A couple of months ago, I found out that Samantha Crain would be coming to Salt Lake. I immediately sent her a tweet requesting an interview. At the time, I knew she was in Michigan on tour, so I didn’t expect a response for a few days. Imagine my surprise when she replied within a few minutes. “Sure!” So casual, so exuberant. So … Samantha Crain.
Over the course of the next several weeks, we exchanged tweets and emails, setting up date and time for the convo. We finally settled on meeting a couple of hours before her show at The Urban Lounge. We met out front and went in to the venue, where we took seats in “the green room” (i.e. the artists’ waiting room). She sat comfortably in the chair kitty corner to the couch I sat on, and looked just as at home as if she had been ready to curl up with a good book, or a movie and a big bowl of popcorn. But no … she was there to chat with me. And
Here’s the conversation I had with Samantha Crain and her band.
F: This is not your first time to Salt Lake.
SC: No, we played here with Langhorne Slim about 2 years ago when we were on tour with him, and then I played here earlier that year as well at Kilby with Thao and the Get Down Stay Down when we were on tour with them, and I think other than those two times … other than the first time we came here, which was a big, like 2 people came. That was a weird show. (turning to Will Sartain), Will, we came here here like 4 years ago before we ever played at any of your venues. It was this big, weird, completely butt-rock type venue, and like 2 people came to our show. It was kind of in the middle of nowhere. maybe by some warehouses or something? Palladium? Yah … that was where we played our first time in Salt Lake City.
F: That’s weird. I’m sorry.
SC: That’s okay. It was funny. I have that story.
F: So what do you think about Salt Lake?
SC: I like it. I went and sang karaoke last night in Salt Lake.
F: Nice! That’s so funny!
SC: We all went and sang karaoke.
F: I hope everybody applauded …
SC: It was funny. We did a Destiny’s Child song.
F: Nice. How did it go over?
SC: Good. I guess … I dunno, it was crowded. It was karaoke, man.
F: So this is your band (sitting on the other couch). I read your bio on a site, and it said that you had met some guys when you were doing something back east? Pennsylvania? It was the Midnight Shivers.
SC: That was my band about 2 years ago, whenever Songs in the Night came out. Jacob, the drummer for that, plays drums for the Avett Brothers now. My old bass player is not really playing, and my old guitarist has own solo thing going on. I’ve had different forms of bands for the past two years. This is the current incarnation.
F: And who are these lovely ladies?
SC: Penny Hill. We’re friends from back in Oklahoma. She plays bass. And then Anne Lillis. She’s from Akron.
F: (Turning to Anne) I lived in Stow. There’s always a Stow connection!
AL: I lived off one of the main roads in Cuyahoga Falls
F: Well welcome to Utah. Is this your first time playing here?
AL: I’ve played in Salt Lake City before.
PH: I’ve never been here.
F: Do you like the snow on the mountains? In June?
All: Yah … it’s great.
F: Not so much …
SC: Well, it’s awesome to me because I’m all over the place anyway, so I never really have to be around anything for too long. It’s cool, then I’m over it.
F: What happened to the tour van?
SC: Actually, it wasn’t a van; it was an SUV, then I had my trailer. There were 289,000 miles on it over the past 2 years, and … yah. Graveyard. It’s just hanging out until I can get someone to buy it for parts. It wasn’t like we were on the road and it blew up or anything, although I have had that happen to tour vehicles before. This was just one of those things where we got home from tour, and we had a few months off, and it was already in pretty bad condition when I got back home, and over the 2 or 3 months that I was driving it around, it was just kind of like, “I’m done.” But it did exactly what I needed it to do for 289,000 miles, so you know …
F: On your site, there used to be a link where you could go out and make donations.
SC: We’re still doing that.
F: Where is it? because I poked around on the site and I couldn’t find it.
SC: Oh … on our *website* website? They might have changed it. I need to put that back up because we do have a Feed the Muse account, and that’s still going on, but I have to re-post it on Facebook every now and then because it gets shuffled down through the things. We’re going to redo the website, so we’ll probably have a permanent link cuz yah–we’re definitely still doing that. We’re borrowing a car for the summer. Literally. My dad is letting us borrow a car of his, and my mom is doing without a car so we can go on tour this summer.
F: This is the part that blows me away. A few months ago, you were working in a diner.
SC: Pizza place.
F: And now, you’re on this extensive North American tour, and you’ll be playing at a festival in England. How did you do it?
SC: It’s not a “How did you do it?” thing. It’s how I’m able to tour sometimes. Touring, really, just like costs money somtimes more than it earns money. It’s not like it’s a success story by any means. I’ve been touring for about 5 years, and we’ve played some big shows, and we’ve played some really small shows. It’s a constant roller coaster thing. As long as I’m doing something. I realized that we didn’t have a tour vehicle, so I needed to be making money and not spending the money I had saved up, so I had to get a job.
F: I think that’s amazing.
SC: I would rather *not* have a job so that I could have time to write and record, you know, but whatever it calls for, I guess.
F: You’re working on new music.
SC: Yah, it’s coming. It’s slow, it’s coming a lot slower this time, but we’re working on stuff. We’re lining up recording times right now because what we’re going to do instead of doing a full album next, we’re going to, ove ra period of 8-9 months, release singles done by different producers, done digitally and also on 7″ with B-side recordings. It’s going to be kind of like a throw-back thing, more of like what they did in the 40s and 50s. So people will get a little bit at a time, which I htink kind of works for this digital media age that we live in now anyways, I think that kind of makes more sense to peoples’ attention spans now, than what a full album release does. It also makes more sense, I think. It’s not like I don’t like doing full albums, I love doing full albums. I like that a lot, but it’s getting to a point where people don’t buy albums; they burn them off their friends and get them illegally off the internet, or they download them of iTunes, which iTunes is good, but some of these other sites that sell them, like Amazon for example, sells my album for like $5, and I don’t know how they do that, but they do.
F: But you still get full royalties.
SC: I don’t know if I do … I don’t really know how it works, honestly. I know that it’s something through Sony. So maybe Sony’s not getting paid or something? I don’t really know how that Amazon thing works. But a lot of people do that, so … albums really don’t make money for artists anymore, and so they end up spending all this money on making an album, recording it, printing it, then they never get any of that back. They never recoup any of that. I think this way, people are more likeyly to say, “I have $3-4 to buy a 7” or something like that. Then it becomes a more gradual payment. People are more readily able to buy a 99 cent single download than they can $9.99 full CD download. I don’t know. We’re just trying something new, seeing if it works out any better.
It’s also a better model for me right now too, just because of like the way I’ve been writing lately, which has been slowly so this kind of lets it be no so overwhelming about thinking about “I need to write 11 songs for an album.” This way, I can think about having 3-4 songs for the next 3-4 recording sessions, and then I can focus on the next 3-4 songs.
F: Do you have free time? What do you like to do in your free time?
SC: Free time … yah, I’ve got free time. I mean, I guess I’ve got free time. Probably have more free time than the average person actually. When you’re touring, you’re in the car a lot, so that’s I guess free time cuz you’re not really doing anything but you CAN’T do anything cuz you’re just driving. When I’m at home, I guess I have free time. I don’t know if I’m the wisest user of free time. I do read a lot, and I started painting a lot this winter but more out of necessity. I like painting, but I needed to sell some paintings so I could get some money, so it was more out of necessity.
F: Did you do the album art for “Songs in the Night”?
SC: No, that’s actually a friend of mine from Oklahoma City named Chad Mount. He’s a painter, and he did that album.
F: What about Confiscation?
SC: Yah. The first printing of COnfiscation, I did the cover for that.
F: I think that’s the one I have, which sadly I couldn’t find because I actually have physical CDs. I mean, it’s cool that you can download them too, but to have CDs? I tried the download model for a while …
SC: I know that there are people that do like CDs. I’m one of them. I like to have physical CDs too, but it just so happens that I gues sthere are more people that don’t, and they’re ruining it for everyone else.
F: I know! Jerks! So, what is the most random CD you have in your collection?
SC: Oooh … most random CD …
F: Obscure, random …
PH: Do Vinyls count?
PH: French Girls?
SC: Oh yah! That’s pretty random. I got this vinyl album back in January called “60 French Girls Can’t Be Wrong,” and it’s a choral CD from the late 60s of this French girl’s choir singing 30s and 40s pop tunes. It’s actually really awesome. It’s pretty random why I would have that in my collection. But I have embarrassing stuff that I’m not embarrassed about things, like Hanson, Britney Spears …
F: I think everyone has those kinds of CDs.
SC: Yah. I have them, and I’m not embarrassed by them.
F: I had Weird Al …
SC: Oh. Umm … yah. I don’t have that. (Laughs)
F: Well, thanks for your time! Good luck tonight.
SC: No problem!
So, some comments about the convo. The thing that struck me is just how down to earth she is. She sat on the couch and chatted with me and my wife as if it were no problem … probably because it *was* no problem. She’s friendly, her smile could warm Barrow, Alaska in January, and she effortlessly carries a conversation like we’re long lost friends catching up.
Her star is rising at a meteoric rate, yet she doesn’t wait for the world to come to her; she goes and takes the world as it is and recognizes what needs to be done to make her dream stick. I point to the part of the conversation about working in the pizza place. She makes this incredible music, does all kinds of interviews with all kinds of organizations and magazines, goes on tour, THEN goes home and works at the local pizza place so she can go back out on tour, borrowing her parent’s car?! Come on. That’s NOT a success story? I 100% disagree. I think it is THE success story against which all other success stories should be measured. Why? Easy: she’s fighting tooth and nail to keep her dream alive. She goes on tour, then comes home and goes back to a normal, every day life, and thinks absolutely nothing of it. Nothing is being handed to her. Well, almost nothing. This is the other part that I just love: her parents lend her a car so she can go on tour, while her mom goes without to give her girl the dream she so desperately fights for. Yah. That’s success.
If she comes to your part of the world, make an effort to see her show. You will be a better person for having gone.