Friday, October 02, 2009
Switchin' things up round here. Instead of Deep Blues Thursdays, we're gonna change it Deep Blues Fridays. Yup, a significant and world-rattling change. Just figgered Friday was a better day to give everyone the whole weekend to get to know the artist. So, there you are.
As ever, we wouldn't be doing this without the influence of Chris from the Deep Blues Festival, Rick from The Real Deep Blues, and the cats from Nine Bullets. All praise to them for keeping the flame alive.
Today's Deep Blues feature is a feller the aforementioned Chris from the Deep Blues Fest turned us on to. Serious Sam Barrett comes from the other side of the pond from our own little corner of the globe, but he's got the soul of Mississippi blues-man. Bringing a punk attitude/DIY aesthetic to a table set by tradition and "hard times come again no more", Barrett melds a folk/Blues/punk/English/Celtic melange of influences into a singular vision, wide-eyed and hardened.
Barrett's guitar work is transcendent and his voice evokes a time of whiskey and lager in equal measure, a timeless jig
n'jag along the confluence of the Mississippi and the Thames. His lyrics are older than the mud we toil and more relevant than tomorrow's news.
Barrett's part of a collective label, YaDig? , which is putting out some seriously great stuff. Y'all should check it out.
But enough of my blathering. Serious Sam Barrett was kind enough to do a short email interview with us. Everything you need to know is below.
A Serious Sam Barrett Interview (in which we take a skateboard from Leeds to Natchez)
1. First off, tell us who you are, where you're from, and what you do.
I’m Sam Barrett, I’m from Yorkshire in the North of England. I write songs and sing traditional songs too.
2. Your songs present an interesting amalgamation of traditional English/Celtic folk mixed with a Mississippi Blues influence. Tell us how you came to this approach, and how do these seemingly disparate styles work together in such a successful way.
I was brought up in a house where traditional music as well as blues and Rock n Roll were being played constantly. All the influences in my songs come from music my parents introduced me to. Traditional Irish, Scottish, American and English music all have a big influence on what I do. Rock n’ Roll is a big part of me and Blues was the first music I truly fell in love with. I don’t know how successful I am at bringing all these things together but I’m trying my best.
3. There is also a strain of punk/DIY aesthetic to your work. This seems to carry from your work with the co-op label you're part of, YaDig? Records. Tell us about this record label/collective and your role within it.
I’ve been into punk music since the age of about 14 when I first started getting into skateboarding and stuff. I’m not preachy about the whole DIY thing but basically if me and the other people who are involved didn’t do the label then I can’t see who else would document the Yorkshire folk scene in a way that I’d be happy with. It’s just about putting music out there and doing it in a way that we all feel represents what the music is truly about. We are trying to keep everything in-house as far as possible. My friend has screen printed all the covers for my record in the basement of our house, we have our own in-house designers, sound engineers and someone who is doing great artwork for us too. It’s basically a bunch of friends coming together to document great music. At the moment we are concentrating our output on the Yorkshire folk/roots blues scene but we don’t want to limit ourselves too much either.
4. We're struck by your guitar method, which, to our ears, has a "travelling'" quality to it. Tell our readers about your guitars, and your approach to musical composition.
I really only play one guitar nowadays and that’s the Stella 12 string I bought in Jackson Tennessee 3 years ago. That guitar changed my life and made me play much better. I find writing songs really hard but all my songs are based on an idea that comes to me quickly, usually one line or riff that comes into my head will form the basis of a whole song. If I spent too long trying to put a song together it usually starts to sound bad.
5. Does your lyrical sensibility come from personal experience? Or is it "observed" and/or pulled from a long tradition of dialectical tropes?
All the lyrics I write are about my life and my experiences but the way I put it all into a song is definitely influenced by all the records I have spend my life being obsessed with. I write about things that I really care about. Otherwise there isn’t really much point. I’ve written a lot of songs about heartbreak, one about the place I grew up in and one about people that come to gigs just to show off their clothes. More recently I’ve gone back to heartbreak.
6. The British Isles have a reputation for an appreciation of the Blues/Country/Folk traditions that extends beyond the United State's tendency to compartmentalize these "styles/genres" into outlying rural phenomenons. Do you think this is true? And if so, why? And if not, why not?
I think there are a lot of people in the UK and Ireland who are totally fascinated with American music. I am definitely one of them. If you are a bit of a dreamer American records are perfect for you. There’s just something exiting and real and full of life about American music that is really mind-blowing if you are brought up over here.
7. How "Serious" are you? What are you serious about?
I have been a skateboarder since about 1995 and that was a nickname I got from other skaters. When I was younger I used to turn up to the skate parks and look really serious. The name just stuck. I am very very serious about my music and about other important things like racism and poverty but I also talk a lot of crap and joke around a lot of the time.
8. Where are your favorite places to play? Tell us about your ideal live performance experience.
There is a great pub in Leeds called the Grove. It has a great folk club that been running for probably 30 years or so. That’s a great place to play. I like playing anywhere where people are there for the music and to enjoy hearing songs and singing along.
9. Drink of choice?
I love bitters from Yorkshire especially the ones from the Yorkshire Dales but I’m very partial to a good Bourbon. I’ve also sunk a lot of cans of Coors in my time.
10. What's next? Tour? More recording? Etc. How can we hear more about Serious Sam Barrett?
The next things for YaDig? is a sampler that will feature the best roots/folk artist from Leeds and West Yorkshire. Also we will be putting out a record by Tom Attah who is a mindblowing UK blues artist. He’s making a massive impact right now and worth looking out for. We have a UK YaDig? Tour in the pipeline and I’m working on coming out to play South By Southwest next year. The best thing is for people to go to www.myspace.com/sambarrett also check out the YaDig? Records blog for events and new releases. www.yadigrecords.blogspot.com Thanks.
The Female Drummer
You can hear more of Barrett's songs here. We'd like to particularly recommend the song "Lullaby of Leeds"
If you can, send some dough Barrett's way for his excellent new CD, "Close To Home". You won't regret it. Hell, we'll give you your money back if you're disappointed. We don't think you will be. But how's that for an offer?