London-based American folk artist Sam Amidon is known for his unique interpretations of traditional folk songs and other lyrical materials. His tunes reflect a wide range of emotions, from those with an incredible calmness of composition, to those with impressively speedy banjo that lean towards the stressful. Amidon’s voice can often seem a bit monotone, but nevertheless it contributes to creating a mood that fits perfectly with the folk expression he is using. Through his songs one can feel a sort of closeness to old prairie life.
Sam Amidon just released his fifth full-length album Lily-O, containing 10 beautifully reworked songs from different sources. The album also features jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and was recorded over a couple of days in Reykjavík, Iceland. Monday October 13 Amidon will be visiting the Great American Music Hall together with Frisell to give us a taste of his amazing and poetic musical world. We wanted to get to know Sam a bit more before the show, and got the chance to ask him some questions about both his musical and his personal life. We even got a tip from him!
How would you say your newly released Lily-O differs from your previous Bright Sunny South (2013)?
Bright Sunny South was a sculpture garden of personal relics, a lone journey through a narrow mountain pass. Lily-O is a living jungle of tentacled plants and the last refuge of a wizened tribe.
You don’t write your own lyrics, but rather you rework material from a diverse range of other composers. How and where do you find your material?
Anywhere it appears… friends, field recordings, memories from long ago.
My Norwegian friend introduced me to your music years ago; she described you as an old man’s voice coming from a young man’s body. She thought it was just what the world needed. Can you relate to this description?
That is very poetic!
I often get very nostalgic when I listen to your music. Now that you are based in London, is there anything you miss about Vermont and Brattleboro where you grew up?
I miss everything about autumn, especially November. But I return frequently. There is a great Irish tune session in Brattleboro now, on Wednesday nights at McNeil’s — wish that had been there when I was a kid! Also there are some great rock bands that came from Brattleboro — King Tuff, tUnE-yArDs, David Moss Dense Band.
Which song in your past discography do you identify most with (and why)?
Perhaps “1842,” which I have re-recorded in a different form on the new album, because it is a fine expression of the wandering spirit.
Besides music, what do you fill your life with?
Evelyn Waugh novels, and playing basketball while my son rides around on his scooter.
What song should everybody listen to at some point in his/her life?
“When You Know Why You’re Happy,” by Mary Margaret O’Hara.
What is the one place you haven’t toured yet that you really want to go to?
Oh man, so many places… South America.
Article by Ane Skjølaas