Eric Johanson, Support
Singer/songwriter Samantha Fish grew up in Missouri and found her love of songwriting in her late teens, taking inspiration from Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. She began playing the guitar at 15 and started cold-calling local bars, looking for gigs. “I used to open the phone book and call up every place in Kansas City, even if they didn’t have live shows,” she said. “I had maybe a three percent success rate, but eventually I started filling up my calendar. If you put on a good enough show, word of mouth gets around.”
It did. By the time she was in her early 20s, she had appeared in a duet with Devon Allman on his album, Turquoise, released several albums of her own and performed on stage with a reluctant Buddy Guy. That reluctance lasted only until she began playing. Over the years, she has maintained her reputation as a phenomenal live act who also turns out critically acclaimed albums.
Still in her thirties, Fish has gained a reputation both for her live shows and her albums. She has won numerous awards, including Best New Artist Debut at the 2012 Blues Music Awards, Best Independent Female Blues Artist at the 2016 Independent Blues Awards, Best Stage Performance at the 2018 Independent Blues Awards and Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year at the 2018 Blues Music Awards. In 2020, she was given Making a Scene’s Independent Blues Award for Artist of the Year, Producer of the Year, Best Modern Roots Song, as well as other honors. She has been recognized for her live performances, guitar artistry, vocals, and albums and she loves each aspect of her music. “I fell in love with music from going to live shows, and I know how cathartic it can be,” she said. “It heals your heart. Any time I play live, I just want to make people forget about everything else in the world and feel the same joy I feel on stage.”
For her latest album, Faster, released in 2021, she joined forces with producer Martin Kierszenbaum, who also had some familial ties to Kansas City. “His track record was perfect for what I wanted to do with this album, which was to expand into different genres while retaining the roots I’d built in the blues world,” she said. “Because we usually tour so much, most of my albums have been written in hotels between shows. This was the first opportunity I’ve had to just sit in one place and pour everything that was happening around me into songs.” The result is an album that threads her songwriting with the kind of nuanced storytelling and vivid detail that comes from working so intensely on her craft.
Faster features drummer Josh Freese of Guns N’ Roses and Nine Inch Nails and bassist Diega Navaira of The Lost Bandoleros, and was recorded at the famed Village Studios in Los Angeles. There are musical tips of the hats for North Mississippi blues heroes like R. L. Burnside as well as to iconoclasts like Prince. “The whole record has a theme of taking charge and taking the reins, in a relationship or in life in general,” she said. “I really thought that after 2020, I’d end up with a dismal, bleak album, but instead, we came up with something that’s fun and sexy and so empowering.”
It can be challenging for a performer who loves a live audience to find the same exhilaration in the studio. For Fish, the ability to be as creative as she wanted was freeing. “There’s such a transformation that can happen in the studio when you really own that freedom to be creative,” she said. “I feel so charged up in those moments, like I can be whoever I want to be. It’s just me and these incredible musicians, trying to make a piece of art that speaks for itself and contributes something new to the world. It’s never hard to feel inspired or empowered when that’s the mission.”