Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Samantha Farrell - Luminous

Before the tragic and untimely passing of LeRoi Moore (Dave Matthews Band's horn master), he made a musical discovery that was clearly very special. This gem was evident in the singer's passionate voice, which is smoother than burnished marble. LeRoi saw that "it" quality in Samantha Farrell and was determined to grow and mold her talent into something exceptional. The eventual product is titled Luminous. Completed after LeRoi's death, it was the last thing LeRoi put his golden touch upon/produced, and features a couple all-star horn players (John D'earth and Bobby Read) sitting in on a few tracks. The eleven-track sophomore album by Ms. Farrell is one which after you've listened to the whole thing you're left feeling like your throat should be sore from sitting in a smokey lounge listening to the next Blue Note starlet.

Having been lucky enough to hear some of these songs in their infancy, it's almost striking to hear the finished product for the ways in which they have grown and matured into well-rounded pieces of art. Song growth goes hand-in-hand with maturity of an artist, and it's clear Ms. Farrell has come a long way since her promising debut Spiritus. Known for her exceptional vocal range – only comparable to an opera singer – Sam's vocal acrobatics are clearly more controlled on this sophomore effort thanks to LeRoi's guiding hand. It's my belief that LeRoi gave Samantha a guiding musical vision, with a fixed target, that allowed her to focus her boundless energy and passion.

Luminous demonstrates grace through gracenotes; its jazzy, blues drenched, and folk influenced tunes meld together exceptionally. I sat down with the artist herself to get inside her mind and attempt to understand where some of these exceptional songs came from and how they came to fruition. Samantha enters the small niche coffee shop with an effortless nonchalance, dressed casually but in a Bohemian-chic way. We go back a few years but haven't seen each other in a number of months and her face lights up with excitement after scanning the room and finding me.

EZ: So, thanks for taking the time to chat. I have to say, this new album took my breathe away. I had to listen to it a few times through in succession. I always knew you had this type of fire inside of you.

SF: No problem EZ! Anything for you. You've always been so so supportive and wonderful. I'm so soo glad you like the album. It feels like it took forever just to get to this point and be able to share this with the world.

EZ: I'd like to touch upon a few of my most favorite tunes, if you don't mind.

SF: Sure thing. Shoot.

EZ: The first track, "Fade Away" sets the tone for the whole album and is wonderful tune. Tell me about how it came to be.

SF: Well, I wrote this song on a stop to Virginia whilst driving cross country. I wrote it in Oklahoma of all places. This song is my favorite, and quite possibly the best song I think I've written. Roi loved it so much that he told me that he was going to ship me back to Oklahoma if that [type of song] is what happened when I was there. I'm not entirely sure he wasn't serious!

EZ: Because you loved the song it must have been easy to record.

SF: Actually, this recording I believe, is literally the first take that we ever did. Each instrument was usually tracked piece by piece, but this was a free-wheeling studio miracle that felt like we'd been playing it for 20 years.

EZ: Just hearing you describe it...I feel like I was there. Sounds like such an amazing environment, and one of those totally in-the-moment feelings. Another favorite is just the next track, "Should Have Known Better." Now, I know I've heard at least 3 versions of this song live in various coffee shops and little gigs. But, when it came on, it was like I was hearing it again for the very first time.

SF: You're absolutely right! This might be the 20th version I've done of this song. I'm constantly trying "chase down the sound" on this song. The demo I had of this was the first thing Roi heard and loved when we met.

EZ: Being a Music major in college I had to listen to a lot of Classical music and came to appreciate the cello for its range, versatility, and emotional depth. Clearly we share a passion.

SF: Oh yes. I have loved the cello forever, and I wrote this song with a cello line in mind, not knowing any cello players at the time. Then I met the insanely subtle and talented Keith Tutt. What I enjoy most is the intertwining textures. I love cello and guitar; I feel like it gives weight and soul to a lot of my music.

EZ: Now we have to talk about, what I believe to be, the stand-out track on the album "Another Second Chance." Honestly, I think I listened to this song on a loop for at least 15 minutes. It's not out of character per se, but I think it really demonstrates a leap forward musically for you.

SF: [Laughs] Oh stop it. You're too kind. This is actually a tune I almost left off the album....

EZ: ....No way! It's wonderful...

SF: ...but due to popular demand -- of which I never understood -- it made it on, and continues to be a favorite amongst most who hear it. I'm glad I was vetoed on this one! This is the one song I wrote in Roi's house on his piano; which is odd for two reasons: I was totally out of my mind exhausted from our first round of studio sessions. I woke up from basically a nap, and was still half asleep, but sat at his beautiful piano (have I mentioned I don't play piano?) and just started somehow banging out some rudimentary chords.

EZ: So, this is your sleepy stupor song?

SF: [Laughs] Only kinda. I wrote the whole song in about an hour. It really germinated from a conversation that I had had the previous day with Dr. Roland Wiggins -- music theory professor and thinker of epic proportions -- about never giving up on people, especially underprivileged children, and how it's tragic that it happens in school systems every single day. It sounded like a bit of a gospel tune at first, but I had faith that when the horns were added, it would grow a different vibe...and it did.

EZ: I really enjoy the intertwoven solos on this song.

SF: You and me both! It was amazing to hear D'earth and Read trade solos in the studio. I like that it has a bit of an off-the-cuff live feel.

EZ: Ok. Last song...I promise.

SF: Which one is your pleasure?

EZ: "See You Again" sounds incredibly personal, yet distant. Do you know what I mean? It sounds like you're talking about something specific, like you know exactly what you're after, but may not have found it for good yet.

SF: [Chuckles politely] Yeah...this song has been with me in various pieces for about two years or so. It's about longing for home, both the physical place and the comfortable idea, and about longing for my ever-distant muse. Its presence, or lack thereof, makes its way into a lot of my songs, and this one's no different.

EZ: Well, that was thoroughly enlightening. Thank you so much for sharing not only with me, but your wonderful musical gifts with everyone.

SF: My pleasure EZ!


KBlaST said...

YES! Wonderful interview!!

SJ said...