Americana up-and-comer Sam Lewis discusses political tendencies and the importance of Willie Nelson

Chris Duncan

Hailing from Nashville, Sam Lewis defies traditional genre facets — his music is best described as a winding road, along the way picking up country, blues and soul influences to create an eclectic and catchy sound. Lewis’ upcoming album Loversity pushes the boundary on his style, bringing in studio recordings from acclaimed blues trumpeter Steve Herrman and members of Chris Stapleton’s band. The Daily Texan spoke to Lewis about his time in the studio and what he’s looking forward to at this year’s Luck Reunion.

Daily Texan: Could you tell me about the recording process of your new album?

Sam Lewis: There were no difficulties, aside from trying to get us all in the same room at the same time. Working with some talented musicians, they’re all really busy and we all want to do things, but sometimes timing is the hardest part. It was about four days of tracking, we recorded live on the floor. These guys, I take the songs I’ve got, and they help me flesh it all out.

The number one goal is to capture great performances, and you can really smack some magic if you’ve got a band as talented as these guys.

DT: Do you intentionally keep the recording sessions as short as possible?

SL: There’s always a budget, and the clock can be your worst enemy. I’ve learned to set the bar a but lower, to get songs recorded and tracked. You can hear the progression of a song when you record it. The first or second take, if everyone’s got their head on right, is usually good. Beyond that, it gets a little too squeaky clean.

DT: When you write, do you keep yourself focused on writing for a specific genre on specific songs?

SL: I’m the quintessential singer-songwriter. I’ll write a funky song, a ballad, maybe too many ballads. But I think when you’re chasing down the feel of a song, you have an idea, a sound in your head. Some people work to produce that sound, some people don’t. This whole record started as a demo session, just making some noise, and we got a lot of really good stuff out of that… I don’t set out to make a specific type of record. I’m just an artist that is lucky enough to record and tour around these songs. Sometimes it’s best to let someone identify it, but that’s what it is.

DT: Is your focus on political messages an attempt to send a message, or just something that’s a part of you?

SL: I don’t classify myself as a political writer. I never viewed them as political, but if they want to get thrown into that ring they’ll live happily there. It’s more of me looking around, and wondering where we are and where we’ve found ourselves. You can only listen to Neil Young before you start looking around and asking where the present Neil Young is. These songs found me, I put them out and it’s just simply how I feel. It’s more personal than political.

DT: How much influence do you think Willie Nelson has had over the music you write?

SL: Wow, I think he’s influenced everybody, whether you write music or build a house. His voice, his spirit, is in a lot of different music. He’s the first artist to have a lot of songs recorded in different genres by different people.

He has an ability to really break things down lyrically, and I’m very attracted to less is more. You don’t need a lot of words to take someone somewhere or explain something, and he’s simply flat out the best at those.

DT: What are you looking forward to most at the Luck Reunion?

SL: I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends, people who have moved to Austin or will be there. I’ve been in Nashville for a few months now working on this record, so I’m really really looking forward to seeing some friendly faces and sharing what I’ve been doing. Being asked to perform at Luck is quite an honor, I’m not trying to put too much pressure on it.