To know Sammy Crawford is to know a pensive, mild-mannered being. He is sweet to both the eye and ear, but there is more layering beneath.
The Louisiana musician made the trek to New York City a few years ago. The effect has allowed him to turn a darker shade of intrigue, which is a very enjoyable thing.
Sammy is sensitive, romantic and, without hiding behind his exposing lyrics, damaged. Damaged by love, damaged by fear, essentially damaged by the self. Before allowing his musical wings to flap, Sammy was very much in a dark place.
But he persisted.
Now, his new album Gotta Get Ready is an invitation to visit alongside the journey which ruptured the wall existing between him and the rest of the world. As his last album tried to be inclusive, it was simply too introverted. Sammy was frank but coy and it was not until this project where he is honest and not making apologies for it.
That is the biggest difference between the two albums; Sammy is no longer hiding. Perhaps, New York City's buzz really got him running. Perhaps, his past relationship allowed him to accept the happiness he longed to experience. Perhaps, after being diagnosed with Lyme disease and approaching healing from a holistic point opened new doors. Perhaps, it was simply time to let go.
The joy of the shared path is that inspiration can be taken not only to start a-new and step onto the scariest of paths (The Big Apple, anyone?), but also to understand the shared quest for love, art, happiness, and above all, contentment.
Sammy is playing a free show at Pianos Upstairs Lounge on January 5th. The show starts at 7PM.
Also, see more about Eric Himan's tour, which stops in Virginia.
Read more about Sammy Crawford:
How would you say you feel right now? What is pushing you to do and try the things you are doing now?
Right now I feel optimistic about the year ahead. I'm going into all of it with an open mind; though I have already started writing for a new album I am absolutely open to other possibilities. From collaborations to possibly writing a musical score. I don't want to limit myself at the moment.
As for what's pushing me to do all of it, I think more than ever I am excited to be in a position for people to hear me. It drives me to write more honestly, authentically than ever before. If people are listening, then I don't want to hold back. There is a reason I have this voice, and I want to use it in a meaningful way, to make it important for anyone who chooses to be a part of that.
Can you describe what NYC means to you? How do you feel being in the city has changed your person? Your craft?
NYC is exhilarating. There are days when I would love to get away from people, noise, chaos, but I do my best to ride that feeling like a wave. Because the upswing is always so wonderful. Those days when my eyes are wide open, when I know I could never get enough of it. Living here has helped me come out of my shell as an individual and as an artist. One of the first things I had to learn how to do when I moved here was to speak up; I've always been a quiet and soft spoken guy. Something so simple as yelling my coffee order across a crowded room full of people at Starbucks is always a good reminder that hey, I can use my voice and use it loudly. Which quickly translates into, 'hey, I can be real with my music now'.
What do you recognize as the biggest struggle of making music? Are you a fan of digital releases in comparison to physical content?
For me, the biggest struggle of making music continues to be the business/promotion side of things. I think it's wonderful that the internet has made possible exposure for so many independent artists, but this also overwhelms potential new listeners with options. I think the biggest roadblock for an artist then becomes finding a way to stand out without resorting to anything gimmicky or simply attention-getting.
In many ways I think digital releases are great; they are relatively easy and inexpensive to produce and distribute, and using sites like iTunes makes it pretty simple for anyone to check out my music. I turn nostalgic about physical releases quite often though. I grew up listening to record albums. I loved every step of getting to know a new release, starting with ripping the plastic off the album. My heart would often race as I would anticipate what the graphics on the insert might look like. In many ways it felt more "artistic." A lot of that has been lost in the digital age. I'd love to think that I could put out a release on LP someday and that folks could have that experience with my music, but it doesn't seem likely that would happen.
The new album is out now, what is the most exciting part of completing this project?
The most exciting part is recognizing the heart and soul I put into the writing, recording, engineering this time around. And when I hear the songs, I reflect on the experiences that fueled the lyrics; it makes me realize that this album was years in the making.
Could you walk [us] through the process of making the album? What inspired it? How did you work on it? Who was involved in helping you achieve it?
I wrote all the lyrics and music myself, and this time handled all the recording and engineering as well. The album was inspired by a particularly gloomy fall and winter in New York last year. Ironically, though, I knew I didn't want to release an album full of gloomy songs. I had been digging deep and found a lot of darkness, but began to see how important it is to embrace that darkness in order to feel, and reveal, the light. It's not a lighthearted album, but in so many ways I feel it to be celebratory. This was the first time I decided to try my hand at interpreting other musical instruments through the keyboard, and I'm happy it worked as well as it did. Dana J. White, who mastered my Reality Sets In tracks, handled the mastering again for me this year, and the end result is something I don't think I'll ever stop being excited about.
To date, what is your favorite song you have ever written? What is your favorite song to perform?
My favorite song I've ever written...I'd have to say it's "Fueled by Narcissism," which is the closing track on the album. It started out as a tongue in cheek laugh at myself, because in writing about one's experiences it's so easy for everything to become "me, me, me." But too much "me" in writing doesn't leave room for a very universal experience, one that will allow others to relate. In the end, the song turned into a way for me to stand up and own that "me" part of myself. Which hopefully does make it universal in some way, because everybody has a "me" part. And sometimes it pushes through and insists on being heard.
My favorite song to perform is "Minneapolis" from the last album. It takes on such new life when I'm playing it live. I don't even care for the recorded track, but I close out almost all of my shows with this song now. It's a great energetic way to end a set.
How does this album differ from Reality Sets In?
I didn't hold back so much this time around. Sure, there may be lyrics and ideas that are left open to interpretation, but Reality Sets In was definitely more of a "Who Am I?" album, while Gotta Get Ready is a "Here I Am" album.
What is the most surprising aspect of your life which has changed in the past five years?
I think the most surprising aspect of my life that has changed is concerning my physical health. I was diagnosed with Lyme disease several years ago, and in 2009 decided to embrace a natural route of treatment. My focus on nutrition and holistic healing has helped me realize how much power we have to make our lives better, no matter how tough the challenge. It gives me such strong confirmation of the mind/body connection. The best way I can look at it now is that I'm always challenged to keep moving forward. And most of all, it reminds me every day of how strong I am. It's something that I can embrace and carry over into other aspects of life, and I really hope that can help some folks to seek out and find their own power in the process.
What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?
The best advice I was ever given was from my friend Ken in NYC. Earlier this year he said to me "Just keep doing what you love to do, and the rest will fall into place." I'm glad I listened.
Do you find support in the creative field/music arena? Is there a strong sense of artist camaraderie in NYC?
I think there is always support and camaraderie out there, no matter what city one is working in. It can be a challenge though. I have to push myself to keep getting out, meeting people, staying in the middle of everything. NYC is a competitive place. We can take that and use it as a reason to be cutthroat, to get ahead at all cost, or as a reason to help each other out along the way and grow and flourish together. I strive as much as I can to help make it the latter.
What is an advice you can give someone who struggles with their identity (gender, sexual, etc)?
Loving oneself is a lifelong process, the way I see it. Acknowledge the fears that are there, and don't judge yourself for having them. Go easy on yourself! You are in this world to be who you are, not to be who anyone else might need or want you to be. Take a chance and be you. It's all worth it.
What is as an advice you can give someone interested in becoming a recording, touring or full-time musician?
Find a way to keep it enjoyable along the way. Find a way to fall in love with it all over again every time the going gets tough. If it ever completely stops being enjoyable, then find something else to do for a living. And I mean that.