Kansas City’s Samantha Fish is a queen of Rock & Roll. In a genre that’s generally dominated by men, Samantha is a fantastic roll model and torch-bearer for aspiring female rockers. Anyone who’s ever seen her perform walks away from the show with ears ringing from heavy guitar lines in complete astonishment of her passion, grit, and musical abilities.
Born and raised in Missouri, Fish started her musical career playing the drums before switching over to the guitar at the age of 15. Three years after shifting her musical focus, she began sitting in with singers and bands who performed at her local home-base at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. In 2009, Fish recorded and produced Live Bait, which attracted and helped her land deal with Ruf Records, a German independent label with over 300 global releases, one million album sales, and two Grammy nominations. Eight years later, and Fish has released four solo studio albums, performed hundreds of shows, and even won the award for “Best New Artist Debut” at the 2012 Blues Music Awards in Memphis.
On March 17th, Samantha released her fourth solo studio album, Chills & Fever, via Ruf Records. Recorded in Detroit with help from members of The Detroit Cobras, the album exhibits Fish’s raw musical diversity, as she moves in a direction away from her traditional mode of the blues to a soulful, garage rock influenced album. On Friday, May 5th, Samantha brings her Chills & Fever tour to New Orleans to perform a show during Jazz Fest with NOLA blues legend, Tab Benoit, at Republic NOLA. Ahead of the big show, I had the opportunity to catch up with Samantha to talk about her new album, performing in New Orleans, pre-show rituals, and many other topics. Doors at Republic NOLA open at 8pm after the gates of the main Fairgrounds close, and tickets can still be purchased here.
CEG: Hey Samantha, thanks for taking some time to catch up with us! You were just in New York last April for a Chills & Fever album release party at the Highline Ballroom. To kick things off here, tell us about that show, and what it’s like performing in a monstrous market like New York.
Samantha Fish: I really do love playing New York. The city itself can be a little overwhelming at times, but the energy can’t be beat. It never stops, and I feel like that really gives me something else to work with on stage. When you realize what a commitment it is for fans to come to the show, it makes you appreciate it that much more.
CEG: You released Chills & Fever, your fourth studio album, just last month. How does this record compare to your previous discography?
SF: It’s a soul, garage rock n’ roll album. It was my first time recording all covers as well – all the songs are from the 50s and 60s. By coming to Detroit to record with a few members of The Detroit Cobras, we really committed to a style. We brought in horn players from New Orleans which really gave the session a unique vibe. It’s the first time I’ve recorded with the intent of expanding the band. Adding horns and keys wasn’t just for the studio, we’ve adopted that set up for our live show.
CEG: Looking ahead, you’re scheduled to perform a show in New Orleans during Jazz Fest after the Fairgrounds close with NOLA blues legend Tab Benoit. Tell us about your history and relationship with the city of New Orleans. Have you made any special plans for this big show?
SF: New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the world. It has the most amazing music scene, and it’s an inspiring place at its core. I can’t wait to bring the Chills & Fever Tour down there during Jazz Fest. It’s a huge dynamic show, so I’m looking forward to showcasing the new band and new songs.
CEG: You mentioned you recorded Chills & Fever with The Detroit Cobras. In the future if you were to collaborate with another group on a record, who would you want to work with?
SF: That’s a tough question because collaboration is sort of a natural thing. Sometimes you meet people and have really good chemistry, or hear a new record and become inspired. I just recently recorded an album in Mississippi with Luther Dickinson producing. It should come out later this year. It featured Jimbo Mathis, Lightnin’ Malcolm, Lillie Mae, and a bunch of great Memphis/Mississippi musicians. It’s a semi-acoustic songwriters’ record.
CEG: I like to ask this question because every musician has a different, interesting answer. Before going on stage, do you have any peculiar or unique traditions to prepare yourself for a live show?
SF: Oh man, I have some ridiculous vocal warm ups that I do. It’s very much a ritual at this point, and I feel like I have to do it. It really does help get my vocal cords stretched out, and my head focused for the show.
CEG: If you had to choose, what venue has been your favorite to perform at?
SF: It’s kind of changed recently from venues to favorite cities. I love NY, Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans, Nashville… and my hometown Kansas City. If I had to pick one venue, it would be Knuckleheads in KC. It’s where I grew up and always feels like I’m right at home.
CEG: Looking back at your career, is there one live show that stands out as the concert you’re most proud of?
SF: There are a lot great moments, as far as one defining live show, there really isn’t one. We played some amazing festivals last year. Telluride in CO, Portland on the 4th of July, High Sierra in CA, I had a show at a big venue in KC called Crossroads. All those moments were really beautiful. The crowds were massive and the audience was fully vested with us. That’s always special and you really can feel the connection through music. Anytime we can make that kind of connection, whether it be a big festival or a small intimate venue, it feels like a win and it makes me feel like I’m doing something right.
CEG: Thanks again, Samantha!