By Janelle Fisher
City Pages Editor
On Thursday, Oct. 5, the EPIC Event Center will host award-winning blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Samantha Fish on her Love Letters Tour.
“There’s a demand for music that’s authentic live music and stuff that can be performed with instrumentation,” Fish said. “To me, the blues is like it’s the foundation of all rock and roll and all modern music that came after it, too. For me, it’s just a big part of the conversation and something that I’m passionate about.”
That passion, Fish said, is one that she’s felt for many years now.
“I picked up the guitar when I was 15, and I picked up the drums before that — I’d always been into music,” she said. “I was kind of a shy kid. I think the guitar and performing kind of helped me come out of my shell a little bit… I grew up in the ‘90s and we had CDs and the radio and maybe Limewire or whatever it was was just starting. Guitar solos were on classic rock radio and so I figured out I loved rock and roll and I was figuring out how to play that.”
Fish said that the best advice she would give to aspiring musicians is to figure out what they like, and then figure out how to make it their own.
“Find your voice, the thing that makes you unique, because there’s a lot of people out there trying to do what you’re doing — unless you’ve invented a completely unique instrument that nobody’s ever seen,” she said. “Music is something that we’ve used universally since the beginning of mankind to communicate and express stuff and connect us all. You’ve got to find what makes you unique. It’s always great to learn how to play from others and there’s a bit of emulation that happens, but you’ve got to find what makes your voice unique and your instrument and your songwriting and then just play it out, because that’s what’s going to make you stand apart.”
For Fish, her unique musical style stemmed from both her love of rock and roll, and the history of the city she grew up in.
“I realized all my heroes that I was listening to in rock and roll were deeply influenced by the blues, and I grew up in Kansas City,” she said. “I kind of had this two-pronged hit where it’s like, ‘Okay, all my rock and roll heroes are really into this stuff and Kansas City is just steeped in tradition — it’s a big blues and jazz town.’ I just kind of fell into learning about it and falling in love with the ability to emote the way I wanted to with the guitar. It’s just something I was drawn to.”
Another thing Fish says she was drawn to is performing live.
“Playing in front of an audience is just where it’s at for me,” she said. “I fell in love with the stage, and when you’re playing to an energetic audience that’s giving you just as much as you’re trying to give them, it really is just like a continuous transfer of energy that’s amazing. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world.”
A typical performance, Fish said, includes a variety of music to keep the audience engaged and entertained.
“It depends on the night and it depends on the audience,” she said. “I try to build the show in different ways. I have peaks and valleys and there’s enough fast material that makes the slower material or the more thoughtful, quiet material stand out… We have short little songs that are kind of like three-and-a-half-minute ear candy — radio-friendly tunes — and then there’s the ones that you get to stretch out. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying the ones where I can kind of build something and stretch it out and take a little idea and expand upon it to the point where it’s a broader idea… I think the audience likes being able to go on that trip. If you do it right, I think it has a lot of impact.”
Fish said she doesn’t necessarily have an all-time favorite song of hers, but that she appreciates different songs of hers at different times.
“I like them all. I mean, I wrote them. I should like them all, right?” she said. “The ones I don’t like, I don’t play anymore. Sometimes you write a song and it suits you in the moment and then you grow out of it, like anything… Things go in and out of style and sometimes songs come in and out of style in your life, too.”
Current favorites, Fish said, include ‘Dream Girl’ and ‘Bulletproof.’
“I really love playing ‘Dream Girl,’” she said. “It’s a song about heartbreak, essentially, but it seems to be one that connects to people for all different kinds of reasons… I still have my intention and what I was feeling when I wrote it, but it’s nice to see other people reinterpret it to their own lives… People really dig my cigar box stuff and that’s something that kind of makes me unique in this guitar player world… ‘Bulletproof’ is always a fun song to play.”
As she looks towards her continued career in the music industry, Fish said she places more value on being able to share her music with the world than on any particular awards or recognitions.
“The sky’s the limit, honestly,” she said. “There’s obvious things, like ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to get a Grammy or something?’ But the older I get, I feel like I just want to find and tap into my group of people and I want to keep reaching more people with my music.. Those accolades and all that other stuff, that’s all nice and symbolic, but really the goal is to just get my music out there and share it with people.”