Blues singer Samantha Fish talks about her new album and her pop crossover before her live stop by the river | Music function | Cincinnati
Samantha Fish readily admits she was caught off guard when the pandemic hit in March 2020 and had to cut short a European tour and return home to New Orleans. The shock was no doubt shared by many of his fellow musicians, and Fish never imagined the COVID-19 crisis would be more than a small speed bump interrupting his busy touring schedule in 2020.
“I never thought it would last more than two weeks,” Fish said in a recent phone interview. “I wasn’t really comfortable with the idea that I was going to have time off until somewhere in the summer when it was like, ‘OK, wake up, wake up! This is real.'”
“I didn’t really know. The TV was yelling at me every morning telling me something different. I was not sure. And we kept booking shows, but they’re pushing them back,” she continues. “I think seeing those dates on my calendar was like a little sleight of hand because I was like, ‘Oh, July, we can make something work in July. Then July left.
Eventually, Fish found a way to start performing live again. She whittled her band down from her previous six-person lineup to a trio of bass, drums and Fish over her usual guitar and vocals and started playing drive-in and social-distance shows at venues that could make the band work financially. reduction in attendance.
“We came in October (2020) and realized, OK, we can actually do this safely,” Fish says. “We just have to have very strict rules, not only for venues and fans, but for us as a group as well, we have to follow protocols. But it’s nice to be able to, even if it’s a little more restrictive than usual. I still think we’re having fun and learning to play music.
Fish continued to play these kinds of shows until the spring of 2021 before heading to more traditional venues when the tour opened last year. She will perform with her band at Riverfront Live in the East End on March 4 with The Devon Allman Project.
Getting back on the road — even for limited-attendance shows — made sense for Fish. She hasn’t been content to sit idle in 2020 while waiting for touring to resume. She took the opportunity to make her new album, Faster.
“I spent pretty much the whole year (2020) writing songs,” Fish says. “I did a bunch of virtual collaboration sessions on Zoom, like writing sessions. I just enjoyed it.”
Faster was released in September, and it marks the next chapter in what has been an impressive series of albums for Fish.
After establishing herself as a blues artist to watch with her debut in 2013, Howl of the Black Windand its 2015 follow-up, wild heart – which had Roots Rock mixed in – Fish really started to expand stylistically.
For Chills and fever, released in March 2017, Fish went to Detroit to record with the Detroit Cobras and released a stellar album that still had a Blues element to it. But it also included rocking vintage R&B (“It’s Your Voodoo Working,” “Somebody’s Always Trying” and the song “Chills & Fever”); uptempo rock (“He Did It” and “Crow Jane”); Classic soul (“Nearer To You” and “Hello Stranger”) and sultry ballad (“Either Way I Lose”). In December of that year, his music took another turn western beautyan album on which Fish successfully plunged into Americana roots, with a more acoustic and violin sound, a lot of spunk and always a Blues thread that runs through many songs.
For 2019 kill or be nice, Fish went to Memphis to record, reconnected, and delivered a scathing rock album (“Love Your Lies,” “Watch It Die,” and “Bulletproof”); Soul (“Try Not to Fall in Love With You”, “She Don’t Live Here Anymore” and the title track); and blues-tinged pop ballads (“Fair-Weather” and “Dream Girl”), all wrapped up in the most sophisticated songwriting of her career.
“I think kill or be nice has that soul,” Fish says. “Memphis was such a big part of it. You know, it’s like our backdrop says a lot, like it really sets the tone for the album.
Faster covers its share of stylistic ground and introduces a few more new wrinkles to Fish’s sound. In particular, Fish says she was able to bring a pop dimension to the album by co-writing and working with producer Martin Kierszenbaum.
“Martin is a pretty incredible producer. He’s worked with some big pop groups in the mainstream genre,” Fish says, noting a resume that includes Sting, Lady Gaga and Madonna. “I think my goal with this record was to create songs that could cross a realm that I hadn’t yet entered, but also maintain the authenticity of who I am as an artist and a guitarist. That, of course sure, is always the challenge when trying something new – maintaining who you are but also committing, committing to the process.
“I see these songs, it’s a very diverse record. They all feel very different from each other. I think they empower. They are funny. There are some that are more Rock & Roll biased. There is a certain pop influence. I feel like there’s bluesy guitar everywhere. My voice tends to distort Bluesy anyway, so it kind of has that soulful quality to it.
Now Fish is back where she spends most of her time each year: touring. She enjoyed playing in a trio, a format that really relies on her guitar playing to carry the melodies, but also gives musicians more room to be spontaneous and expand on the songs if they want to.
“The thing with a trio is you can make it harder, play with different dynamics,” Fish says. “I mean, I love playing with big, lush bands, but the nature of that when you have more people on stage, we have a little more orchestration going on. In the trio, I don’t prefer the to each other, to be completely honest. On some songs, I completely miss the big band. And on other songs, I like the freedom that the trio brings where you communicate with two people on stage, like, ‘Hey, I’m going to try something completely different. You follow me.
As 2021 progressed, Fish expanded his band, adding Matt Wade on keyboards, as well as Ron Johnson on bass and Sara Tomek on drums.
And once Faster came out, she began to generously include these new songs in her sets, as well as a few songs from kill or be nicewhile returning to previous elements.
“We do some comeback stuff. We make things from wild heart record,” says Fish. “It’s cool for the old school fans because they’ve been screaming these requests for the past two years, and I’ve been, not ignoring them, I just forgot the songs. It’s nice to to be able to replay those.
Samantha Fish plays Riverfront Live (4343 Kellogg Ave., East End) on March 4 with The Devon Allman Project. Get tickets and details at riverfrontlivecincy.com.
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