NEW ORLEANS (CelebrityAccess) Samantha Fish is out on the road promoting her latest album, Belle Of The West. The super-bluesy, guitar phenom has made it clear that this album is a departure for her, who has been known to do the traditional blues trio route. The album had more females than males involved which, not only added to the harmonies, but added to the tour, and Fish was more than happy to talk about it.
Fish was about 20 years old when she began her big-label, national career in 2009, but if she was precocious then, she’s certainly well-traveled now. Her new album and tour date purchases are more than available at http://www.samanthafish.com.
You were supposed to call in at 9:30, and it’s 9:30 and 30 seconds.
Oh no! My bad, man! My phone died today and I have to get a new one. My father’s in town and I’m borrowing his phone and he’s very protective of it. So I thought, well, I better make these calls!
OK, so you have gushed about all the female singers doing harmonies on the new album. How much of this can go on tour with you?
Well, the magic number right now is seven. It was a six-piece band all of last year and that was for the Chills & Fever Tour, which was a record we put out in March with horn, keys, bass guitar and drums, and it needed two horn players. I basically mixed in a fiddle player and now we have seven on stage.
We can’t fit one more person into our van-slash-bus so I guess that’s where we’re going to sit for a while.
That sounds like a pretty big financial nut.
Yes! And you know what? It was wild because I went from a three-piece band to a six-piece in a year, and now we’re seven, and I’ve got a road manager so we have eight people on the road, including myself. But I wanted to do a bigger show for a long time. The trio is amazing because you get this really raw thing going, but I wanted to up the production value of the stage show. I wanted to do something really layered and elegant but we could still rock out and there are all these dramatic layers to it.
I just couldn’t get that as a trio, unless I got a bunch of loop pedals.
You say you have a tour manager. You didn’t have one?
That came along in the last couple few years. I think I’ve had a full-time road manager for, gosh, two years now. Before that it was me, my trio band, and we brought a merch person and just ripped up and down the countryside. I probably drove across the country, myself, several times.
And back then you probably called ahead to a hotel room.
Well, thank God for modern technology. I’ve got Hotwire on my phone and we can find rooms. It’s not as hardcore as it used to be, back when we’d just go to a Super 8. But definitely, man, there were times we’d just drive through the night to get to the gigs.
There’s this guy in the business, kind of famous, named Stuart Ross, who always tells people, “If you want to be a tour manager, work as a travel agent first.” It’s all about managing costs, from hotel rooms to gas stations.
Exactly. There’s so much static. This job is such a static thing. I was talking to my tour manager that things are always changing. We have all these hypothetical situations set up. Every day is different, every venue is different. There’s gotta be flexibility. Fortunately I have a lot of like-minded, easy-going individuals in my band. It’s not for everybody. It can be kind of crazy at times. Just try and keep everybody comfortable.
People don’t want to know the truth: the fun of a tour bus runs out in 72 hours. After that it’s all about how to get off the bus and how to eat more than 10,000 pancakes because that’s the cheapest thing on the menu.
Yes! I think as a musician you feel like you should like it. Touring is the thing we’re all striving to do. But it isn’t for everybody. It can be grueling, and you’re really close with everyone. Personal space can be an issue at times. Like you said, you get on a bus for three days, it seems so luxurious at first but you’re on a bus for three days with a bunch of people, in a tiny little tube. It can be kind of wild.
We’re lucky that we’re staying in hotels and get some time to recharge and go back but I think you just have to find balance on the road.
Are you returning to old haunts or are there new markets?
We’re always breaking into new places, even if we’re going back to similar territory, we’re playing bigger rooms. It’s a culmination of an entire team’s hard work. And I’ve got great people that lobby for me. It’s a dream come true.
I went back to Europe last year. We’re looking at Australia this year. There’s so much of the world I haven’t been to. I feel like I’ve been touring for 10 years now and I’ve barely scratched the surface. We are hitting the U.S., Mexico, Canada, a lot of islands, South American shows. I can’t wait for it.
Your Topeka show is sold out. Yes, Kansas is your stomping ground, but you grew up in Kansas City and that has tickets left. Why Topeka?
(laughs) Well, because we have a lot of fans in Topeka! Honestly, man, when I started touring – and I don’t live in Kansas anymore, I live in New Orleans because that’s where most of the band is, and it’s a great home base and it’s a great place to come home to for inspiration – but Kansas City is where I came up. So when I first started playing, I was booking all these shows myself. I played in every little town in Kansas, every little town in Missouri. We have a pretty big fan base all over in these smaller cities, and Topeka is a good market for us.
We’re doing a weekday there, and it’s just a club I’ve been playing for years and years, and it has great people. And people turn out, and it sells out every time. I love going to to Topeka!
Well you may be living in New Orleans but your phone says Kansas City
I don’t have the heart to change it!
Well, it’s your dad’s phone but …
No, but mine is still a 913 number too. I think I’ve had it since high school, which is crazy.
So where do things stand as far as visiting the merch table, meet & greets, etc.?
I’ve always gone out after the show. I don’t know when that changes or stops. We have a lot of great fans. Eventually you have to dial that back because of safety reasons or whatever. It can get a little crazy and overwhelming but, right now, it feels like an important part. People love coming to the show.
When I was first going out to see live music, when I get to meet an artist that I looked up to and they were nice to me, that almost made more of an impression than the show. I feel like it’s important to shake hands, but we don’t do
it everywhere. It gets to the point where I think you need to pull back but you set up more of a meet & greet rather than an informal visit to the merch table and sign CDs.
Meet & greets are great for the fans but a lot of artists are avoiding them now, like Chris Stapleton, because they fear they’ll get sick and need to cancel shows.
Yeah! You’re shaking a lot of hands! It’s a lot more human contact. I’ve noticed this, that I’ve shook 100 more hands today. It’s a good, friendly gesture but I’m super crazy cautious. I can see if Stapleton gets sick and has to cancel a string of shows because he can’t sing? I think he’s smart to call off a meet & greet rather than call off a bunch of shows.
There are a lot of reasons to do it, and a lot of reasons why, I think – we’re all waiting for that one day when somebody goes crazy and it’s like, “You know what? I don’t think we’ll do the meet & greets anymore.” You’re kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop.
As far as health goes, I try to do a lot of proactive health care. I wash my hands a lot. And no kisses! I don’t kiss at the merch table! (laughs)
There’s a friend of mine, absolutely gorgeous, who tried to give Kip Moore a kiss on the cheek and he jumped away because, well, you can’t risk it, and it was a big sacrifice.
I have people who come up and want to kiss me too. First of all, I’m not a kissy person, especially for strangers. I didn’t grow up like that but, also, yes. You just gotta be careful.
But then you feel bad. I mean, I know you’re not sick, I know you’re not gross. I just can’t! I’m a hypochondriac and I’ll make myself sick.
The Kansas City Star noted that you are breaking through the patriarchy of a male-dominated genre. Feel like adding any commentary to all the recent discussion about a male-dominated society, harassment, etc.?
Honestly, I think it’s pretty amazing what’s happening right now, and it’s just nice. It sucks that it took so long for people to start believing these allegations. But I think it’s great that you’re seeing women band together, you’re seeing men band together as well and standing up for inequality. I think any time you recognize inequality and do something about injustice is for the greater good. It’s a beautiful thing and it’s just going to help everybody. It’s going to help our kids. If I ever have a daughter, I don’t want her to deal with that shit.
I’m glad that no longer you can’t speak out against someone in a position of power because you’re afraid of what might happen to you.
I don’t think anyone mentioned the kid angle before, and it’s relevant.
I think everything going on right now is pretty wild. We’re at the cusp of everything being really, really great or really bad. There is a lot of pain that still needs to occur but if I had children, what kind of world do I want them to grow up in? Do I want them to deal with what I dealt with? I think we should all be looking at situations like that.
I think there are different degrees and levels to all of this but, as a society, it’s been going on for so long that people aren’t even aware of it anymore. I think a misogynistic comment here or there gets brushed off because it’s not as bad as this or that allegation. I think it’s about us becoming aware of how we treat one another and what abusing your position of power does to another human being. It’s wrong and it’s about recognizing that. But now you’re realizing how subversive even an off-hand comment can be.
So, how did you get connected to your manager?
Ruben Williams is my manager. I met him through some musical peers when I was 19 years old, coming up in clubs in Kansas City. I wanted to work with Ruben for a long time – Thunderbird Management is the name of the company. It took a few years. There was a lot of courting going on. I think it’s just because I wasn’t ready to be managed. I didn’t have anything to be managed for a while. But he came on board when there was, and he had a job to do, and I love my manager.
I emailed him around 2009 when I was about to sign my first record deal. He didn’t know me at that point in time. But I think I just started to make his acquaintance over a couple of years. He manages Tab Benoit. I can’t give you an exact start date. It was like, “Oh, I guess this guy is my full-time manager.”
He’s pretty amazing. He executes the long-term ideas. You tell him about your vision and he sets out to make that happen. He works with the record company, he works with the booking agency (Paradigm), he works with publicity. He works with all that stuff.
And he gets to say no.
Yeah! It’s so great! He gets to be the heavy.