Samantha Fish

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

Art comes in many forms, and an artist’s expressions hold no limits. Singer/Guitarist/Songwriter Samantha Fish, along with Singer/Guitarist/Songwriter Jesse Dayton have utilized their extraordinary talents to create an exceptional blues/rock album DEATH WISH BLUES that captures art expression in a way that fans will truly enjoy. Since Fish’s start in 2009, this Blues Music Award winner hasn’t slowed down, and having had the privilege of interviewing her for the release of her last two solo albums Kill or be Kind in 2019 and FASTER in 2021, she continues make a strong mark in the music industry. Now, with this collaboration LP DEATH WISH BLUES released in May 2023, Fish and Dayton are also taking their music on tour, and South Florida fans can experience their new show on December 13th at the Hertz Arena in Estero (with the Steve Miller Band), December 14th at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater (with the Steve Miller Band), December 15th at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale and December 16th at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre in St. Augustine (with the Steve Miller Band).

Catching up with Fish in the midst of the tour, she revealed some details about their new show, the new album, some video background, and some amazing news for fans to look forward to.

SFL Music: You’ve got four dates in Florida. You’re going to be at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale. What can fans look forward to with the new show?
Samantha Fish: Well, I’ll be coming through there with Jesse Dayton and we’re gonna be celebrating the release of our new album. It’s just kind of a new show for me. We’re doing all new songs, and it’s just something different for each of us. Jesse is a solo performer in his own right and so am I. So, I think it’s a really exciting show. It’s fast paced. It’s got a rock and roll edge, but it’s deeply rooted in the blues. I don’t know, I think it’s a lot of fun. I think there’s a lot of energy and everywhere we play, it seems like people respond really, really well to it. It’s a fun time.

SFL Music: The new album that came out in May, DEATH WISH BLUES is amazing! What inspired it?
Fish: Well, Jesse and I had known each other for about twelve years, but we kind of kept up loosely on social media like a lot of musical peers do. I had this idea with my manager for a few years, just kind of floating in the ether of a duet’s album with certain aesthetic and a vibe, but it just kind of floated on the back burner. I saw Jesse performing in New Orleans in May 2022. It was like a light bulb moment. I was like, oh my God! He’d be perfect to take on this album with if he was interested. Thankfully he was. So, we knew what we wanted to do as far as like, we wanted to make something that was kind of edgy and different for both of us, and rock and roll, but also, like I said, kind of rooted in this blues world, but just something with a different characteristic and personality than our solo careers. We brought Jon Spencer in to produce it. He really was like the third member of this collaboration. I feel like I can hear Jon Spencer’s finger prints all over this album. Subsequently, its colored our live show quite a bit, but we wanted to just write really, really great songs, and we kind of had this north star idea that we kept following of what we wanted this to be. We wanted it to be tough and raw and edgy. We kind of wanted to make something that felt almost punk rock inspired, but also rootsy. Once we got into the studio, all the adjectives in the world, all the descriptive terms in the world. Once you get in the studio, that’s where it takes its shape, and the people that you put in the record. We could describe it all we wanted, but once we got into the studio, that’s where the magic happens and those moments are what colors what the album actually is, and we ended up having all this really cool synthesizer and funky clavinet. There’re some elements to the record that are a little funkier than I ever anticipated, but at the end of the day, it’s a snap shot of me and Jesse making something that we felt was really, really exciting. We wanted to write songs about relationships you know, now that you have this different dynamic, whereas like we both write songs from a solo perspective. Now we’ve got each other to kind of bounce these things off of and it becomes more about a story between two people. I think that was kind of the inception of it, and then it just sort of took shape, and we ran with it.

SFL Music: You can hear that on the songs. The song “Dangerous People” really stuck in my head. Also, songs like “Trauma” and “Riders”. What would you say inspired those songs?
Fish: “Trauma” was a song that Jesse brought to the table and we worked on lyrics. What I liked about how we composed these songs is there’s kind of like this classic rock feel. There’s a lot of different sections to the music, where “Trauma”, it’s very much this like upbeat, kind of funky, almost Bee Gees esk song of different elements of it. Then it goes into this like half-time kind of rock and roll freak out in the middle. So, it’s like the song has these different sections, but I know what inspired that song was a toxic relationship really. I mean, the song is about trauma. The trauma that you’re causing me, but I’m never gonna stop loving you. So, I guess, I don’t know, it’s just about co-dependence. I’m not sure (she laughed). It’s just about a toxic relationship and the dynamic within that. “Riders” was something that Jesse and I wrote while we were in the studio. Honestly, that’s probably the most I guess, positive song in a way. It’s not like about some toxic, terrible love story. It’s about him and I together kind of on the road and just sort of like musicians in general. You know, this troubadour lifestyle that we live where it’s like a one-night stand with the cities, night to night to night, but we all have each other and it’s kind of a song about your group, your person in the midst of all this craziness. It’s the one we close out the show with right now, and that’s a pretty cool moment.

SFL Music: I saw the video for “Riders” and how it depicted New York City, then to the countryside of Alabama. Was that what inspired it?
Fish: Yeah, just really traveling. Going from place to place to place and you’re in this whirlwind, and sometimes it’s hard to keep one day straight from another just because you are kind of moving at this very fast pace, but you always have the people that you’re with to share these experiences with. It’s just a song about connection.

SFL Music: The rock ballad “You Know My Heart” you and Jesse wrote, but you wrote “No Apology” which has that slower, bluesy sound. What inspired those types of songs?
Fish: “You Know My Heart” was actually one of the first songs Jesse and I wrote together. He sent me a melody he was working on. It woke him up in the middle of the night and he was like, “don’t laugh at me, but I just have to get this out and send it to you.” That song is cool because again, we sort of have these different sections, and I think that’s what’s made this record so exciting and fun to play is that the sections move. It’s not just like verse, chorus, verse, chorus, the song is done. It’s not always a very for me, a predictable form. They take these kind of exciting turns and that song does musically. It’s a song about a relationship that might be hard. Might not be working all the time, but at the end of the day, you know my heart, you know my intentions, you know where I’m coming from, and that’s what makes us stronger than all these obstacles in our way. “No Apology” is again, it’s a love song. It’s about, I’d rather just not have this fight with you. I’d rather things just be good than need to hear an apology from you. Just a song about a relationship and its ups and downs. Mostly the downs (she laughed).

SFL Music: “Settle for Less”, is it almost like a tongue-in-cheek kind of thing?
Fish: Yeah. I mean, that one is kind of on the nose. It’s sort of about like if you settle for less, you’re gonna get less than you deserve and less than what you’re worth, and that’s just like general in life. It’s not necessarily about like an interpersonal relationship, but I kind of like to think even on some of these songs that are a little bit pessimistic material, they’re about the downside of relationships. I like to think that there’s a little silver lining. A little edge of hope to it. Like “No Apology”, it’s not a total bummer. There’s definitely a lift in the song. There’s definitely a desire and a want for things to be better. It’s not like all doom and gloom.

SFL Music: I did see the video for “Deathwish”. I love the blues and rock in that. It’s very catchy as well. First of all, was that a Cadillac, and was that murder you committed?
Fish: He had it coming. He’s not the first person I’ve murdered in a music video. I’m collecting a toll here. So, that was Lew Temple. He’s a friend of Jesse’s and he’s an actor in L.A. He’s been in some great stuff. He came and played this antagonist, I suppose. You know, he’s a bad guy. He had it coming. He did something to me. This story in the song is from the perspective of saying, it’s like a predatory man at a party. He thinks he’s going to take advantage of this woman and the woman kind of turns the table on him. As far as the interpretation of how that applies to the video, it’s all loose. It’s all just kind of metaphorical of we’re painting loosely here (she laughed). It sure was a lot of fun to film. Jesse and I drove around Hollywood in this kick ass Cadillac, and he’s the one taking me to go talk to this guy Lew and it doesn’t go as planned I suppose. Well, my plan, but Jesse’s definitely not happy about it in the video.

SFL Music: I thought that was quite a twist! Didn’t expect it.
Fish: We really played with cinematic themes on this whole record. Especially in the artwork. A lot of our artwork we kind of based off of movie posters. I wanted to kind of have this Tarantino sort of feel, and I think a lot of the songs lend themselves to cinema in a way. Jesse’s such a movie file. He’s really into making movies. That definitely was an inspiration, played a part in the creation of this record. Yeah, the video is not as gory as it could have been. Trust me, I was going for way, way more. I was like, come on, let’s see some spatter! If I can make every music video a short horror film, I totally would.

SFL Music: In your bio you said you always made music for it to be a connection, and with Jon’s production, he helped with certain aspects of your voice. It was more like attitude rather than perfection?
Fish: Yeah. He just had an interesting approach to vocals. Jesse and I talked about it later in that, I don’t think we’ve ever worked with a producer who was more interested in kind of creating characters and getting this characterization out of our voice. A lot of people would be like hey, hit this high note again, and they’ll use these real technical terms to describe the technical aspect of the singing. Jon was all about, let’s get this emotion out of you, so let’s channel you know, for this song, I want you to kind of try and sound a little bratty. I’m like, bratty? Ok. So that kind of put you into this different head space and you’re singing from a different perspective. It’s kind of like an acting gig in a way. I don’t know, I found it to be really, really helpful because it helped me channel where the songs are coming from, and I think maybe helped to give a more authentic delivery, and especially something a little more interesting than just coming at it, singing the song straight. It gives you like a character and a perspective with which to sing, and then you end up with this real emotional performance.

SFL Music: That goes back to the horror stuff you get into?
Fish: Yeah of course. Our performance onstage, it’s all entertainment. Acting is a part of it. I think sometimes to portray and to get these feelings across with us, you really do have to channel these moments. It’s not so much about like my technical delivery and doing everything perfect. I mean, Jesse had a lot of moments on the record where he’s really just talking, but it sounds so much more effective than if he was just kind of blah blah, singing it straight. There was a lot of dynamic to these performance and I credit that a lot to Jon’s approach and technique.

SFL Music: What would you say you maybe took away from working with Jesse on this project?
Fish: It was so early at the time. We were just trying to figure out how to make this thing happen in a way that we both felt comfortable. It’s aways hard when you’re going to go in and collaborate with somebody because you don’t want to lose yourself in the process, but you also don’t want to say no more times than you really need to because sometimes when you say no to things, you close the door on creativity and you close the door on something that could potentially be very cool. Working with Jesse, and I hope he had the same feeling of working with me, we were very open to trying things. I learned a lot just how to kind of relax and let go. Let these cool things happen in the room, and then you can come in and be like, eh, this isn’t to my taste or like tweak it after the fact, but I think both of us were just so open to this experience from the get go, that we allowed a lot of things to happen in this collaboration that maybe we wouldn’t have allowed to happen in our solo careers just because when it’s just you, you’re constantly guarding your art like this has to be exactly my vision. With the collaboration, you’re so open to things. It just sort of opens you up in different ways and that’s really what I got out of working with Jesse is just this growth. I feel like I got to grow a lot in the studio and I hope he feels the same way. I think it was something we were both a little nervous about, but we just kind of embraced it and you know, jumped.

SFL Music: You both are on the cover of Vintage Guitar magazine. You’ve been on many covers and your music has done really well. What would you say is the secret to your success? Maybe the creativity?
Fish: I think I’ve never let myself get to a place of stagnation. I like to evolve and I like to take chances and risks, and I think I keep people on their toes. If they’re invested and they’re interested in what comes next, then it’s like an exciting journey to be on. I think the ability to shift and change gears and do something different is exciting because we live in a world where honestly, there’s so much to distract. There are so many things to look at. So, if you can stay interesting and stay relevant. For me it’s like I shake it up for myself because I get bored personally (she laughed). I can’t do the same thing for too, too long, but I think that has been something that’s kind of kept people intrigued, like what’s gonna happen next and just that I genuinely put everything I have into my art. I put everything I have into the stage every single night. Again, that’s where I started. I wanted to affect people and connect, and I think that when they come to a show, you know, if it hits ’em it hits ‘em, and then they stick around. They want to see what comes next. I’ve been really fortunate. I’ve been really fortunate to have the following that I have and be able to connect with people that I do, but it’s hard to quantify in the moment. Why is this working? Hell, if I know. I’m lucky, but I also know that I think I just come from a place of like genuinely wanting to connect with people, and I put my whole life into this. Maybe it’s just that hard work and luck, and all that (she laughed).

SFL Music: Is there anything new coming up for fans to see what is next?
Fish: Well, I know that we’re working on, I don’t want to make an official announcement, but I know that we’re working on a live album. I know that I’m gonna be working on another solo record. Jesse and I’s album just got nominated for a Grammy, so we’re gonna be going to the Grammy’s in 2024. It’s my first nomination, so I’m kind of like totally freaked out.

SFL Music: That’s exciting. Congratulations! That’s wonderful!
Fish: Thank you. I’ve got some great tours lined up for the end of this year and the start of next year, so it’s hard to know as far as when I’m gonna have time to fit in a new record. I seem like I’m on a pretty good pace right now with putting one out at least every eighteen months or so. So, something’s coming soon. I’m just not exactly sure what that is yet, but that’s kind of the exciting part.

SFL Music: We will look forward to the Grammy’s.
Fish: I know. I’m so excited! I don’t know what to wear. That’s like my biggest freak out right now is figuring out, what am I gonna wear to this thing?

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