Samantha Fish on her new band, new album and upcoming gig at the Highline Ballroom
Interview by Jon Kleinman
As Samantha Fish reflected on her career in a mid-town Manhattan juice bar, her relaxed and introspective presence contrasted with the indomitable performer audiences see on stage. “Everything that’s ever worked out for me has been something I just jumped into with both feet,” she recalls. Fish was only a teenager when she began sitting in with musicians at Kansas City’s blues and roots music mecca Knuckleheads Saloon. “At Knuckleheads, I met some of the most nurturing people I’ve ever known. They were like family to me. Founder and manager Frank Hicks was my biggest champion. He put me on stage with acts like Michael Burks, Mike Zito, Tab Benoit and Tommy Castro. Even as a teenager, I felt confident jamming and leading songs.”
Since her 2011 Ruf Records release Runaway, Fish has made a name for herself fronting a tight trio and churning out a high octane mix of blues and rock seasoned with a healthy dose of slide guitar. Recorded in Detroit with a six piece band, Chills and Fever finds Fish exploring new musical territory without losing the passion and grit fans have come to love. “So far everybody loves the new band,” Fish says. “Audiences have been responding well. I’m still playing a lot of guitar, but the great thing about a bigger band is that I can put more energy into singing. With the trio, I was the only lead instrument. The songs from Chills and Fever are so soulful – they require focus and just the right delivery.” A two piece horn section from New Orleans helps Fish’s new band achieve a fuller sound. “Mark Levron (trumpet) and Travis Blotsky (saxophone) are such dynamic, tasteful players – they know exactly what type of musical mood to create. Their playing never clashes with the rest of the band. They’re professionals, and know that not every song is about tearing the roof off.”
While Chills and Fever is lighter on the guitar slinging than Fish’s earlier work, fans can still look forward to plenty of soloing and extended jams on stage. “We’ve been stretching out a lot,” Fish says. “Every night is a little different. That type of musical chemistry can’t be created in rehearsals. It comes from going at it in front of an audience night after night.” Samantha Fish’s powerhouse vocals and guitar alongside a band with deep rock and soul roots is a winning combination. Friday’s album release party at New York’s Highline Ballroom is a chance to see a rising star in action.