Sam Lewis plays tracks from Waiting On You and talks about singing like Lee Dorsey, opening for Haggard and his “hotel sessions.”
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About Sam Lewis
Sam Lewis interview recap
Back Home in Nashville
Calvin notes that Sam Lewis has been touring and asks if he’s still on the road. Sam says he’s back in Nashville and Calvin asks if he’s from that hip East Nashville area. Sam laughs and says he likes to think of it as the more affordable part of Nashville and he says “I just moved from the 06 to the 07, which is a big deal, trust me!”
Oliver Wood Connection
Calvin notes that Oliver Wood of The Wood Brothers produced the album and Calvin asks how they met and came to work together. Sam Lewis says, “I’ve been following Oliver and Chris Wood for quite a while. It so happened I was introduced to him through a mutual friend, Brandon Bell. Brandon Bell is the chief sound engineer over at Southern Ground Studios in Nashville. Brandon was responsible for mixing my first album. Since that time, he was asked to run things over at Southern Ground, which is pretty amazing. I was introduced to Oliver about a year ago. Brandon introduced us and we had a slice of pizza at Five Points Pizza in East Nashville. That’s pretty much when we started talking about music and I let him know I would love it if he’d be part of this project in some shape or form and he said yeah and we made a record. “
The Line Up
Calvin asks Sam Lewis to run through the band line up. Sam Lewis says, “There are so many awesome people on this record and I can actually call them friends, which is the craziest part.” Sam Lewis notes that Will Kimbrough and Darrell Scott are featured on the album. Mickey Rafael on harmonica. Oliver Wood also plays on the album. He also notes that The MCrary Sisters sang on the album. Sam Lewis says, “I think I learned more from them in an hour and a half than I did on any of it. We only spent two and a half days in the studio. And we did one day of overdubbing where we brought in people like The McCrary Sisters in and Kristina Train. She sang on about four songs on the album. She’s got a great solo career going on She’s from Savannah Georgia and she’s on tour right now with the Wood Brothers. She’s done some stuff with Herbie Hancock and whole bunch of other people. She’s a fantastic vocalist. I think I learned more from her and The McCrary Sisters in how they sing and how they work and adapt so quick.” Sam Lewis also says Kenny Vaughn has been a big advocate for his work in Nashville and has played on both of Sam’s albums.
“3 / 4 Time”
Sam Lews sets up “3 / 4 Time.” He says, “I’m generally a pretty upbeat individual. I tried to capture some of that when my team told me it would be awesome if for Christmas maybe somebody brought us a happy upbeat song. So I thought about it and basically introduced this song to the band and told them I wanted to go for a country / Lee Dorsey type of feel. I don’t know if we got it there, but it’s definitely upbeat. It’s called ‘3 / 4 Time’ and it’s in 4 / 4 time. [laughs]”
[Calvin plays “3 / 4 Time” from Waiting On You by Sam Lewis.]
Calvin asks about the vocal style and how he developed it for that style. Sam Lewis says, “When I was writing, I started singing and had Lee Dorsey in Mind and I always have Otis Redding in mind and like their inflection, especially on the down beat. And when Derek Mixon and JT Kewer (sp) that’s the rhythm section on the entire album and I want everybody to know they were the first two people hired. They’ve been playing with me for four or five years. Together they are an amazing unit and two of my favorite people to even be around, let alone play music with. When they get a hold of these songs hey bring some different things out of me. That’s the fun part of this thing. Oliver and I would give a hand ful of words to kind of give direction to get things going. Will Kimbrough plays mandolin through a deluxe reverb. so it gives kind of a steel drum sound.
Soul and Country
Calvin notes that Sam Lews’ songs have a strong soul vibe to them, but there is also a twangy element and he asks when that country sound came into his music. “I’ve always been influenced by country music as long as I’ve known about it. I was raised in many different southern cities. I can’t really hide my drawl that well. I was country before I came to Nashville and I’ll still be country after Nashville gets through doing whatever else its doing.
Calvin notes that Sam Lews has opened for Merle Haggard many times and asks Sam Lewis if he has to tweak his set list for that crowd. Sam Lewis says, “Yeah I had to immediately take all the Mariah covers out of the set list because that would have been really awkward. [laughs] I did want to see if I could play “Silver Wings” or something like that just to see. You realize you’re following someone like that.. his sets were an hour and a half on average and he still didn’t play all his number ones! That’s the craziest thing to me. I think he’s 41 or 42. But honestly there’s not a lot of tweaking that I do. I try to keep it moving.”
“Things Will Never Be The Same”
Calvin asks Sam Lewis to set up “Things Will Never Be The Same.” He says, “That one along with ‘3 / 4 Time’ are some of the newer songs that were penned. I wrote that one in England last summer. I was on a summer tour out there. And I had some time to dig into something and I dug into this song. I originally wrote it as a Dylan folky kind of style which is how I play it live when I play a solo show. I took it into the studio. Oliver and I were like, what if we try a shuffle. Gabe Dixon who is featured on the album as well He’s played with Paul McCartney he has an amazing solo career as well. He plays organ B3 on this track. I’m still not sure what this song is all about, but it’s got these Americana threads through it that makes me think about a bunch of different things and I’ve been getting good feedback on it. People are able to relate to it we all share a common thread and we don’t really know why, we just do.”
[Calvin plays “Things Will Never Be The Same” from Waiting On You by Sam Lewis.]
The Hotel Sessions
Calvin asks about Sam’s recent Hotel Sessions project. Sam Lewis says, “That was an idea my Manager’s assistant came up with. His name is Matt Brevard Palin is his name. He’s now happily slinging merch for the one and only Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives. We had a meeting last summer right after we made the record and we realized how long it was going to be before we released it. I was already starting to get some flack from fans and friends, saying ‘we need something now!’ I thought what if we made some sort of different version of the album. It evolved out of this thing like what if you did a demo version of the album from random places and then I thought well that’s cool because that’s already been done. A lot of the demos I gave the band to prep for what we were going to do. They were phone recordings from off my phone from random hotels from the States and abroad. So I compiled all of them together. And we did a once over mix to get them sounding a little bit better. But it’s just me and a guitar in a Motel 6 or an Air B&B. or on a farm or in a tent or in my Honda Element. So we just pulled them together and called them The Hotel Sessions. We created this cool package that involved a vintage hotel key that is individually numbered. So you have your own number.
“Reinventing The Blues”
Sam Lewis sets up “Reinventing The Blues.” He says, “I’ve been playing that song for a couple of years. It’s just a Monday through Sunday type of deal. There’s this recurring character I have in a couple of old songs and a couple of new songs. he just can’t get his stuff together. I don’t know if she left him or he left here. But he’s dragging his butt through the work week, just trying to get to Sunday. this album features on piano, Jano Rixx, who plays drums for The Wood Brothers. He did an amazing job. He played piano on this song and this may be my favorite song on the album as far as production goes.”
[Calvin plays “Reinventing The Blues” from Waiting On You by Sam Lewis.]
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