Sam Lambeth – He’s a little bit Country he’s a little bit Rock N Roll

Look up positive vibes in any dictionary and I’m sure there will be a
picture of Sam Lambeth. Ask anyone on the indie community socials about Sam and
they will all say the same – supportive, positive, friendly, hugely talented
with songs to match.

But what do we know about this one-man music machine – is he our Tom Petty
in waiting? The troubadour we all want and need? Well on the eve of the release
of his album that pulls together several his great songs I decided to find out.
What follows is an interview with the man himself and my thoughts on the said
album.

So, who are you?  What do you do and where are you from?

I’m still working that out ;).

I’m a singer-songwriter from Wolverhampton, England. I was born in
Willenhall, which is very much an industrial, working-class town in the Black
Country, but I now live in Codsall.

Describe your sound in a few words?

Four chords, one voice and no plan B.

When did you start playing the guitar/instruments?

I was 13, I think. It had been bubbling under the surface for a while. I’d
really gotten into guitar music at that point – I was religiously watching VH2,
MTV2 and The Amp (god, how I miss those music channels). I was buying NME every
week and Q Magazine every month (well, my mother was). I was being educated.
Playing guitar was the natural next step.

Interestingly – for me, I suppose, thinking about it now – I never thought
about any other instrument. Maybe I’m just vain and attention seeking, but I
only ever wanted to sing and play guitar and be a frontman.

I was into mod culture at the time – Weller/OCS, and I even grew the sides
of my hair long in that mod haircut style – so the first guitar I bought was a
white semi-acoustic guitar with a mod target on.

It was a beautiful guitar and served as my main instrument onstage for many
years. I traded it in last year. I miss it, but it wasn’t actually the best
guitar and I’m not as into the mod scene as I was!

The bass kind of came along at the same time, and I picked up bits of piano
and keyboard, too. I started learning mandolin and harmonica over lockdown last
year and that’s been fun for me, but not for my neighbours!

What was the first song you wrote?

There were probably a bunch of lame, derivative offerings during those early
years of playing guitar, but the one I distinctly remember finishing and being
proud of was a song called ‘If I Had Words’.

Lemonheads are a huge influence on me, and Evan Dando’s work really changed
the way I wrote songs. Imagine the songs on their landmark albums in the early
‘90s, and ‘If I Had Words’ follows a very similar vein.

We actually recorded it when I was in my first band, The MonoBloggers, and
it became a sort of raw, punk-pop song a la Buzzcocks or something. But I’d
like to rerecord it as how I first imagined it – a melodic, breezy
rocker.

Who’s your biggest influence and why? – Either personally or
musically.

I’m influenced by artists such as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney,
Elvis Costello, Beck, St Vincent, Lana Del Rey…the list is endless, really. I
would say Springsteen and Tom Petty, too. Maybe even a bit of Eric Clapton and
Beck, also. Sorry, I’ll stop now.

It’s hard to just pick one influence!

All of them, though, have unifying commonalities. One is that they all
experiment and explore. The other is that they do that while retaining what
makes them great.

For me, the sign of a great artist or band is the fact they can push the
boundaries and change their style while keeping their identity.

That’s certainly something I would like to do. I want to try and ensure that
my full-length records are always a bit different and adventurous, but I keep
the melodies and the (hopefully!) catchy choruses.

As a personal influence, my grandad is probably up there. He has always been
hard-working, friendly and down-to-earth, and those are traits I always try to
replicate.

Favourite Song/Album?

Favourite album has always been Revolver by The Beatles. For me,
they’re the greatest band that ever existed and this record is them at the top
of their game.

Favourite song is one that I would really struggle to decide upon. There are
so many that mean a lot to me.

I have a real admiration for songs like ‘Ooh La La’ by the Faces, ‘The
Weight’ by The Band, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ by Bob Dylan and ‘Let It Be’ by The
Beatles. They are songs that continue to resonate.

Another song I love is ‘End of the Line’ by the Travelling Wilburys. The
lyrics are really powerful. One line is “I’m just glad to be here / happy
to be alive,”
and that’s how I try to live my life.

What was it like supporting Evan Dando and We Are Scientists
etc?  Any special memories?

Whoever I play with, I always try to learn something. Sometimes it’s what not
to do, but more often than not there are lessons to be had.

Evan’s one of my heroes so it was a real honour to support both him as a
solo act and with The Lemonheads. He’s a friendly, laidback guy but I was
obviously in awe, so I probably wasn’t very relaxed!

Before Evan went onstage, he was smoking a spliff. It was quite funny cos
the audience were only a few feet away, but they couldn’t see what was going
on. And just as Evan was about to walk on, his manager frantically came running
over instructing him to put it out.

So, it made me chuckle a bit that the audience, cheering Evan on as he
walked on to the stage, had no idea moments before he was having a good old
toke and the spliff was now smoking faintly on the floor.

Supporting We Are Scientists was certainly something I never expected to
happen, either. Keith and Chris, again, were very down-to-earth and friendly. I
asked them if they were playing a song called ‘Central AC’, my favourite by
them, and they said means it’s my fave, they would. They even dedicated it to
me.

They were funny and professional, but more than that, they were genuine and
sincere. They went to extra lengths to make everybody feel welcome, from fans
to bar staff. Genuinely nice guys.

One funny story I have involving them is when I was playing onstage, I said
“it’s an honour to be here, huge fan…but I know most bands will say that and
you guys probably think it’s rubbish, but I can prove it”, and I started
playing the riff to ‘After Hours’.

When I got offstage, Keith was smiling and said well done, then, as a joke,
went serious, pushed me against the wall and said, “if you EVER play one of my
songs onstage again, I will kill you!”

Then he burst out laughing again.

So, what made you go solo?  What’s the best and worst things
about being solo?

No band would have me!

I’m joking…I think. I’d been in numerous bands over the past 12 years, and
most of the time the bands would be fronted by me. I’d write the songs, book
the gigs, do all the schmoozing…maybe that’s why we never got anywhere! 😉

Being a solo artist gives me more freedom. While I was probably the creative
force in my past bands, I never forced them (or I hope I didn’t) into doing
things they didn’t want. Now I don’t have to worry.

In terms of good and bad, the answer is the same – you’re on your own.
There’s no hiding place. The decisions you make are yours alone.

So, it’s the best thing in the sense that there is total liberation there.
You can explore whatever sound you like, not have to worry about getting ideas
through a democratic process and you never have to worry that someone isn’t
putting enough effort in.

But it’s also the worst thing because you do tend to carry the weight of it
all on your own. I know for myself that some days I find it difficult as I
doubt myself and wonder if I’m good enough. I can’t say it’s any different for
bands, but maybe if there were other members sharing the load there’d be people
there to pick me up.

I think it can be hard too as you always feel like you’re ‘on call’ – it can
be hard to switch off in case you miss something. Maybe other bands share the
workload out, I’m not sure.

I will say though that the positives outweigh the negatives, for sure. I
have enjoyed being solo immensely.

What’s your favourite song off your album?

Tough question! They’re like my kids – sometimes they’re a pain in the ass,
but ultimately, they all have their own personalities, and you love them for it.

I honestly feel that each song offers something special, making for a
cohesive collection. It should be listened to, multiple times, in sequence
;).

What are your plans for 2021?  

To be a better person than I was before. It’s the same every year.

I’ve tried to give back as much as I can over the past year and have really
enjoyed the more charitable aspects. I’d like to raise more money for the
concerns I care about – animal cruelty, human rights, sustainability.

One day, I’d love to set up my own foundation, but I wouldn’t even know
where to begin!

In terms of the music, my aim is to build a solid fan base. I hate using
those words – ‘fans’, ‘fan base’ – because it sounds a bit ‘big time Charlie’,
doesn’t it. But, for me, a fan base means you can book gigs and people you
don’t know very well buy tickets. That’s when you’ve kinda made it, in my
opinion.

I am not sure if I am that stage just yet – I guess I’ll find out next time
I book a gig! But I think if I could book a gig and get told “Sam, 20 people
have bought tickets” and when I look at the list it’s people I’ve never heard
of, that would be an amazing feeling…unless it’s a prank! 😉

So, in order to do that, I think it’ll be great to get some great support
slots under my belt. Hopefully, some offers will come my way, and if I choose
sensibly, maybe I can accrue some new followers? We’ll see.

So, yep – world peace, a better earth, more gigs around the UK and the
ability to grow a full beard would be nice.

Finally, if you could sum up 2020 in a word what would it be?

Different!

Thanks Sam – really appreciate your answers and anecdotes.

Ok then what about the album?

The Album is called Love & Exile and is a collection of 7 songs with all
songs written by Sam and Produced and mixed by Ryan Pinson at RML Studios.

Most of the songs, you would have heard of already as Sam has released them
but to pull them altogether under one umbrella, gives the songs a different
view and works cohesively as an album.

The one word I would use to describe this album is rollicking. It’s a great
word and I should use it more often. But it describes Sam’s music perfectly.

None more apt then the first track Dog Days Are-a Comin’ Again which kicks
off in great style – Sam’s excellent country growl with REM Buck type chiming
guitars and harmonica – it’s a brilliant song that I hadn’t heard until this
review – it’s rather great and shows off the talents of Sam to the fore, it
ends perfectly with Sam’s dogs approving bark.

Howd, you find me is the next track up and it’s an upbeat catchy tune with guitars
and mandolins perfectly in sync. It’s got a great organ and a killer chorus.

When Love aint enough and The King (you and me) follow – these are the most
known tracks to me and show a reflective side on the former with Sam singing
about being the other man, left in no mans and hurting – some powerful lyrics
before it builds to the heartfelt chorus. The King is a great country rock bank
– what ever happened to you and me sings Sam – it’s a belter and has turned
many listeners onto his music. It’s the type of song that live would sound
great especially with a crowd singing along.

When I’m with you is a beautiful song again showing off Sam’s tender side
and as a ballad its rather special indeed – it’s got the type of feel to it
that could break through to the mainstream country charts of USA.

The final two songs are The Things you lose on a breeze and The Scenic Route
– The Things is an acoustic and harmonica led track that is reminiscent of Bob
Dylan but easier to digest. For me it really shows of Sam’s great vocals and if
I didn’t know he was from the Midlands I’d swear he was from the deep south of
USA or somewhere similar – not that it’s not authentic – it really is.

Ending on The Scenic Route it’s a 6 min plus closer with organs/piano
drawing you in before Sam starts singing about driving home after finding a
friend. It builds before drums crash in and gets you swaying in your seat (as
I’m writing) – at the 4 min mark, the pace drops with backing vocals giving it
a nice ethereal sound before drums bring the beat back up to its climatic
finish. It’s just a great way to end with hope and good vibes, guitars crashing
before the coda where Sam’s acoustic guitar ends the track and the album.

So, at just under 30 mins there is no reason not to check it out and Sam
should be incredibly happy with the final version – I really enjoyed listening
to it and there is something for everyone regardless of what music genre they
are into.

Go and listen and make sure you share, buy, repeat where you can.

Sam’s album is out on the 28th May but you can listen to his releases so far here:

Let me know what you think.

PNL

Michael

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