Samantha Fish’s ‘Wild Heart’ stays high on the Blues Album chart; catch Fish at Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas

Photo by Jerry Moran/Native Orleanian
Photo by Jerry Moran/Native Orleanian

Samantha Fish is hot. The 26-year-old from Kansas City is experiencing unprecedented success with her third album, “Wild Heart,” which spent time atop the Billboard Chart for Blues Album.

The album was produced by Luther Dickinson and recorded at four studios: Royal Studio and Ardent Studio in Memphis; Zebra Ranch in Coldwater, Mississippi, founded by the late and legendary Jim Dickinson, father of Luther and Cody Dickinson; and drummer Brady Blade’s studio Shreveport, Louisiana.

“Samantha really rose to the occasion,” Dickinson told Tahoe Onstage. “She wrote great songs and performed her heart out.”

Fish collaborated with Nashville songwriter Jim McCormick on five of the album’s 12 tracks.  We were able to catch Fish on the phone for this interview as she traveled from Kansas City to her next show.

Q: “Wild Heart” is less blues and more country and rock that your first two albums. Why?

A: I let my own interests creep in on this one and quit focusing so much on this one on fitting into what I think people want me to fit into. This was more about finding my own voice. I think you grow into that.

Samantha Fish album cover

Q: Is it true you recorded the album in seven days at four studios around a bunch of shows?

A: The timeline was a little bit muddy. It happened pretty fast … but that’s what you are dealing with when you are dealing with people who are working musicians. Luther is crazy busy. Just getting everybody’s schedule to line up for that was a miracle in itself.

Q: Luther’s fingerprints seem to be everywhere.

A: He’s getting around, and he’s the guy to call. His playing is incredible and it’s no wonder why everybody wants him to be a part of their project because he’s got this really creative mind. No matter what he does, he’s got a really great approach.

Q: You’ve had amazing people around you before but it must be almost surreal to cut a record with a rhythm section of Brady Blade on drums and Luther on bass.

A: Yeah, I was a little freaked out. I was sweating it because I was a fan of Luther’s for years, so that was a huge deal. Then getting to play with Brady and the people he’s played with and the stuff that he’s done is just incredible. I was a little nervous going in there, but they made me feel right at home. We tried to cut everything as live as possible with vocals included on the guitar parts. Basically, we just got in there as a band and cut it. You can hear on the tracks that Brady’s laughing, just having a good time. It was just a really live-feeling record.

Q: What did you learn from the experience of making “Wild Heart?”

A: I learned a lot. I worked with a songwriter for the first time, Jim McCormick out of Nashville. I learned about watching somebody else and collaborating because I’ve always been stubborn about writing on my own. And just working with Luther and Brady, they have such a relaxed, natural approach. I think that really lends itself to making good-feeling records. It will lose the energy if you go back and cut it a thousand times. There has to be an element of the tension and not being too sure about where it’s going to go. I think there’s a magic there. I think the most important thing I learned was to trust my intuition, use my own voice and to say what I need to say. As a musician and an artist, that’s your biggest job. Every time you go into the studio, it’s a huge learning experience.

Q: Did Jim McCormick play a role in letting your country side come out?

A: Absolutely. I had a great chemistry with Jim. We ended up co-writing five of the 10 original songs on the album. He’s written some huge hits for some country megastars. So to work with somebody like that is really humbling. … He works on lyrics a lot. He had me focus on telling stories. That’s a basic part of country music and blues music, the storytelling aspect of songwriting.

Q: What was Lightnin’ Malcolm’s role?

A: There were two songs on the album where we took a side session at Luther’s studio, his father’s studio in Mississippi, and that was where Shardé Thomas and Lightning Malcolm showed up. We did this acoustic string band session and we ended up doing two songs on the album, the Charlie Patton and Junior Kimbrough songs. I’ve known Malcolm for years. He was one of the first people I met (in Mississippi.) He was so encouraging. That really touched me. I don’t even think he knows what a big deal that was for me. I was 17 or 18. To come back and do this and have him sit in on the album, it was like coming full circle. It was really cool.

Q: Was Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City to you like Antone’s in Austin was to Stevie Ray Vaughan? Did you grow up playing there?

A: Yeah, definitely. It was my Antone’s. I started going there when I was like 17. My dad would accompany me because I was a minor. I used to work in a pizza shop and would deliver pizzas and I would come up there and that was my way of bartering my way into a lot of these shows. I’d come over after work and I brought them whatever they wanted. It’s funny. A lot of pictures people still use, I’m 18 or 19 and I’m jamming with Mike Zito or Michael Burks and I am covered in flour and pizza sauce. I used to sit in when I was a kid. They’d introduce me. A lot of the friends I have now, I wouldn’t have anything if weren’t for Knuckleheads.

Related story: Album review of Samantha Fish’s “Wild Heart” LINK
Related story: Lightnin; Malcolm’s Hill Country Tradition with modern day accoutrements LINK
Related story: North Mississippi Osborne takes mountain town to new heights LINK

  • Big Blues Bender
    When: Sept. 10-13
    Where: Las Vegas Plaza Hotel and Casino
    Website: http://www.bigbluesbender.com
    Artists: Samantha Fish, Buddy Guy, Walter Trout, Bobby Rush, Tommy Castro, Joe Louis Walker, Little Ed and the Blues Imperials, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Tab Benoit, Selwyn Birchwood, Mike Zito and the Wheel, Candye Kane, Janiva Magness, Curtis Salgado, Devon Allman, Mitch Woods, the Nick Moss Band and many more.

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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