Folk musician Sam Carter heads in to Home Waters at The Spring Arts Centre, Havant
The advance publicity for Sam Carter’s latest album Home Waters described it as ‘the search for belonging in turbulent times’.
When that was put out in early 2020, the award-winning folk singer-songwriter had no idea quite how prescient it would prove to be.
His previous album, 2016’s How The City Sings, had been an extended ode to his then home town of London.
Shortly after its release, the East Midlands-native moved up to Sheffield.
‘I just fancied a change and I still wanted city life but I also wanted to get out to The Peaks and one day, in the glimmer of hope, that I might actually be able to buy a place to live and not just be a starving artist forever – I’d still be an artist, but maybe not be starving!
‘It's been interesting to see how that's affected the way I've been writing and what's come out in the recent album – it's been good.’
How does he feel a year on from Home Waters’ release – and that tagline?
‘Nobody could have predicted how on the nose that was going to be,’ Sam laughs. ‘I think the songs have connected maybe in a particular way because of that – it's a funny one, but it's definitely felt like some sort of anchor.
‘And it's definitely a more soothing album generally than How The City Sings, which was a bit more fraught.
‘This one, if anything, is a bit more relaxed, it's got the strings on there, it's more acoustic – the electric guitar doesn't flare up so much on this one. I guess it's just a product of where you are in every respect, the music you make.
‘This was the atmosphere of the music I was making this time. If I was making it six months later, a) I might not have been able to make it, b) it probably would have sounded quite different!’
One major change in the sound of Home Waters, Sam’s fourth album, is the addition of a string quartet.
‘I just heard things differently. I've always brought bands in to work with on my solo stuff – it's always been drums and bass and that kind of layered up sound.
‘But I started thinking I'd make it a bit more stripped down – maybe lose the drums and a large part of the bass, and just see if the guitar could have a bit more space and what that would be like. I started thinking about strings because the songs seemed to lend themselves to that sound.
‘I tend to write quite visually – the lyrics are often quite image-based, so something about the sound of the strings and a string quartet generally have got that cinematic atmosphere to them, and I felt that would offset some of the imagery quite well.
‘The other big factor is that I worked with a guy called Ian Stephenson who's a producer who lives in Northumberland.
‘He owns this lovely little studio and he worked with this string quartet recently, so when I was suggesting to him and we were talking through ideas for the album, he said, I know who would be perfect for this.
‘A lot of the sound of the album is that particular studio which is an old converted church with a great acoustic sound – and then that quartet.
‘As with everything, there was a bit of envisioning a way to go, and quite a lot of things just happening and coming together!
There was, naturally, a tour booked to promote Home Waters last spring. It of course, never happened.
‘It's been a difficult time, but I got straight on to the livestreaming thing and did a livestream album launch instead which went really well.
‘Then over the summer I was involved in a project called Global Music Match which was a global social media artists' collaboration, crazy thing, which was a lot of fun.
‘That got my face out in different places.
‘This now is the reschedule of the rerescheduled tour – it's something like four tours down the line but this will be my first gig back post-lockdown at The Spring.’
While Sam says he can’t wait to get out there again, the experience of the past year, livestreaming and online gigs have given him a new perspective.
‘I love the live experience,’ he says.
‘It reminds me why I do what I do when I get to play in front of people and get that immediacy of reaction from the crowd – and that's all wonderful, but it's opened my eyes to the idea that, well, a lot of people, even at the best of times, can't make it to gigs. They might find it diffcult for a myriad of reasons, so it's a way of extending the reach of what musicians do. It has different possibilities, you can edit out all of the guitar retuning I usually do for starter!
‘I think livestreaming’s probably going to be here to stay now and we're going to see a blended approach to gigging that people will perhaps do the two things simultaneously.
‘I dread to think what would have happened if the pandemic had happened 15 years ago when everyone was still on dial-up internet – it would have been a very painful year, so you've got to be grateful that it was even possible for people to livestream from home.’
And Sam’s already planning to put this into action. He’s got a full tour lined up for autumn, and two shows with the strings – one of which will be a high-quality livestream
The other project Sam has become associated with is the more folk-rock False Lights, which he put together with Jim Moray and has so far released two critically acclaimed albums.
‘It's been on hold for various reasons – Jim and I have both been working on solo stuff, Jim's partner has just had a baby so he's had other things to think about – but we're still scheming away and planning in the background.
‘There's nothing imminent planned for the moment, but the conversations are being had...’
The Spring Arts Centre, Havant
Saturday, June 5
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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