After her last album Kid Face received huge critical acclaim, singer-songwriter Samantha Crain is gearing up to release her new collection Under Branch & Thorn & Tree on July 17. While at it, the songstress gave this exclusive interview to PopWrapped's staff writer Rebecca.
PopWrapped: For those unfamiliar with you and your music, please tell us a little about yourself.
Samantha Crain: I live in Oklahoma. I write songs. I have a cat named Frank. I drive a big red van.
PW: You've been compared to other folk artists such as Laura Marling, but what would you say makes you unique in terms of sound and style?
SC: I've never heard the Laura Marling reference. I think she's really great but I don't find our styles to be that similar. Her sound is deeply British and her narratives are very Hemingway-ish in that they're very sweeping and long. I think she's brilliant but I think most people just see a girl with a guitar and lump them in with other girls with guitars without much listening or thinking. I feel I'm a bit more rough and groove based, more of the folk rock and pop tradition that is very reliant on a verse/chorus song structure.
PW: How did growing up in Oklahoma influence you musically growing up?
SC: I feel there is a sense of longing in my music. Growing up in the center of the state, which is largely prairie, I always had a bit of wonder and curiosity as to what is past the flat, expansive line of grass and wheat and corn. There are also great musical legacies that we identify with over here. We have the Flaming Lips which are sonically and melodically important and then we have Woody Guthrie who is lyrically and politically important. So I had a great jump off point of being obsessed with a few key ideas and trying to mesh them together.
PW: Which artists inspired you as a young person and have those inspirations changed much over the years?
SC: My inspirations as a young person are still the key inspirations for me now, however, that doesn't mean that's largely what I listen to or that I don't seek out new inspirations. When I was younger, first starting to write songs, it was Jason Molina, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Carole King, CSN, Simon and Garfunkel, Billie Holiday, Joni Mitchell....now, those are all still very inspiring to me, the key inspirations. But I find inspiration in so many different types of music and literature and art and film continuously.
PW: How did your semester at 'Martha's Vineyard' help in terms of you finding your sense of musical identity?
SC: People tend to put too much emphasis on my time in college (all of 8 months in which I rarely went to class) and my 3 months at Martha's Vineyard. College was horrible--very judgmental and stifling. Martha's Vineyard was great, I enjoyed living by the ocean, but the program was weirdly pushy in a religious way. I have had zero success with institutions of higher education. I've had lots of luck with apprenticeships and mentors. But as far as musical identity goes, I don't ever claim one. I hope I keep changing and keep learning. I would never want to be anyone that claims an identity, it means I'm not aware and not trying new things and not learning from my mistakes.
PW: What would you say is your ultimate inspiration when it comes to your song-writing?
SC: The grey areas of human existence, emotion and thought.
PW: How long on average would you say it takes you to write a song?
SC: Some songs take 20 minutes, some songs take 2 months. Part of me wants to think about how long it took me to write every song I've written and actually find the average mathematically, but I don't think I will. The average is probably five or six hours.
PW: If you could have written any song by any other artist living or dead, which would it be and why?
SC: “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks. It’s just a brilliant pop song but not too simple - it’s interesting in where the melody goes and it tells a lovely melancholy story. And it has that killer tape delay echo.
PW: You're about to release your new album - where did the title come from?
SC: It’s a lyric from the song "Outside the Pale" which is a song on the album. I just felt like it was a bit of a lyric that had an image that the whole focus of the album could rest on...that I consider the album for the underdogs and they are pushed and kept "Under Branch & Thorn & Tree."
PW: Is there any one song you're particularly proud of on the album?
SC: I'm really proud of “Elk City”. I feel like I entered a new-for-me area of song-writing with that song and can't wait to try that type of song out again...the very literal narrative, the more intricate fingerpicking in an alternate tuning...I liked writing that song a lot and am really proud of how it turned out. I also really love playing it live.
PW: What are your touring/performance plans regarding the album?
SC: Hopefully to just play as many shows as possible.
PW: Would you like to tour further afield and hit up the likes of the UK and Europe in the near future?
SC: I tour UK and Europe quite a bit and have a UK tour announced so yeah.
PW; You're quite outspoken on the issue of feminism, do you wish more female artists would speak up about it?
SC: Feminism is not a purely female issue. Of course it would be good for more women to speak out but it would do additional good for men to speak up about it. If people were more educated about feminism, they would know it isn't just about women's issues. Men who are victims of sexual violence, unfairness to men in family courts--these are issues that are reliant on the breaking down of gender stereotypes and pushing for equality of sexes.
PW: How has social media helped in terms of getting your music out there and helping to introduce you to people?
SC: I have no idea. That would be a question for a manager or a record label or a publicist.
PW: What's your ultimate ambition regarding your career? Where would you like to see yourself three years from now?
SC: I just want to keep making records. I have no goal other than to keep doing that. I'm not a success driven person, I’m a work driven person. I just want to keep working.
PW: Finally then, for anyone wanting to find out more about you, where can they go?