Sammy Brue + Pearl Charles - The Bishop123 S. Walnut St Bloomington,IN
08/11/2018 9:00 PM - 08/11/2018 11:00 PM
"Stories are all around us, and I’m listening to people even when they think I'm not," states Sammy Brue. "If I get to the emotion of it, I can find the words.”
Realism and storytelling are qualities that are prominent on I Am Nice, the 15-year-old Utah singer-songwriter's New West debut. The 12-song album—produced by Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes and John Paul White of the Civil Wars—shows the young troubadour to be a timeless talent whose catchy compositions embody the sort of wisdom, empathy and insight that's usually associated with more experienced songwriters.
On such distinctive originals as "I Know," "Was I the Only One," "I Never Said" and "Control Freak," Brue demonstrates a rare knack for placing himself in the shoes of others, real or fictionalized, and writing melodically inventive, emotionally resonant stories about them. No wonder he's been hailed as an "Americana prodigy" by Rolling Stone and as a "wunderkind" by American Songwriter, as well as receiving early attention from The New Yorker The Wall Street Journal, The Fader, and more.
Sammy Brue has been writing songs since the age of 10. After receiving an acoustic guitar from his father for Christmas, he quickly embraced the instrument and began learning the songs of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. Within two months, he'd written his first original, pointedly titled "The Woody Guthrie Song."
"My dad would always play Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie in the car when I was younger," Sammy explains. "So when I first discovered the radio, when I was around six, I was surprised that that kind of music wasn't on the radio. When I started making music myself, I wanted it to have that old sound, because that's what I grew up with and that's what I love.
"My dad got me an electric guitar when I was super-duper-young, and I just wasn't that into it," he continues. "So I asked him for an acoustic guitar, and for some reason that changed everything for me. I started learning the chords and wrote my first songs. The authenticity of the acoustic guitar spoke to me more than the huge sound of an electric band."
Demonstrating an impressive level of drive and dedication, Sammy busked at the Sundance film festival when was just 11 years old, performed at the Newport Folk Festival, and opened shows for the likes of Hayes Carll, Lydia Loveless, John Moreland, Lukas Nelson, Lucinda Williams and Asleep at the Wheel. He also released a trio of homespun but remarkably accomplished EPs—The Ghost of Woody Guthrie, The Bootleg Sessions and I Don't Want You to Leave—which helped to spread word of Brue's talent beyond his home state.
"The first EP," he explains, "was my Woody Guthrie phase. The second I recorded in my laundry room, and it was more like what I'm doing now. The third was me producing it and adding kick drum and tambourine and bass—I think that's where I really found myself."
Among the first to champion Sammy's talents was fellow artist Justin Townes Earle, who invited him to open for him after meeting Sammy and his dad on a tour stop, and later featured him on the cover of his 2014 album Single Mothers.
The growing buzz helped Brue to win a recording deal with New West, home of such Americana icons as Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle and John Hiatt. Recording I Am Nice in Florence, Alabama, Sammy, along with co-producers Tanner and White, gently augmented his songs with spacious, evocative arrangements that showcase the strength and substance of his lyrics and melodies.
"It was just a great experience," Sammy recalls, admitting, "I was nervous at first, because I'd never recorded an actual album with real professionals and I didn't know what to expect. But eventually I told myself 'This is your album, this is what you want to do for the rest of your life,' and that's when I pulled into another gear.
"Two days into the recording, me and John Paul White and Ben Tanner were best friends. It was so easy, because we were all on the same page, so I didn't feel too nervous to say 'let's add this' or 'let's take this out and try something else.' I expected John Paul to be a very serious, strict person, but he was an even bigger goofball than me. That made the whole experience a lot easier.
With his first full album in hand and his first national tour in the offing, Sammy Brue is matter-of-fact about taking his next musical steps.
"The whole idea of music, for me, is to make people feel certain emotions, and make them feel like I'm singing to them." he states. "When people tell me they feel that way, it gives me a lump in my throat. There's endless possibilities to music, and I can't wait to learn more about it and find new hooks and new ways that chords go together.
"I'm lucky enough to have found the thing that I want to do for the rest of my life," he concludes. "It's kind of funny, because my friends and my family all see me as a goofy teenager who can't take anything seriously, but I'm very serious about music."
Pearl Charles lives in the moment, seeking excitement whether it leads her down a dark, dusty road or into the arms of a trouble-making lover. Her full-length debut album, Sleepless Dreamer, describes late night revelry, love affairs, running away and running towards, serenading the sunrise through whirlwind stories of her native Los Angeles, the city, the canyon, the desert, and the road. On a quest to discover the truest version of herself, Charles embraces the feeling of not being settled, a person who always restlessly wants more from life and is willing chase it, wherever it may lead her.
Sleepless Dreamer finds her soulful, often sultry voice gliding through songs tinged with cosmic Americana, a little disco, some classic rock & roll, and a whole lot of that smooth AM gold. Passion, psychedelics and heartbreak inform the highs and lows she rides through the album. Finally able to see clearly through the smoke and mirrors of her surroundings, Charles departs on a consequent journey of questioning and soulsearching, eventually hitting the road in the inevitable search for answers.
As heard in the title track, themes of disillusionment and subsequent realization run through to the album. Examined through the lens of relationships, whether it be the one between her and a lover, a friend, a city, the road, the world, or perhaps most importantly, herself, each experiences helps to shape her developing perspective and worldview.
On “All The Boys,” she contemplates the cyclical nature of toxic attraction. Funky stand-out “Night Tides” looks at the illusion a person presents in the beginning of a romance, only to reveal their true colors once they’ve lured you in. She recognizes the pattern of being drawn to a tempting yet toxic muse over and over, but admits it fuels her creatively.
While many of the songs revolve around romance, they are juxtaposed with more existential/philosophical tracks like “Ghost” and “Only In America”, examining the meaning of life and what plagues her generation of disaffected youth.
Arriving January 2018 on Kanine Records, Sleepless Dreamer was produced and engineered by Kenny Woods (formerly of Beck) at the Haas Brothers studio in West Adams, CA. After working together on some covers for Aquarium Drunkard’s Lagniappe Sessions series last summer, Charles knew Woods was the right person to collaborate with on her full-length album.
Enlisting an all-star band of friends, the album features the work of Father John Misty’s Chris Dixie Darley (guitar), Dan Bailey (drums), Eli Thompson (bass), and David Vandervelde (guitar), Darian Zahedi (guitar) of CRX, Connor “Catfish” Gallaher (pedal steel) of Calexico, Drew Erickson (keys) of Roger Waters, and Maxim Ludwig (guitar). Additional writing collaborators include Stephen McBean (Black Mountain), Jonathan Rice, Jonathan Tyler (Nikki Lane), Carrick Moore-Gerety, and Brian Harding.
Charles has been playing music since she was five years old. At 18, she formed country duo The Driftwood Singers with Christian Lee Hutson, singing and playing guitar and autoharp. At 22, she joined garage rock band The Blank Tapes as drummer. After two fun-filled years immersed in the rock and roll lifestyle, she decided it was time to pursue her own songwriting, and began developing the songs that formed 2015’s eponymous debut EP on Burger Records. Her music career has been a chronological progression from old time music to 60’s garage and psychedelia, and now more 70’s country rock and 80’s smooth rock. Drawn to catchy, poppy hooks and choruses, Charles draws on what she loves about each era while developing her unique style as a musician, singer, and songwriter.