destructive sexuality of the Depression-era characters in Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road.

Embodying ethereal, dusky and deliciously playful subject matter, Crain’s Ramseur Records debut, The Confiscation, runs the gamut between “fairly subdued” and “[just] good old American rock music.” Traditional instrumentation—harmonica, sparse guitars, tambourine and group vocals—melds with stranger fare throughout the EP’s five tracks. “If you listen closely in ‘Traipsing Through The Aisles’ you’ll hear some unearthly sounds,” Crain explains. “That’s because we have wired up a recording device [using three CB radios and a TV antenna] that can pick up and record sounds from space.”

Quirky, yes, but Crain insists that she has developed a sound of her own by living in rural Oklahoma, away from the limelight, “removed enough from the music industry [and] away from a lot of influences and pressure.” She and her band, The Midnight Shivers, consider themselves “good old boys and a girl of the same sort,” the kind of people who are obsessed with Bojangles’ sweet tea and just so happen to always carry a tin of “the best oatmeal cookies” on tour, courtesy of drummer Jacob Edward’s grandma.

Only two years past her teens, Crain already has several national tours under her belt, the accolade-worthy EP, The Confiscation (which is out July 22), and her entire career ahead of her. Although she finds herself on a performance path far different than she initially intended, she insists that “being in a touring band [really] is…like being in the circus.”

Hometown: Shawnee, Okla.

Fun Fact: At the tender age of 17, Samantha Crain debuted at her hometown’s now-defunct coffeehouse, Bean and Berry, performing a set chock full of Radiohead and Creedence Clearwater Revival covers.

Why She’s Worth Watching: Vocalist/guitarist Crain, along with her band The Midnight Shivers [drummer Jacob Edwards, bassist Andrew Tanz and guitarist Stephen Sebastian], delivers a refreshing brand of indie-folk that fuses accessible, narrative lyrics with a home-grown wholesomeness reminiscent of her rural origin.

For Fans Of: Martha Wainwright, Pete Seeger, Neko Case, Feist

Paste Magazine, written by Claire Ashton

  • Posted on July 21