Hailing from proud blues alumni turf Kansas City, Samantha Fish cut her new record Faster (released September 10) in none other than LA’s The Village studio. A follow up to her 2019 Kill or Be Kind, Faster is wrought with catchy hooks and dynamic instrumental breakdowns. Despite being written beneath the pandemic backdrop, this is a record that oozes energy and empowerment. Fish demonstrates her knack for expertly pairing her guitar chops with her fierce vocals, as a chef would pair wine with a meal.
We connected to learn more about her approach to the new record below.
LMR Hey Samantha, how’s it going?
SAMANTHA FISH Just kind of like scrambling, getting ready for this next tour. I’m super excited that the album comes out in a couple of days. So I’m full of anxiety, excitement, anxiety haha.
LMR That’s the best kind though, right?
SAMANTHA FISH I guess!
LMR I’m glad you could make some time for us. I wanted to talk about your new record and how you’re feeling about it and some of the new directions you’ve taken. First of all, I love the production on this record. I wanted to know more about what your experience was like getting back in the studio and working with Martin Kierszenbaum?
SAMANTHA FISH It was just a great experience. And we met each other last year, virtually of course. So I don’t think we’ve met anybody last year in person haha. He got turned on to me through some mutual friends in Kansas City because he has a real strong Kansas City connection. So we just kind of started talking and forging a friendship. So at some point in the summer, we talked about doing a record together. It started co-writing and just coming up with ideas and I’d already been writing since the shutdown starting. So I was kind of, you know, working on songs and I’m planning to do an album. So I don’t know if we just came together. My experience working with him though, he’s really positive. He’s very enthusiastic, really professional. He kind of approached things from a different perspective than I’d ever done in the studio. We put in a lot of work before we ever stepped foot inside the Village (LA studio). You know, just as far as the arrangements goes and just really knowing the music. A lot of times, I think when I go on to make a record, I would just record a demo, me and my voice and an acoustic guitar and the band would just kind of figure it out on the fly, which is cool. It feels really organic that way, but sometimes I feel like there’s a lot of stress involved cause you don’t know what’s going to happen. You know, working with Martin, he really likes to go in. Knowing what we’re getting into and what we’re going to have. And for me, I learned that it didn’t actually kill the organic nature of the record, but it eliminated a lot of the stress. But I mean, we just had a lot of fun. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of cool creative exchange and ideas. I feel really proud of this album. It’s definitely a step for me, evolution wise and I feel like it sounds huge.
LMR What do you mean when you say a step?
SAMANTHA FISH I mean, every album is a step. It’s like a step in a new direction. You know, and every album that is made is going to be a step in the new direction is, unless you record the exact same song, the exact same fashion again, but I don’t know. It just, it feels to me, I took a lot of creative chances and I really followed some instincts that I feel like I’ve been wanting to follow for a while. And so just embracing this different side. It’s cool for me. While still trying to shine a light on the guitar player and the songwriter and singer, but just to do it in a different way.
LMR Love the album cover, you’re getting quite intimate with your guitar! How do you choose the guitar that you record with— is it based on your favorite sound or your favorite tone? Is that a bit of a juggle when you’re in the studio to just say like, “Okay, what am I feeling today?” or, “What fits cohesively?”
SAMANTHA FISH Yeah, there’s a troubleshooting process that happens in the studio, but you know, you’re still working on expensive studio time, so you don’t want to like sit there. If it was up to me completely, I would’ve probably sat in there for 20 days, cycling through different effects and pedals and guitars, like a crazy person. But that’s when you have a really great producer and that almost says, “No, that tone, that’s the tone.” That’s the connecting thread throughout the album, that voice. And it happens to be my (Gibson) SG with a Deluxe and a Fender super reverb amp blended together, favoring the Deluxe. And that was really the personality and sound of the record. No pedals, just cranked up to 10.
LMR You’ve always had this very fierce energy about all of your recordings, you’ve been playing guitar and singing for quite a long time. When I hear something like, “Twisted Ambition” and “Better Be Lonely,” it’s still got that fierce energy of taking control. Was there a certain inspiration for this record that you felt was different?
SAMANTHA FISH Yeah, I mean, I think when I was working on the album, I was probably in a much different headspace than I’d be for any of my other records. All of my other albums were basically written in hotel rooms between tour dates, because we were just getting it all the time. You know, I’ve been working consistently for the better part of a decade. So there’s always this, just trying to fit in songwriting sessions. And now with the pandemic, I was really forced to just go, “Okay, now I’m just gonna focus on this.” And I went through this fluctuation of headspace like everybody did at this time, you know, I was up and down, there were times where I was really frustrated and angry and sad over what was going on. I feel like when I first started writing, I was writing a lot of really emotional, depressing kind of stuff. And I don’t know, after meeting Martin, he’s got really like an enthusiastic, “take control,” kind of energy, just forward momentum, you know, not getting stuck. He’s really got that kind of personality. We started collaborating on songs and I realized as I was working on this, my movement had just shifted so much that I was kind of writing from this perspective of where I wanted to be, I wanted to feel empowered. In control and take charge. And I wanted to make something that made people feel good when they listened to it. You know, after such a wild experience, 2020 and everything, I just wanted to make an album that people could feel, confident when they listened to, you know, and feel good. I wanted to do something with some energy.
LMR There’s something cathartic about writing that way as well…
SAMANTHA FISH I don’t think I’ve ever done it that way because I think I’ve always been in a way, an autobiographical writer. I just sort of write about what I’m dealing with. Or you know, storyteller, but I definitely write from the mood that I’m in. And so you had to kind of take on this different perspective and say, “Okay, well I know I feel like shit, but I’m going to write like I don’t,” and it just kind of did something incredible for my mood and just my perspective and outlook. I just think the general theme and tone of the album really took that. It helped me to make the album, so I hope it helps people to listen to it.
LMR How do you feel about getting back on the road again?
SAMANTHA FISH I feel really good about it! I’ve gone through my ebbing and flowing of it like when we first went out on the road. We started doing dates in October, 2020, so that was really like a freaky moment for me. Cause I’ve been locked in, you know, I’ve not done anything for such a long time, there’s this ethical weight on your shoulders. You want to do the right thing, you know? So we were doing shows with strict protocols and social distancing, masking and all of that. In a sense all that stuff is kind of lessened as people are loosening up a bit, but it seems like we’re about to go back into that kind of more strict protocol, but I haven’t experienced doing it. I know we can pull it off. I feel better and better about it all the time. The first time I took the stage, I remember feeling really nervous. People started like interacting with us, then the appreciation for what we were doing and my appreciation for them even being there. I mean, it kind of means something more now, you know?
LMR Definitely. I’m sure you will look back on these moments for years to come. I also wanted to bring up your collaboration track with Tech N9ne. How did that come to be?
SAMANTHA FISH Yeah, when Martin and I got together, we got together in the fall in Kansas City to co-write together and Kansas City is my home. That’s where I was born and raised. And it’s also the home of Tech N9ne. So he’s like world famous. Kansas City like just adores Tech N9ne. And he has this big complex there and they allowed us to use one of the writing groups just to kind of use it, me and Martin and Martin was like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Tech N9ne guested on this record?” And I just kind of was like, “Yeah, right, sure. He’ll never do that.” And then he did! And honestly, it was really cool for me because, you know, growing up in Kansas City, it’s like, he’s a hero out there, you know? And he does it all on his own. His company is independent and he’s just one of these, like one of the best, he really is. So to be able to do that, I know the people in KC are going to flip over that collaboration. And for me, it was super special. I think the song that we chose to move forward with Tech, it’s not one thing you would expect when you first play it, it’s doesn’t seem like there’d be a Tech N9ne feature at the end, but it really goes on a trip. I feel like the collaboration, the mixing of styles even within the song and then just me and Tech together….it’s a cool moment. It’s special. And it’s unexpected, which I think the whole record is kind of like that.
LMR There’s something special about playing with someone who shares the same hometown background as you too!
SAMANTHA FISH Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I love Kansas City. We debuted the record in Kansas City first. They actually just played it in its entirety today on a radio station. I feel like this is a special nod to my hometown featuring Tech N9ne, but we wanted to go even further and just really solidify this hometown vibe and I’m happy we did that.
LMR Is there anyone on the horizon that you would seriously enjoy playing or recording with?
SAMANTHA FISH Yeah, I’ve always really liked Jack White. I love his guitar tone. I love his adventurous spirit with this guitar. I think that would be really cool…I mean, just again, as a young guitar player, I listened to the radio a lot and really the only stations that you’d hear guitar solos on were Classic Rock stations, all those cool iconic solos. And then there was like Alternative stations. So you have these new guys like Jack White who were like really playing guitar in this modern age, which not a lot of people do it seems, in the mainstream. So I love a guitar player who’s doing it now in the mainstream. I think working with Josh Freese on this album and just having that Nine Inch Nails connection, he used to be in Nine Inch Nails and I’m a huge Trent Reznor fan. I think he’s got an incredible, creative sense of just, I don’t know. I think that would be just something I would freak out about if ever came to fruition. You know what I mean? I mean, I’ve gotten to sit in with Buddy Guy which was really special.
LMR Oh my God.
SAMANTHA FISH Yeah haha. We got to kind of trade licks back and forth on stage and that was really like super duper special. I would love to do that again.
LMR Where was that?
SAMANTHA FISH Yeah, it was called The Wolf Trap in Arlington, Virginia. We did a show together. So I mean, there’s a lot…I love playing with other guitar players because I think that’s what I learned more about the guitar myself is like playing with somebody else and seeing their approach it’s just kind of like educational.
LMR There always seems to be this funny divide between two camps with guitar players…about gear. And upon researching your new album, I found this to be a big conversation surrounding how you chose the tone and which guitars you included. So as the age old question goes, is there such thing as too many guitar pedals? How do we feel about this?
SAMANTHA FISH Haha. Okay, the way I feel about is…I mean, I have more pedals probably now on my board that I have ever, and I kind of love it for what I can do with it, but I hate it for the fact that it just is another thing that can go wrong. I’m always about eliminating stress on stage. You really want to be in the moment. And sometimes I feel like a pedal board meltdown can cause you to be out of the moment and not connecting with your time. So I think you’ve got to be able to do it both ways. You have to be able to just say, “You know what, F this thing, I’m plugging straight into the amp tonight!” If it’s going wrong and then you have to be able to pull that off. But, you know, I love drama with pedals. I think, especially as a guitar player I can only entertain by doing the guitar solo, for so many songs, I kind of need something to sort of give me a new texture and it’s like a different approach. I think pedals can spark creativity in the right sense. It depends on the person. I don’t think you can have too many, but then again, I look at myself. I just hate when the fucking patch cable breaks and you have to troubleshoot like 25 things to find one little tiny cable that’s ruining your show. So I look at myself, but somebody else pulls if off better than that then hell yeah go for it. The more the better!
LMR It seems more rock ‘n’ roll to expect a tantrum, see a guitar get smashed and then just carry on.
SAMANTHA FISH Yeah. I mean, I try not to throw tantrums, but I’m sure it appears that way. I’ve gotten pissed of at my gear and just been like, “Fuck it. I’m plugging straight into the amp, its all fucked right now.” And you just go straight in and honestly it kind of inspires you…when I’m mad at my gear, I probably play better than if I’m happy.
LMR: Anything coming from strong emotion. I feel especially given the last year, I think has inspired a lot of people to write and play differently, it kind of comes from a deeper place?
SAMANTHA FISH Yeah certainly.
LMR So when is your next tour date?
SAMANTHA FISH It’s actually this weekend. We just added a show in yesterday. This never happens. But we’re opening for ZZ Top in Minnesota. It’s the day my record comes out. And I was like, I can’t think of a better way to spend the album release day than opening for ZZ Top. So we’re doing that. The next day we have to go to West Virginia with a festival out there, and then we start our album release tour, we’re going to go to Nashville and rehearse for several days. And then we’re going to go out to the Rockies and play Telluride, go to the West Coast, California. I think Salt Lake City. We’re going all over, I’m really just excited.
LMR That’s amazing. And what is your drink of choice to celebrate the new record?
SAMANTHA FISH Haha oh God..
LMR: The real questions.
SAMANTHA FISH I haven’t had a shot of tequila in a really long time, are we going hard?
LMR This is your record. You tell me.
SAMANTHA FISH I think Faster feels like a shot of Patron.
LMR Amazing. Well, I really appreciate you giving me some intel into this new record. I’m excited for your future releases and hopefully you can once again share the stage with Buddy Guy!
SAMANTHA FISH Oh, God yeah, wouldn’t that be great. Thank you.