She’s a Rambling Man…

28 Mar

Some music conjures up lives lived in the same sleepy town; sunset-sipping on verandas whilst mosquitoes buzz against the net-screens.  Footsteps literally etched into the ground.  Some music stays etched into your memory like the unforgotten warmth of the day’s diminishing sunshine.

Samantha Crain hails from Oklahoma yet her own memory is coloured with her breezy marathons that have taken her around the world, and then some.  Without which, Samantha believes, many of her musical inspirations might never have occurred to her.

Her latest album You (Understood) is the follow-up to 2009’s Songs in the Night.  With self-assured vocals with echoes of Erin McKeown, yet lyrics which speak of the vulnerable and complex nature of life and the people who walk its roads – Samantha Crain is alluringly drawn by the waves of ever-changing tides.

“I feel like I was just pulled towards this life.”

I asked Samantha – Shawnee-born (quarter of a century ago) yet fled to far-flung places – what it is about travel, fresh footsteps and empty, open sandy beaches that fires her imagination…

Is there a massive conflict between the ‘private’ act of song-writing and the more public display of ‘performing’?  How do you get over this?

I don’t find a conflict in it. I enjoy the creating process and I enjoy the performance aspect of it as well. Mainly, because I like to connect with people. It’s all a process for me, a cycle. I write, I perform, connect with others and, in turn, am inspired to write more.

How did you team up with the First Aid Kit girls? 

Before I met the girls, they were doing a cover of one of my songs The Dam Song. When they came over for their first tour in the States, they asked my band and I to open for them for about a month. So that was my first introduction to them. We’ve since become pals during the two tours we’ve done together. I have no connections to Sweden though, other than this.

Do you tend to favour some chord progressions over others?

Not necessarily in writing but sometimes when I’m just sitting around strumming I love to just play around with basic Country and Blues progressions in E or C. There is something so comforting about it and it always gives me something to hum over for a while.

What is your main source of inspiration for your lyrics?  Are they purely arbitrary, or experience-driven?

There is no absolute answer.   It’s always changing for me. My own life isn’t interesting enough for me to write every song about my own experiences so I do write arbitrarily sometimes and in the views of others. But the personal songs are always the best I feel, for me at least.

You lived on Martha’s Vineyard – did this experience alter your perceptions of yourself at all?

I only lived there for about five months, so I can’t exactly speak to an islander’s desires. I’ve been outgoing all my life but as I get older I become more of a recluse. I do work hard but I don’t know if what I have done with music so far was actually out of “drive” or just my natural inclinations toward rambling and traveling. I feel like I was just pulled towards this life. I feel like Oklahoma, where I grew up and have lived most of my adult life, is equally walled off. People have their lives and just become complacent to staying in one spot. I think I would’ve been drawn to this life no matter if I lived in New York City or if I lived in South Dakota.

What was the pinnacle point in deciding to pursue music professionally and what steps lead you here today?

I hate working underneath people, I like being my own boss….Besides my general love for creating and performing music. By the time I was 19 or 20, I had had enough of crappy minimum wage jobs so I decided to try and make a full-time go of touring and writing music.

Inspirations…influences…albums…musicians…any comments?

The stories of Breece D’J Pancake and Flannery O’Connor; the voices of Roy Orbison and Lhasa de Sela; the songwriting of Jason Molina, Neil Young, Ryan Adams, Roger Miller, and Townes Van Zandt; the poetry of Walt Whitman, John Keats, and Dylan Thomas; the writing of Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Mark Twain, and DH Lawrence; and the art of Fritz Scholder, Reinhardt Sobye, and Tim Lowly.

Best venue on Martha’s Vineyard and further afield?

The best venue I went to while I was living on Martha’s Vineyard was The Outerland but I think it’s called something different now.  In Boston, I really like the Paradise Rock Club.  The best venue in the US, in my opinion, is a tie between White Water Tavern in Little Rock, The Woods in Portland, Oregon, Schubas in Chicago, and Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa…The best venue I’ve played outside of the US is Union Chapel in London or Carglaze Caverns in Liskeard, Cornwall.

Touring – how does it affect you being thrown from place to place, or does it not?

I don’t get culture shock really anymore because I’ve been traveling so long and feel comfortable with a lot of different cities now. The only time I get a little caught off guard is when I’m in a non-English speaking country but even then I adjust pretty quickly.

Any pre-gig rituals? 

I tend to do jumping jacks or yoga or something if I’m feeling a bit sluggish from traveling.

Best ‘non-work’ memory from touring or travels?

I drove down into the jungles of Mexico with a group of friends a few years ago in the spring for a few weeks. We hiked, canoed, swam and camped and ate a lot of cheap tacos. Just existed in our own world for a while. It was really beautiful.

How have travel and new experiences influenced your music?

By doing just that, I used to only be able to write about Oklahoma or other surrounding places I’d been, now I can write about places all over the globe and the people I meet along the way.

Martha’s Vineyard through the seasons – your best time of year?

I have only ever been on Martha’s Vineyard in the winter and spring…I didn’t really do anything on the island except hole up and write, went into town a couple times to eat out but my purpose on the island was to withdraw….I like Backdoor Donuts and the record store in Edgartown…that’s about all I did.

Pie in the Sky, Woods Hole – mine’s a blueberry scone.  What’s your’s?

I don’t know what Pie in the Sky is!

Do you think every musician fits a certain place in terms of sound and like-minded people? 

I think someone’s music can reach any kind of person…that’s the thing about art, we don’t necessarily have to pigeonhole ourselves (unless we want to) because people are so complex…all sorts of people like the same sorts of things…and the same kinds of people like different things.



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