Road Trip Recap: AmericanaFest 2022

By Brent Thompson

Nashville rolled out the red carpet for the annual American Music Festival (AmericanaFest) from September 13-17. Each day, the city’s famed nightclubs, rooftop bars, restaurants and private event spaces were filled with hours of music. Defined by its indefinability, Americana music offers up an array of genres including rock, pop, country, blues and bluegrass. Once again, we were there to document the sights and sounds of music’s greatest week.

Hank Williams, Jr. & Dan Auerbach

 

Molly Tuttle

 

49 Winchester

 

Nikki Lane & Joshua Hedley

 

Jim Lauderdale

 

Robert’s Western World

 

Robert’s Western World

 

The Concert & The Classroom: Catching up with John Paul White

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Alysse Gafkjen

In addition to being a recording and touring musician, John Paul White is co-founder of Florence-based label Single Lock Records. These days, the singer/songwriter has added yet another endeavor to his already busy career – teaching at his alma mater, University of North Alabama.

“I’m teaching Songwriting & Artist Career Development this semester,” he says. “I’m artist-in-residence and I’m teaching a couple of classes and I’m still touring and still writing and still doing Single Lock Records. I got a call from the dean, who’s a friend of mine, and I said, ‘You might be knocking on the door at exactly the right time.’ I’ve toyed with the idea for a long time and I’ve always wanted to come back to my alma mater and give back. It’s been a while since I’ve been in school, but I can distinctly remember wishing there were people with real experiences in the industry that could’ve given me insight at the time. It’s incredibly rewarding. I’m still trying to figure out the balancing act of touring and writing going along with this.” On October 22, White will perform at Alabaster Jubilee at 7 p.m.

White initially forged his career in a music business that looked far different from today’s industry. However, he knows that teaching aspiring artists these days means including streaming, social media and other modern topics into his curriculum.

“As much as I don’t want to,” he admits. “I’m from a generation that didn’t do any of that stuff. It was pretty blissful – just creating and touring and creating and touring. Now, we’ve learned through Single Lock Records, it’s just part of it. Whether you like it or not, you have to actively think of a way to sell yourself every day – if you don’t, you get left behind. I’m really glad that in the earlier stages of my career I did not have to do all that stuff. Some artists love it and they thrive because they enjoy doing it.”

Speaking of another modern reality, White mentions that Covid’s shockwaves are still being felt among touring musicians.

“I think we haven’t really felt the effects of it yet,” he cautions. “Now that people are touring again, people aren’t buying tickets the way they used to. If they are buying tickets, every single artist is touring at the same time trying to make up for lost time. So, more and more artists are realizing, ‘I’m not going to get back out of the hole.’ We all, as a community, actively check on each other. I have no data on this, but I would venture to say that 85 to 90 percent of musicians are struggling. A lot of people are timid about going into a crowded rock club shoulder-to-shoulder with people when you’ve been trained to keep your distance. Some people don’t want to do that and some people don’t want to follow Covid protocols – they’re on one side of the coin or the other.”

Never one to sit still, White recently found himself performing with a symphony accompaniment. In April, he will perform in Birmingham at Alys Stephens Center with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.

“I have to give credit to Daniel Stevens, who’s the conductor at UNA,” White says in an enthusiastic tone. “It was his brainstorm to have the Shoals Symphony play with me. Here, at Norton Auditorium in Florence, we had two performances. My band sits in front of the orchestra – it’s overwhelming and it’s hard to concentrate on your song lyrics when this gorgeous symphony is happening behind you. The Alabama Symphony got wind of it and reached out and said, ‘Can we bring it down here and you do it with our folks?’ I said, ‘That was the dream in the first place.’ Who knows? Maybe we can take this around the country and this will be the first step toward it.”

www.alabastercityfest.com

Five-Brain Monster: Catching up with Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass

By Brent Thompson

Photo courtesy of the artist

“We built the whole thing just a couple of people at a time. We’re lucky that a lot of our fans have become our friends,” Greensky Bluegrass Dobroist Anders Beck says. With over two decades of recording and touring under its belt, Greensky’s grassroots style to which Beck refers has served the band well. Earlier this year, the quintet – Beck, Dave Bruzza, Paul Hoffman, Michael Bont and Mike Devol – released Stress Dreams (Big Blue Zoo Records), a 13-track effort featuring collaborative songwriting. On Friday, August 26, Greensky Bluegrass will perform at Land Aid at Avondale Brewing Company. Recently, Beck spoke with us by phone from the band’s tour stop in Charlottesville, Va.

Southern Stages: Anders, thanks for your time. We are really enjoying Stress Dreams. How did the album’s songs take shape? Were these newer compositions, older ones or a mixture of both?

Anders Beck: For the most part, they were written in that time leading into Covid and a lot during Covid. So, they haven’t been around for that long. We made that record during the quarantine days which was interesting in trying to get a bunch of people together in the studio to make an album – we all live in different places. One of the things we learned is how to communicate in different ways – Zoom meetings and things like that. The way the band writes – someone brings a song and it’s usually pretty bare bones and we work on it together as a band and take it from a singer/songwriter type of song into a Greensky song. That’s our process a lot of time. This album was a little different because we all contributed songs. Our bass player (Devol), he writes differently – he orchestrates the whole thing because he’s a classically-trained cellist – he wrote the song “Stress Dreams.” He came to us and said, “These are the parts – play this” and that’s not improvisational music.

Southern Stages: Did Devol’s pre-orchestration of the song sit well with the other members?

Beck: It was great and it was fun. It was really interesting and we know him well enough to see his vision through. He’s got an incredible musical mind, so it was really fun. The song I contributed is called “Monument” and I wrote it with a friend of mine, Chris Gelbuda. I had that song in my head for a while in bits and pieces. He’s a writer in Nashville that came in and helped me dot the I’s and cross the T’s on my ideas.

Southern Stages: While creating in remote fashion had to be challenging, I assume the fact that you’ve played together for so long eased the process.

Beck: It’s a five-brain monster and it’s really special to be part of it. We’re back on tour now – this summer, we did weekend dates where we’d all fly in and play festivals. It’s great because you can be home, but once we get back on tour you see the improvisational beast that the band is – there’s a click that happens musically. I’m not saying the weekend dates don’t have that thing, but there’s just something different when we start to play even just three or four nights in a row.

Southern Stages: Some artists applaud the current musical climate in the age of streaming, satellite radio, Youtube and other modern outlets and some say it makes it difficult to be found among the crowd. How do you feel about the current state of the industry?

Beck: I feel great about it, personally. I believe in our band and the music that we make and the more ways people can find out about us, the better. People talk about the artists not getting paid for streams and I get that, but for me it’s about the live show. I want people to get to our music however they can so they can come see us play live, however that happens.

Southern Stages: Even though your band is known for improvisational music, how does a song stay fresh to you after you have played it literally hundreds of times?

Beck: Here’s a weird answer – I change. A good song is the same song, but it’s written well enough that the song means different things to me over the course of my life. It’s the same words and the same melody, but I’m still learning lessons about it from Paul’s lyrics.

Greensky Bluegrass will perform with the Sam Bush Band at Land Aid – benefitting Freshwater Land Trust – at Avondale Brewing on Friday, August 26. Advance tickets to the 6 p.m. show are $33 and can be purchased at www.avondalebrewing.com. 

Review: Drive-By Truckers Bring It Back Home

By Brent Thompson
Having released three politically-fueled albums – American Band, The Unraveling and The New OK, Drive-By Truckers have taken it back to Muscle Shoals on the band’s 14th studio album, Welcome 2 Club XIII [ATO Records]. Named for a dive bar that frontmen Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley haunted back in the day, the album’s material reflects on youth and the road on tracks including “The Driver,” “Wilder Days” and the title track. But a lack of overt, political commentary doesn’t mean the band has softened its sound or stance – there’s still plenty of fire to be found here with a slower burn.

Celebrate People: A Conversation with Steve Earle

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Danny Clinch

In a career spanning nearly 40 years, Steve Earle has released more than 20 albums while also finding time to be an actor, playwright and author. On May 27, the three-time Grammy award winner will release Jerry Jeff [New West Records], a tribute album to one of his musical heroes, Jerry Jeff Walker. Jerry Jeff is the latest installment in a series of albums that includes Earle’s tributes to Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and his late son, Justin Townes Earle. On Wednesday, June 1, Steve Earle & The Dukes will perform at Decatur’s Princess Theatre. Recently, Earle spoke with us via Zoom from his New York City home.

Southern Stages: Steve, thanks for your time. We are really enjoying Jerry Jeff. At the onset, did you envision the Townes, Guy and Jerry Jeff albums as a series?

Steve Earle: No. The Townes one was 10 years after he passed away – it was a little distance. The Guy one was almost as soon as Guy as he was gone. The Jerry Jeff thing started at his memorial service, so I probably started thinking about whether I’d do a Jerry Jeff one around the time of the Guy record. I didn’t make my decision until he was actually gone because I just wasn’t going to think about it. I’m an old hippie and (spiritual teacher) Ram Dass was my guru – I knew him and he wrote about aging and death. I got to meet him when I was 60 and I knew him the last five or six years of his life and that helped because I was losing people by that time. I’m trying to celebrate people rather than mourn in the classical sense. The J.T. record was the same thing. It was the only thing I knew to do – it wasn’t fun and it was painful. This record was a lot more fun in some ways. I’m on Guy Clark’s first record and I knew Townes and I met him very shortly after I heard one of his records for the first time. Jerry Jeff was a big star in Texas when I was first getting out on my own and playing and I played a lot of these songs in bars. Everybody in my band grew up playing these songs – I’ve got three Texans in the band. I’m tired of making them – I want to make a record of my songs now. I’ve been writing songs – I’m writing a musical of Tender Mercies with (playwright) Daisy Foote and that’s where the songs I’ve been writing have been going.

Southern Stages: I didn’t mention the J.T. album because I’m sure it’s a sensitive subject.

Earle: It’s not part of the same thing – the Justin thing was its own deal. The Jerry Jeff, Townes and Guy things are definitely a set and they’re all on the same record label. My guess is you’ll be able to get them as a set very shortly, probably around Christmas.

Southern Stages: How did you sift through Jerry Jeff’s catalog and select songs for the album?

Earle: The criteria was his songs. He was known for interpreting other peoples’ songs, but I’d already done all the Guy songs on the Guy record. “Mr. Bojangles” can overshadow everything that he did, so it was about people that didn’t know learning what a great songwriter he was. It goes back to the beginning of his career and goes pretty much through the peak of it. I wasn’t going to record “Sangria Wine” because I’m sober and I can’t let myself do that – it just doesn’t feel right. I used to sing it every night.

Southern Stages: On a project like Jerry Jeff, how do you place your own stamp on someone else’s material while retaining the integrity of the original songs?

Earle: I think what I thought it was doing was emulating the records pretty closely. It comes out, surprisingly enough, feeling like me because I wanted to be Jerry Jeff Walker more than anything else in the world at one point in my life. Jerry Jeff Walker is part of my DNA as a performer, probably more than Guy and Townes were. Jerry Jeff was by far the best performer of all of his peers. The only guy that was as good as Jerry Jeff on stage at that moment in Austin was Rusty Wier and Jerry Jeff knew it. People that are great performers and master communicators are not as common as one would think. Rock & roll has only produced a few like Bruce Springsteen and James Brown. Jerry Jeff – I knew people that didn’t like him and I lived in Greenwich Village for 17 years – but everybody invariably said that the best performer on the street when Jerry Jeff was in the Village was Jerry Jeff Walker. I saw him in Austin – he could get too loaded to play, but when he was on it was riveting.

Southern Stages: Given the large catalog of songs you’ve accumulated, how do you comprise your set lists these days?

Earle: It’s hard. We won’t play the whole Jerry Jeff record, but we’ll play a big chunk of it and we’ll probably open the show with it. I’m putting the show together right now. The last time we went out was last summer. After not going out for two years, it was kind of weird because we had made two records, so I had to have a Ghosts of West Virginia section and a J.T. section and we did four songs from each. I also wanted to play songs that I knew people wanted to hear because we missed them and they missed us and we just wanted to do that. So, we’ll start out with a lot of Jerry Jeff Walker songs and then we’re going to play all the stuff I play so I can get out of there alive – that’s just the way it is at this point.

Southern Stages: Speaking of the songs you play to get out alive, how do songs stay fresh and relevant to you after you’ve played them a thousand times?

Earle: I don’t  understand the mentality of not wanting to play stuff. The thing that people know you for the best – why would you not want to play that? That’s never made any sense to me. “Copperhead Road” became a line dance and I missed that culturally because I was on drugs and in jail when that happened, which was a few years after. When it came out, it could not get played on country radio – it was too weird for them and they wouldn’t play it. Later on, when the line dance craze started, there came about a “Copperhead Road” line dance and it was done every night in every dance hall where people danced to country music. The line dance craze died out for the most part, but not “Copperhead Road” and it’s still done every night in any country disco. Somebody asked me if that bothered me and I said, “Hell no – it’s like I wrote ‘Cotton-Eyed Joe’ – that’s immortality, that’s what that fucking is.” I play “Copperhead Road,” “The Galway Girl” and “Guitar Town” and I’m fortunate that I’ve had songs throughout my career that people find important. The job is to let people know they’re not alone – that everybody feels bad and everybody feels good. I never understood the Andy Kaufman school of, “I’m smarter than you. If I think it’s funny and you don’t, that just means you’re stupid.” I never understood that. I play things for people and if they don’t work the first couple of times I play them, then I don’t play them anymore. Guy Clark told me that songs aren’t finished until you play them for people. There were only two critiques from Guy – one was “good work” and the other was “needs work” [laughs].

Southern Stages: The music business now is vastly different from the one you entered nearly 40 years ago. As an artist, how do you view the current climate?

Earle: There’s a lot of stuff out there. The good news is anybody can make a record and the bad news is anybody can make a record. There’s more shit to wade through. I just feel lucky that I came along in the ’80s when there was a lot of money being spent. I was never going to sell millions of records – I was too hard-headed and still am, but I was allowed to develop and audience that I’ve kept. I didn’t know what to tell Justin by the time he started doing it and the business has changed a lot since Justin started. I don’t try to tell people what’s country and what’s not because a lot of people thought what I was doing wasn’t country when I came along. Those guys on the radio now, they decide what’s country. In 1986 – when I had the number one album on the Billboard country album charts, I decided what was country.

Steve Earle & The Dukes will perform at Decatur’s Princess Theatre on Wednesday, June 1. For ticket information, please visit www.princesstheatre.org.

 

 

Banditos Return to Birmingham for 5-21-22 Saturn Performance

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Citizen Wayne Kane

Banditos is a Nashville-based band with Birmingham roots. On Friday, the quintet will release its third studio album, Right On, the follow-up to 2017’s Visionland. Produced by Jordan Lehning (Caitlin Rose, Joshua Hedley), the songs on Right On have a common theme of inclusivity and shared emotions. On Saturday, May 21, the band will perform at Saturn. Advance tickets to the 18+ show are $15 and can be purchased at www.saturnbirmingham.com.

Preview: Texas duo Plank & Scrappy bring “Motel Alabama” tour to Mobile

By Brent Thompson

Jeff Plankenhorn and Scrappy Jud Newcomb – stalwarts of Austin’s famed music scene – are currently taking their songs and stories through the South on the “Motel Alabama” tour. On Saturday, April 30The Peoples Room of Mobile will provide the ideal setting for Plank & Scrappy’s performance. In addition two their esteemed solo careers, the duo has been associated with Patty Griffin, Joe Ely, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Slaid Cleaves and Bob Schneider among many others. Advance tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $25 and can be purchased at www.thepeoplesroommobile.com.

That Extra Dimension: A Conversation with Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Jeremy Cowart

Music, family, public speaking, philanthropy and a longstanding family business all comprise the life and work of John Ondrasik, also known by his stage name of Five for Fighting. Since bursting onto the music scene with the Grammy-nominated single “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” Ondrasik has released a steady stream of albums and singles to a devoted fan base. On Sunday, May 8, Five for Fighting will perform at the Lyric Theatre accompanied by a string quartet. Recently, Ondrasik spoke with us by phone from his Los Angeles home.

Southern Stages: John, thanks for your time. We are looking forward to your return to Birmingham.

John Ondrasik: I appreciate you talking about the show and I’m looking forward to getting down there – it’s been too long.

Southern Stages: Are you supporting the release of a new album on this tour?

Ondrasik: No, there’s nothing planned. I’ve just been putting out songs when they hit me. You never know what could come in the next couple of months. For the first time in years, I’m actually consolidating some songs with the intention of making a record but not putting a due date on it.

Southern Stages: You stay very busy with your music career, public speaking and philanthropic endeavors. How do you manage to juggle all of those?

Ondrasik: [Laughs] I wish I could say cloning. To be honest with you, I did very little music through the pandemic. We have a family business that’s been in our family since 1946 – it’s a company called Precision Wire. We have about 300 employees and our claim to fame is that we make the best shopping cart in the world. If you’ve shopped at Costco, you’ve used our cart. I’ve worked there my whole career and my dad – being 83 – quarantined very early and I was thrust into taking the reins at Precision Wire. We got through it, but it was 24/7 for at least 18 months – that really consumed me for a couple of years. I was doing some virtual concerts and virtual keynotes, but that experience changed our perspective and it was one of the reasons I wanted to get down and see you guys and go back to some of the cities that were so supportive of me 20 years ago. You’re probably familiar with (Birmingham-based radio program) Reg’s Coffeehouse and Scott [Register] was such a supporter of mine and Birmingham was one of the key markets that put me over the tipping point. When “Superman” was on the bubble, your market put it over the top and I’ve never forgotten that and I said I can’t go out on this quartet tour without getting down to Birmingham.

Southern Stages: You have over two decades of material in your catalog now. How do you comprise your setlists these days?

Ondrasik: That’s a good question. One reason I started doing these string quartet shows like we’ll be doing for you guys was I was doing these orchestra shows which were amazing. It was me sitting there with a 30-piece orchestra and it allowed me to do certain songs that I wouldn’t do with the rock band – songs that had incredible string arrangements like “Two Lights” and “Nobody.” I wanted to take that format to smaller markets so here comes the string quartet. To answer your question, it kind of depends on the format – what Five for Fighting permutation you’re getting. The quartet shows have more intimate songs because of the nature of the experience where hopefully it’s a pin-drop atmosphere, but you also get that extra dimension on the songs people already know. Every time we do a tour, we try to add a couple of new songs and sometimes it’s the dreaded “new song” [laughs]. We don’t play the exact same set every night.

Southern Stages: I always wonder how songs stay fresh to artists after they’ve been performed thousands of times. Does changing up the instrumentation and touring personnel allow you to keep things relevant?

Ondrasik: It really does. One thing that helped me with that is all these different permutations of Five for Fighting – the quartet show and the rock band show. We are putting the rock band out this summer for the first time in a long time. The keynotes are always different because I think about and learn about who I’m speaking to. Solo shows, charity shows and even virtual shows have different dynamics in how you attack them. You’re right – at the end of the day, if you’re fortunate enough to have a song that people want to hear and you’ve played it 10,000 times, there’s a certain professionalism in that. “100 Years” is a little easier because I’m always somewhere in that song – the last time I was in Birmingham I was in the second verse and now I’m in the bridge [laughs]. [Regarding] “Superman” I had a conversation with a very successful professional athlete about something similar. He said, “Every game I play – for somebody in that crowd, this may be the only time they see me play live. It’s up to me to do my best every time.” I try to have that approach with “Superman,” knowing that for someone in the audience it may be the only time they hear it and the least I can do is not go through the motions.

Southern Stages: You’re a sports fan so it’s time for the tough question. What’s wrong with the Lakers this season?

Ondrasik: Oh boy! Yeah, it’s rough out here. We’re a little bit spoiled though. It’s tough sledding for the Lakers, but there are still a lot of banners up there.

Southern Stages: Some artists tell me it’s a great time to be in your position given easy access to listeners via Youtube, Spotify, satellite radio and other modern outlets. Others say, for the same reason, that the current climate makes it difficult for artists to be found among the crowd. How do you feel about the current state of the industry?

Ondrasik: With any new technology, there are winners and losers and I think musicians are both. As you said, the ability to have your songs heard has never been easier and millions of people are putting their songs out on the Internet. When I came up, I caught the last wave of record sales right before everything changed. If you were fortunate enough to get a record deal, there used to be a thing called “artist development” [laughs] and they would put you on tour. People don’t realize that Bruce Springsteen broke on his third record and it takes time and that kind of artist investment has disappeared from record companies and it’s harder to make a living. Even though a lot of folks can get their music out, it’s harder to make a living and I worry that music for many will become a hobby. The money is coming back a little bit with streaming, so we’re not as bad off as we were five or ten years ago. On the other hand, you’re not beholden to record companies and you’re not beholden to radio. Now, you can have a career without record companies and without having Top 20 hits.

Code-R Productions Presents: Five for Fighting with String Quartet on Sunday, May 8 at the Lyric Theatre. Tickets to the 8 p.m. show can be purchased at www.lyricbham.com.

Lady Sings The Blues: A Conversation with Samantha Fish

By Brent Thompson

Photo courtesy of the artist

For more than a decade, Samantha Fish has been a torchbearer for the blues. But on her latest release, Faster (Rounder Records), the vocalist/guitarist expands her sound with the help of producer and collaborator Martin Kierszenbaum (Sting, Lady Gaga, Keane, Feist). On Wednesday, April 20, Fish will perform at Saturn. Recently, Fish spoke with us by phone from a tour stop in Albany, New York.

Southern Stages: Samantha, thanks for your time. We are looking forward to your return to Birmingham.

Samantha Fish: We like Saturn a lot – Saturn is a fun venue and they’ve got some cool stuff going on in there. I like Birmingham a lot, too.

Southern Stages: We are really enjoying Faster. How did the album’s body of material take shape?

Fish: To be honest, it was mostly new compositions. I do have some stuff that I’ve put together over the years, but when I start a new record I end up putting a lot of stuff in the trash bin and just start over. Writing feels fresh and feels new and your older stuff that you wrote a couple of years ago just doesn’t feel right for some reason. So this record specifically started from scratch – I spent a good year working on it. It was not a rushed process – I had all the time in the world off.

Southern Stages: I was going to ask how you spent your time during the lockdown, but I think you just addressed it.

Fish: There wasn’t much else to do [laughs]. You better make some use out of your time.

Southern Stages: How would you describe your writing process?

Fish: I wish I could tell you there was a really methodical process because that would help me tap into better each time. Really, you just get what you can. Sometimes you start with a melody – I’ll have a melody stuck in my head and I don’t know if it’s a guitar riff or a vocal melody or a bass line, but it’s something and you start from there. It’s like a seed you plant and you start working off of that. Other times, I’ll have pages and pages of written lyrics and I want to put the stories to some kind of music and I’ll try to come up with a chord structure to bounce around behind it. I think my most successful songs are the ones that have a key melody that people can really latch onto. That’s something I’m really trying these days to focus on – hook-writing and writing stories that appeal to everybody.

Southern Stages: How did you end up working with Martin Kierszenbaum on the new album?

Fish: He called me through some mutual friends in Kansas City – he has a Kansas City connection and I’m originally from there. He just reached out and told me he appreciated my work and we got to talking over the summer of 2020. He has so many incredible albums under his belt and it’s stuff that’s different from what I’ve done. I really wanted the opportunity to work with somebody who has all these massive pop credits to their name, but also figure out how to marry what I do with what they do. It was just a great opportunity for me to challenge myself and that’s how it came about. We started working really hard together via Zoom – I  met him in October in Kansas City but it was still in pretty heavy lockdown. So, we started collaborating over Zoom and he was overseas working on an album and he’d get on Zoom calls with me at like 2 a.m. and we’d be fleshing out these songs and putting all the work in before we went to the studio. We really worked really fast and really well together – he’s a really energetic person and he really charged me up and I think we did some good work together.

Southern Stages: As a guitarist, are you someone that combs music stores to build your collection or do you basically stick with what you have?

Fish: I do have the desire. I walked by a guitar shop last night – we played a gig in Northampton and I walked around the town a little bit. There was this beautiful-looking Mom-and-Pop guitar store – you never see those anymore. The reason I don’t really go gear shopping anymore is that a lot of those great little spots are gone. I like what I have and I always get leery when someone tries to sell me something, but I am feeling the itch for something new.

Southern Stages: How many guitars do you take out on the road?

Fish: Let me count…I guess I’m at six right now. I have a cigar box that’s always in open-G (tuning) and I have another guitar that I’ve been using that’s in open-D.

Southern Stages: You are closely associated with the blues genre, but your sound is more expansive than just blues. Do you ever feel pigeonholed by the blues label?

Fish: I think as an artist it’s our job to make music and connect with our fans. I’m always aiming to widen the audience, but I also try to speak to the fans and express myself and get some joy out of it and make something that I feel proud of. As an artist, you’re just trying to make good music – it’s up to the labels and your manager to figure out what to call it and how to sell that to people. There’s so much music out there across the board and I think it’s a struggle to keep up. It’s an exciting time to live in as an artist because you don’t necessarily have to fall into those six categories the radio allows. We have the beautiful Internet to thank for that.

Southern Stages: I’m so glad you touched on the Internet. Some artists say now is a great time given instant accessibility to listeners and numerous outlets. Others say the current model makes it challenging to be found among the crowd. How do you view the current climate?

Fish: It’s a constant evolution. The music business that I entered into when I started my career is not the same music business that exists today. If you kind to expect to fall in the same pattern – it doesn’t exist like that anymore. I’ve been lucky to have a team to facilitate my albums and my tour schedule and all of that, but it’s a challenge for all of us to evolve and keep up with the current times. It used to be you’d put out an album every two years and get by with that, but now you have to continue to feed people. I’m going to be telling someday someday, “Oh, it was like this before,” but they’re never going to know so it’s all about perspective. It’s a bummer that your albums don’t mean anything monetarily liked they used to – anybody can go and stream it or steal it online. You just realize that this is where we’re at now.

Southern Stages: You’ve been releasing albums for more than a decade. How do songs stay fresh to you after you’ve performed some of them hundreds of times?

Fish: Life experience definitely helps [laughs]. There are songs that I wrote early in my career and I’m like, “I’ve actually lived this now – I don’t know how I wrote about it, but I’ve actually lived it and it hurts in a whole new way.” But re-imagining the music is how I keep stuff fresh – let’s still put [a song] in the live set, but let’s play it differently to keep it fun and keep it fresh. I really get into transition – like how can we artfully transition from an old song into one of these new songs. I like to take something old and something new and say, “All of this stuff does actually belong together.” It’s all centered around blues music and live instrumentation and that’s fun.

Samantha Fish will perform at Saturn on Wednesday. April 20. Django will open the 8 p.m. show. Advance tickets to the 18+ show are $22 and can be purchased at www.saturnbirmingham.com.