Interview: Samantha Crain

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing I think, and something which Samantha Crain’s new album You (Understood) has in abundance.  As with most albums, it took me a few listens to quite ‘get’ her music.  But I did, and now I’m very intrigued and a little bit transfixed by it.  Having released the album last year over in the States, the Oklahoman singer has only just released it here this month and is currently touring the UK and Europe.

Her voice is rich and flowing with fluctuating tones and themes, as too is the album.  Song’s such as Lions and Up On The Table have infectious energy and rousing rhythms, whereas the song We Are The Same feels more intimate, antagonizing and beautiful. The stand out track for me, Santa Fe, brings back those carefree feelings of a summer with friends, running along beaches, and dancing in the sun set with the warm summer mist encasing you; sparking feelings of content, feeling loved and happy.  Each song is different to the other and makes it an interesting and unique piece of work.

I caught up with Samantha in Manchester, before her support set for Adrian And The Bad Shepherds, to find out a bit more about the truth behind the record and the singer herself.

So is it your first time in Manchester?

It’s my first time to play but I was here once with family when I was like 12, but we just did the usual family stuff!

How is your first UK tour going?

It’s been really good; I’ve been taking the train everywhere which has been pretty cool.

Ah nice, there’s certainly some great countryside to see! Where has your favourite place been so far?

So far…in the UK, I really like Norwich, it was a cool city, and Salisbury was neat too.

How would you say the UK crowds compare to the crowds back home?

Well, its kinda hard for me to say, because the kinds of Ade’s crowds aren’t necessarily the kind of people who listen to my music, his crowds are people that grew up watching him on TV and people that are punk fans.  But everyone’s been pretty nice for the most part.

The album was released in the States last summer, but it’s just been released over here. Was there any reason for that?

It just took us a while to get distribution over here.  It was just one of those things where I don’t have a new record yet because we’ve been touring so much, so it just took us a while to get everything sorted out.  When we released it over here we didn’t have anything set up, so it’s been a bit delayed, but it happens with lots of bands on their first releases, but then for the next release, it’ll all come out together.

Have you got a new release on the way?

I don’t have a new full album coming out yet, but I’ve got a seven inch vinyl which is going to be released January the 10th, so pretty soon.

In regards to the album, it was somewhat about people that you had met and the experiences you had with them, is that right?

Yea…there have been a few weird write-ups about that album.  It’s true, but it’s just such a broad thing to say an album is about.  I feel like every song, in one way or another is about your life experiences and people you meet and things like that.  There have been a lot of things written pointing to that and I can’t really expand on it anymore.  The idea behind it was that in the past I have been more like a story songwriter, like very intricate stories within each song, a very specific and literal type songwriter.  Then with this album I kind of went a different way, and focused on individual scenes from stories and started writing a little more abstractly, more like describing a painting or something you know, or a photograph or snapshot, and so that’s more of what I was trying to push.  Each song is an individual experience and story, but that isn’t the point of it, the point is that it’s like a snapshot from each of these individual things.

Is there a song on there which is your particular favourite?

Erm, I can’t pick a specific one, but I will say the one which spurred that way of writing for me, was the first track on the album Lions.  That was the first song that I wrote, that I thought, “Oh, I’ve never written a song like this!” ….in being more abstract and more about the words and one specific instance.

If there was one song which you wish you had written, what would it be?

SC: Ooo, let’s see…probably something by Townes Van Zandt…I’m trying to decide between two, probably Waiting Around To Die, that song is crazy good.  Or anything really that Paul Simon has written, I mean that guy’s nuts!  I couldn’t pull it off if I wrote any of that, I couldn’t believably sing them you know, but the fact that he does it and its believable and not cheesy and weird is really great I think!

I’m sure you could pull it off! Do you have any new inspiration or anyone you are loving at the moment that we need to go and check out?

Oo, actually yea, there’s two albums I’ve been listening to on all of my train rides.  And one of them is a band from Oklahoma that is my new favourite band, they are called Broncho, and they’ve got this great new album out called Can’t Get Passed The Lips It’s a bit like The Kinks, just all of the good, fun parts of music, without taking itself too seriously, the joyful part of music.  That’s what that band embodies to me.  And then also there’s The Weather Station, which I think isn’t really a band, it’s just one girl that has some other people play with her. It’s a Canadian project and I just kind of found out about that randomly.

Have you missed anything American whilst you have been over here, anything which you think the UK is lacking or missing out on which you could bring over?

Hmm…let me see.  Not because it doesn’t exist over here, but because of the nature of travelling, I miss being able to cook my own food.

What about any American food which you’re really missing? When I went over to the States I got addicted to the sweets Twizzlers!

Well I’m a vegan, so it’s really hard to eat out every night, but that’s the same in the States. But that just reminds me, I had this candy the other day when I was in Cardiff that I wish we had in the States.  They were shaped like the Little Miss Sunshine books and they were really good!  And the other thing which I have got hooked on that we don’t have, are oatcakes!

If you were on a desert island and you could only take three things, what would you take?

Hmmm…three things. I would probably take a quilt or something from home like a blanket; something that was some form of comfort I guess.  And then I’d probably take a book of poems, probably ‘Leaves Of Grass’ by Walt Whitman, that’s a pretty basic form of entertainment…and then I’d probably take a deck of cards.

Questions by Ellie Witt