Attractive guitar player and a singer. Package which will get your attention right away, but in order to be successful on the blues scene, you need more than a pretty face. Kansas-born Samantha Fish knows really well the value of a hard work and in her early thirties she is finally harvesting fruits of regular touring and songwriting. Good example is her last years’ album Kill of Be Kind and a current European tour. In our interview we spoke about her career, guitars, early inspirations, concert plans and many more.
Our phone interview took place in mid-February before global issue with coronavirus.
Interview came out on the cover of April issue of Czech gear oriented magazine Muzikus.
Thank you very much for finding time for us.
Thank you as well. I appreciate you were able to reschedule. They scheduled for me a photo shoot for another magazine.
No problem. We are planning to give you a front cover, so I can fully understand the importance of good pictures. How in general do you consider the whole marathon of photo shoots? Do you usually enjoy it, or take it as a necessary activity?
I enjoy it, especially if I work with somebody who is really passionate about their job, you can’t really help it not to have fun. I like to work with photographers who are used working with photo models. They really seem to have a sense for details. “Move two inches to the left. It would be perfect.” You know that’s the taste you gather only with experience.
I would really love to compliment your current image combining the best aspects of rockabilly and rock’n’roll retro.
Thank you very much! Over time I understood I have to work on my esthetics and for the past couple of years, my image does follow the music. I remember back in the days we did an album Wild Heart (2015) I tried to match the esthetics to that record. With Chills & Fever (2017) it was simply another step. I always loved old school glamour, Hollywood and rock’n’roll. So it’s just marrying elements together. I love classic and timeless things.
I always loved old school glamour, Hollywood and rock’n’roll.
Back to Europe
I can imagine that next to photo shoots you are also extremely busy with getting ready for an extensive European tour.
I am really excited to come back to Europe. We are going to be there for a good long time. I am always really thankful for the opportunity to come back over and play. We have some of the best fans in Europe. They are really dedicated but quite picky as well. When they like you, they show it and it’s the greatest compliment.
Any specific countries that you are looking forward to see? I guess it’s motivational as well stressful to see that some of the show in UK or Sweden are already sold out.
What is cool about Europe is the fact, there are so many different cultures packed in such a small geographical space. You don’t have to travel for so long to get completely different vibe including people, architecture or food. I always love going to Germany, where they are really into classic rock. But I also love smaller countries, which are hungry for a good time. On the other hand, people in UK can be a little bit more reserved but as soon as you get their attention, they are very positive. I don’t care where I play as long as we are all having a great time.
It’s my duty to bring the best performance possible.
One of the factors which will determine a successful tour is your gear. Please give us an idea about items on which you will rely on during a tour, which will start in few days in sold out venue in Glasgow.
As we are flying, you can imagine, I am not so happy to leave couple of great items at home. I have to reduce my arsenal of guitar, but I am trying to see it positively. It’s less distracting and I can focus more clearly on what I got. I feel very much stripped. But I will be bringing my SG, which is kind of my number one. Then I will be bringing Fender Jaguar and of course I will not leave my “Cigar Box”at home.
That one is just amazing.
Yeah, it’s really cool. It is very unique within sound and design. Plus it’s an absolute fan favorite, so it has to come with me. (Laugh) Next to it, I will be taking my signature model SF1 from Delaney. I use this one for open tuning and flies. I am brining four guitars in total and I’ve got one acoustic waiting for me in Europe. Next to it, I will be also relying on Fender Super Reverb, which I really love. I really like classic tube sound and I’ve been playing on it since I was seventeen years old. My pedal board situation is also fun. I’ve got King of Tone from Analog Man, Mini Foot Fuzz from JHS, Super Shifter from Micro POG or MXR Carbon Copy Analog delay. That’s my floor set-up and that’s pretty much it. It may sound complicated, but it’s very simple thing, when it sits all together.
I guess, you will have time to think about that during the EU tour, but do you already have in mind some items, which will enhance your set-up on American tour with Kenny Wayne Shepherd coming up after EU tour?
Well, I am really looking forward having a proper trailer with us, so I can bring my Category 5 amps which is a boutique style amp. They are really amazing. In US I will also have a little bit bigger pedal board. But the saddest part of my EU tour is the fact, I cannot bring my Gibson Firebird on plane. It’s too damn big.
The saddest part of my EU tour is the fact, I cannot bring my Gibson Firebird on plane. It’s too damn big.
Lately I love asking this question, as I get plenty of unique answers. Do you remember any recent technical surprise?
You know, things brake all the time, but a pedal board can be sometimes really tricky. There is always a chance something can go wrong with a guitar or an amp and I understand that. But if you are in the middle of the show and something goes wrong with the pedal board, you can only unplug it and move on as it’s really hard to troubleshoot with that stuff. Usually it is something really tiny which broke for no particular reason. Luckily I am not completely crippled without my pedals and it will affect my show only a bit.
Another thing which usually pops up in interviews is another challenge during a tour in spring/fall or winter and that’s getting sick. I can lay down for couple of days at home, but in your case, if one team member gets sick, everybody in a tourbus gets, but you still have to play.
Yeah, we’ve all got sick on a tour. It’s part of the deal. When you live in such close contact, it’s almost guaranteed that if one gets in it, everybody’s gonna get it. Therefore I am a total germ freak. If I notice somebody is coming close to me with a cold I start to scream: “Don’t touch me, don’t look at me and don’t talk to me.” (Laugh) You know, it seems karmic that every time I catch a cold, it goes straight to my vocal chords and I lose my voice. Therefore I started to use ways to prepare for that. I have been studying voice for years, so I have gathered tricks like exercise or special medication. Then there is rest and water. Thankfully I didn’t have to cancel a show for a long time and I hope it’s not gonna happen anytime soon. (Laugh) But it happens. It’s a human experience to get ill and thankfully people have been really supportive. I feel big responsibility as I can imagine how much time and energy it takes to get a ticket and often travel to a show. Therefore it’s my duty to bring the best performance possible.
We always had a great fortune with the crowd growing but it was a long process.
When I am looking at the list of past shows in Europe, this one is the biggest and it proves the fact, you were building your loyal audience step by step and in smaller clubs. On the other hand, when did you feel the breaking point, when it all went bigger in Europe?
I have been coming to Europe for many years and the credit goes to my previous long term label Ruf Records. I came over with various bands, as a guest or as a support. But I started bringing my band here from US in 2016 or 2017. I felt a big change back then as before I couldn’t do my thing full on. But it also helped me to build a network of agents, promoters and journalists step by step. We were making small steps and then we were selling more tickets, word of mouth worked great as well as social media. We always had a great fortune with the crowd growing but it was a long process.
I am glad you mentioned your previous label Ruf Records, but with your latest record Kill or Be Kind, there were number of changes. Album came out through Rounder and you also changed a producer. What was a motivation for these changes?
I think it’s just a natural in business to grow together but to try something else as well. I switched to Rounder which is an American label but they have offices all over. They also have a great network of producers and they introduced me to Scott Billington.
Give us an idea, how did it look during the writing process and in which way did you appreciate Scott’s input?
This time the songwriting process was the most diverse I ever experienced. Especially because I have collaborated with multiple songwriters. If I take my two previous albums Chills & Fever and Belle of the West they both came out in the same year in 2017 and they were successful. I wanted to release a record which will showcase my songwriting, but also to have an edge Chills & Fever had. Next to that I was extremely inspired by recording in Memphis in legendary Royal Studios, where let say Al Green recorded his greatest songs. There is just so much history!
Next to that I assume, Rounder is also behind the motivation to make two latest Christmas tracks Run Run Rudolph and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).
Yeah, it was their idea but I was really into it as I love Christmas songs. We recorded both tracks in New Orleans and to be ho nest, Run Run Rudolph is sort of a compliment for my road band. I also wanted to record Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) as I really love the original version from Darlene Love. It was one of the first rock’n’roll Christmas hits and I wanted to get close to her powerful soul voice.
As we started covering some of your all-time favorites, I just wanted to ask you to mention some of your early inspirations possibly coming from your parents too. On top of my head, I was just wondering if B. B. King’s legendary live album Live at the Regal might be on the list?
Absolutely, I love B. B. King. He was an early influence as a storyteller, singer and somebody who could impact the audience emotionally. But I grew up listening to classic rock and rock’n’roll so I like The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Led Zeppelin. Those are my original guitar heroes and then I just starting working my way backwards: “Who did Keith Richards loved to listen to?” That’s how I discovered blues and fell in love with delta blues and legends as Skip James, Charley Patton or R. L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. As far as singers go, I am really into soul music. I love Ray Charles and many artists from Detroit. My music taste is all over the map and it can include even Lady Gaga. (Laugh)
I love classic and timeless things.
Do you by any chance know Amanda Marshall? I am asking, as we were now on the vacation with my family and we enjoy next to Amanda’s music also some Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette. Do any of those ladies, where we can easily also add Beth Hart belong into a group of artists which are motivating you to continuously work on yourself?
I don’t know Amanda, but I will check her out. It’s funny as my first concert ever was from Sheryl Crow. (Laugh) I remember I didn’t want to go and I said to my dad as a little kid: “Why would I want to see somebody in concert, when I can listen to her at home?” (Laugh) But I am glad I did, as it blew my mind to see such a strong woman. Next to singing and playing a guitar, she also plays a bass and a piano. I had couple of great female influences but I hope there would be more to talk about, especially within instrumentalists. Luckily I feel the ratio is getting better nowadays.
Samantha, I would like to thank you for a great chat. Wish you all the best on the upcoming shows and hopefully there will be a Czech show on some of the future European tours.
Thank you very much! I was just thinking if Czech Republic is on the list…
Unfortunately. It happens sometimes, as we are not such a hot market as Germany let say.
You are hot in my book! I will do my best to make it up to you guys next time. Take care! Bye Bye.
Here is a link for an article about 23rd Music For The Blind presentation session, which took place couple of weeks ago, where Samantha’s live version of Bitch On The Run won the third place in the vote of the visually handicapped audience.