Heartstrings Interview

GlobalFest 2015 & the Multifolk Singer: An Interview with Sam Lee

Written by Lauren Jahoda/Interview by Andrew Kase

Before he was a Mercury Prize nominated folk singer, Sam Lee‘s titles included trained visual artist, teacher of wilderness survival and burlesque dancer. Since Lee’s career shift 6+ years ago, he has released his debut album, Ground of Its Own (2012), to critical acclaim and is gearing up for his second full-length release — The Fade in Time. Lee’s additional honors include his reception of the 2011 Arts Foundation Award, which, by his selection, stood as the first time folk music was honored among the art forms. He is also veteran promoter and one of the founding members of The Nest Collective/BBC Folk Club of 2010, which began in 2006 out of their need to create and build an environment in London, where folk music can be found and flourish.

Sam Lee will be in NYC this weekend, as part of GlobalFest’s much-anticipated and eclectic line-up. At Sunday’s show, Lee’s modern, transatlantic folk sounds will be heard among a brassy Afrobeat orchestra from Brazil, Hawaii’s King of Swing, gospel funk from Texas and much more. GlobalFest is an independent non-profit organization in its 12th year, transforming our wintery Januarys into vibrant multicultural celebrations.

In anticipation of Sunday’s festivities, we interviewed Sam Lee to catch a glimpse into the background of this accomplished musician, artist, teacher, traveler, survivalist…have I left anything out?…and all around, down-to-earth guy, as you’ll get to know as you read on.

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Andrew Kase: Was music a large part of your childhood?

Sam Lee: Mum and dad brought me up on a diet of Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Beatles, skiffle, lots of opera and classical music… but as a kid Michael Jackson was my hero and the music I really loved.

Can you name some of the folk songs and artists that inspired you from the beginning?

The songs came first for me. I remember hearing ‘Whiskey in the Jar’  (aka Kilgary Mountain) as a kid and as I grew older, each line in the song started to make sense: appreciation of fine whiskey, fast carriages (cars) and courting pretty women. The singer that grabbed me first was really Jeannie Robertson the Scottish Traveller who just blew me away with the recordings Alan Lomax made of her.

How about some of the songs and artists being created by others today?

I’m a great fan of your very own Sam Amidon who never fails to amaze with his alternative and daring approach to American old song … a complete genius in my opinion.

How do you write music? Is it usually in the comfort of your home or is it a spontaneous act and can happen at any time, anywhere? Both? In other words, what’s your song writing process?

It’s more about arrangement and that is so different with each song … so much of my work is about responding to the world around me and other music I hear live or at home or from the sound worlds that are all about us … it’s a process of constant foraging and gathering, like in the wilderness work I do.

What are your plans for 2015? Any New Year resolutions?

2015 is all about new album, The Fade in Time, which comes out later in the year, and seeing what the Americans think of this alternative British folk thing…feedback most welcome…:)

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Sam has launched a Pledge Music campaign to fund the release of The Fade in Time, as he humbly explains:

Hi Guys,

I’m pleased to say my second album ‘The Fade In Time’ is finally recorded, visioned, cooked and almost ready to be released. It’s been an incredible learning journey making it along with ‘The Friends’; joyful, challenging, but always a privilege and the songs are, in my opinion, fresh, unique and unlike any other traditional folk album. I can’t wait for you all to hear it. But to actually get it made and out there and fulfill the last hurdle of it’s journey I want to ask you to join me and be part of it’s birth.

Learn more about Sam and his upcoming album, and contribute, by visiting the campaign hereThe Fade in Time is available for pre-order, along with “unique items and experiences, with free, exclusive bonus content.” Sam’s performance at this year’s GlobalFest begins at 8:00 PM, January 11th at Webster Hall.

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