“I’m doing great,” says an effervescent Samantha Fish, as she talked about her career, her new album and more before she takes the stage tonight at The Count Basie Center in Red Bank, NJ. “Just right now, feels like I’m busier than ever touring and supporting a new record and just kind of gearing up for summertime; yeah, busy is putting it mildly.”
Once in a while, there are artists that come along who can redefine a sound, a style, an instrument or even a genre and if Samantha Fish continues down her current path; she will not only reshape these things but quite possibly set new standards for them as well.
Like a volcano, Fish’s talents have been bubbling under the surface of the mainstream radio airwaves while she has been building a groundswell of support for her music and guitar prowess but now, like that volcano; she has erupted and in no small part due to her latest release called, “Faster.”
“Yes, the new album is called “Faster” and it’s produced by Martin Kierszenbaum who worked with Lady Gaga, Sting and Sheryl Crow. I recorded it kind of towards the tail end of 2020; I was going to say the tail end of the pandemic but that went on a lot longer than we thought and it’s still going but yeah, I mean it was something I kind of worked on through the pandemic and I really dove into writing at that time. I mean I’m very proud of it and it kind of spans a lot of genres but it’s true to me and fun and it’s been really fun to bring these songs to life.”
Ah yes, the pandemic; the very thing which threw a monkey wrench into the plans of everyone around the globe no matter what your profession but for working musicians who depend on tours and live shows; this was a major setback. Fish had put out her 2019 album, “Kill Or Be Kind” only a short-time prior to the global shutdown and one can hear the frustration in her voice when she talks of the disappointment in being unable to support its release properly.
“You know, we usually we usually tour a record for at least a good year or a year and a half to two years before the next one comes out. So, to really only be able to put like six months behind an album and then just cut it cut it off and have to go in a different direction. Once we stopped touring in March of 2020 I didn’t go back out until we did some socially distant shows in like October of 2020 and those were the first ones I did. We just went out with a trio that I made from the area where I’m living and we went out and did very limited dates and tried to keep things socially distanced with small shows but we also tried to keep our personal bubble as small as possible. So, I couldn’t go out with the big band because the more people you have the more chances you get of catching the virus. So, we went out as small as we could and it kind of changed how I would normally tour an album and support an album but you know that’s not an atypical story for this this whole thing; you know? I know a lot of artists who put out records and couldn’t support them; you just kind of worked with the cards you were dealt.”
Thankfully, the current world climate has allowed for touring, larger gatherings and musicians to put themselves out there. Samantha recently performed at Michael Arnone’s Crawfish Festival in Augusta, NJ and this time around her band has a decided Jersey connection as she now employs the services of the incredibly talented Matt Wade on keyboards and the equally talented Sarah Tomek on drums.
“Well; who knew?” She said with a laugh, “I had no idea when I hired him, well I knew when I hired Matt that he was from New Jersey but I had no idea that when we brought Sarah Tomek on, who I’ve known from Nashville, that she had known Matt for years because she grew up in New Jersey and they grew up in the music scene together and they have known each other for a long time. So, yeah, I mean it turns out that we’ve got a 50 percent Jersey band which rocks to its core.”
“I’ve done Michael Arnone’s festival I think twice now and he’s just been really cool to work with and it has been a great festival that we’ve returned to,” she continued. “I think they definitely have that New Orleans connection and my manager is from down there and he also manages Tab Benoit as well so I kind of got looped in through those guys and then when my band played the first year, I think they liked us since they brought us back and it’s a great festival and it was a lot of fun.”
Samantha has stockpiled multiple accolades and awards along her journey; from “Best New Blues Artist” to “Best Blues Artist”, “Artist of The Year” and recently she was named one of the world’s 30 best guitarists by “Guitar World,” coming in at number seven behind Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and Joe Bonamassa and when asked how she feels about that; her humble demeanor shines like the star she has become.
“Yeah of course I mean that’s, you know, it’s all subjective. I don’t know; those lists are funny and it’s always nice to be on them but it’s weird because I don’t consider myself in that world of the best guitar players but I also know I do my thing and I work hard on it and I like what I like and so it’s nice to be recognized, it’s like a pat on the back to tell you you’re doing something right; you know?”
Added to the list of her talents is the ability to play the Cigar Box Guitar; something which is becoming more and more commonplace among blues musicians and enthusiasts. Fish tells us how she became enamored with these uniquely individual instruments.
“I’ve been playing cigar box guitar since probably 2013 or 2012. When I was a young, the first festival I ever went to was when my dad took me down to the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, AR and I saw all of these incredible performers playing. There’s a mainstage but there’s like a midway as well and there was a street that you could walk down just to see all of these street performers. There was a lot of these kind of duos and solo performers playing these cigar box guitars and I just thought they had the most bizarre sound and cool tonal quality and I kind of liked them; I don’t know, I was into it. Fast forward years later and I’m playing the same festival with my band and I saw a guy on the street selling them and I just stopped and wound up buying one and I ended up putting it in the show and it ended up being a great thing. The people really seem to like it and connect with it and the fans really seem to just to enjoy the sound as much as I do, so, it’s kind of mandatory on the album. I ended up doing a cigar box guitar festival in New Orleans a couple of years in a row and of course you know with the pandemic we’re still working our way back to stuff like that but that was a really cool experience to get to see all the builders that come in from all over the country in the world to showcase their instruments at those events. There’s an incredible community of people who really love and appreciate the history and you know just the sounds of these type of instruments are kind of cool. They sound a little more muscular I think; like it just sounds raw and very distilled and yeah, I dig it! I mean I think that’s what drew me to it as a young teenager. I recall thinking, that’s really cool sounding and that stuck in my head for years and years; you know it’s funny because the guy who was selling them back then; we were eight-and-a-half hours away from my home in Kansas City and it turns out that he lived like 45 minutes from me. So, it’s kind of like kismet that we would run into each other and I’d start this relationship with this company and they’re just really cool. I mean these guitars; they’ve all got their own personality. I’ve been gifted a lot of these cigar box guitars over the years by different builders from all over and they’re really giving people and all of them have a different personality which is kind of cool.”