Last March Samantha Fish was on a whirlwind tour in support of her 2019 release Kill Or Be Kind on Rounder Records. She was set to play the Heights Theater in the spring but the show, along with many others, was canceled due to COVID-19.
Almost exactly a year later, Fish is getting her chance to play the historic venue which has managed to keep a string of socially distant indoor and masked shows in the past few months. She will be performing there on Sunday, March 28 for an early and late show.
“It’s been a weird year for traveling musicians,” says the artist from her home in New Orleans. “This is the primary way that we do business so it's been interesting but nice to finally get some movement again.”
Fish and her team had to rethink their approach to the road as venues began re-opening around the country with each state having different rules and most venues having the freedom to continue to enforce the safety measures they see fit.
“The primary goal is to keep everybody safe but then try to do this thing that we all know and love to do so after going out and seeing that you can in fact do it and it does work. I feel better about it, but I was pretty scared back in October.”
“I know there's some new rules in Texas and I’m a little bit worried about that but we've been keeping in close communication with the venues about how we can best keep everybody safe and make this a fun time so that we can come back and do it again because really, that's the goal.”
Fish has been clear with her management, venues and fans that her main goal is to keep everyone safe while doing what she does best, performing. In an effort to keep her goal of safety, Fish wants to keep her shows socially distant and masked for the time being.
In another effort to do her part to decrease the spread of COVID, Fish has recruited local New Orleans musicians to back her up for her shows, keeping the band as a trio versus the usually large bands made up of musicians from all over she has used in the past.
Living in New Orleans not only gives her access to high quality musicians to form her band, but it also provides an environment which encourages creativity. “There's a lot of inspiration all around,” she says of the Big Easy. “It’s conducive for keeping your mind churning out songs, creative thoughts and musical parts.”
Originally from Kansas City, Fish has been working hard over the past decade to build up her live show, grow her fan base and craft her sound, which though based in the blues is constantly evolving.
“It’s such a weird time to be an artist because social media is such a heavy part of what we do in getting people's attention and introducing people to who we are and there's so much new stuff that comes out all the time,” says Fish.
“It's been interesting mixing that old school, we’re on the road going town to town, with this new social media. These things kind of aid each other but I appreciate that it's been a long haul and I hope that it continues to be that. I want to do this forever, this is my life,” she adds.
For an artist who is usually on non-stop tours, the past year provided Fish with a rare downtime to focus on writing new songs which she recorded in December of 2020 and plans to release this year.
Though promotion for Kill Or Be Kind was suddenly interrupted, Fish is at ease with what she and her band were able to accomplish during the time before the shutdown saying, “I really feel like I was okay with moving forward and writing something new. It generally felt natural moving forward.”
Fish has never shied away from veering off the obvious path or from taking chances in her music. She is mostly known as a blues player but with each album she has added different elements.
She laughs as she describes touring in support of her two 2017 albums which saw her “marrying” her more Americana album, Belle Of The West (produced by Luther Dickinson) with her collection of ‘50s and ‘60s R&B cover songs in Chills & Fever where she found herself on stage with not only a brass section but also a fiddle player.
She used her 2017 experience to write the songs on Kill Or Be Kind with her song, "American Dream" serving as the perfect example of the "marrying" of influences as the down home bluesy song surprises listeners with a flute and fiddle solo.
“It's fun for me to be able to shift and evolve record to record. I can allow myself the opportunity to evolve because at the end of the day that’s what you're supposed to do as an artist and as long as you're true to yourself, hopefully it'll be true to your fan base.”
“I can't deny that there are some people that would prefer something else but I always say, just wait till the next record and maybe you'll get it,” she adds with a laugh.
“I don't mind taking chances and I don't mind stepping outside of my comfort zone,” says Fish though she admits change can also be frightening in addition to exhilarating. “It’s helped me thus far. I'm excited about this new record because it's probably the biggest change thus far, but it's still 100 percent just me.”
“This new one has definitely got a little bit more of a pop edge to it and I know people always think pop is a dirty word, but I always say The Rolling Stones were pop too back in the day so let's take the dirtiness out of the word. It’s still bluesy, it’s rock and roll and it’s exciting. I think exciting is the most important word to describe it.”
Though Fish isn’t afraid to experiment, she never forgets her blues origins. Not only has she been awarded many honors in the Independent Blues Awards, but she has also sat in with legendary bluesman Buddy Guy twice, a memory she hopes to recreate and says she will cherish forever.
“I've never tried to say that I'm a traditional blues artist. I’ve never been that but I've always tried to bring blues to what I do and I always tried to talk about the artists that have inspired me and hopefully spread some awareness on this older generation of blues music that I think is really important for people to visit and to check out because it's the building block for everything, it’s where all of our music comes.”
The blues, like many genres, may seem like a man’s world but Fish has earned her seat at the table with the best of them with her guitar and vocal talents. When asked about her perspective on the female experience in the music industry, Fish says “I always bring it back to this because I feel this comes up a lot in a lot of dialogues just being a female in the music industry, but I just equate it with being a female in the workforce in general.”
“I think it's definitely a different field to navigate than if I was a male artist, but I wouldn't trade it for the world because I think being a female and having this perspective on life is something that I do think people want to hear from women writers. I think they want to hear women's voices, it’s a matter of giving them the microphone to do it.”
Samantha Fish will perform Sunday, March 28 at The Heights Theater, 339 W. 19th. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for the early show and 8:15 p.m. for the late show, both are sold out.
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