Cornerstone New Band:Interview with Sam Robertson

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One21music, in our quest to find the best up and coming Christian musicians, is featuring the bands from the Cornerstone 2011 New Band Showcase.  The Cornerstone New Band Showcase has launched many huge careers for Christian musicians including P.O.D., Sixpence None The Richer and Over The Rhine. The Cornerstone 2011 New Band Showcase features sixteen bands who will be performing on the Cornerstone Main Stage from Thursday, June 30th through Sunday, July 3rd.  In the two weeks leading up to Cornerstone 2011, One21music will be featuring interviews with 11 of the showcase bands and a 10 song free music sampler, which will be available, exclusively on on Wednesday, June 22.

We continue the Cornerstone 2011 New Band Showcase interview series with Texas-based singer/songwriter Sam Robertson.

Sam Robertson

Blending smooth vocals, honest lyrics and effortless charm, Sam Robertson exudes talent and experience beyond her years. Currently calling Denton, Texas her home, the 19-year-old is taking full advantage of what Paste Magazine named Best Music Scene in 2008.  Already drawing attention from local reviewers, Sam Robertson is building on a career that began in Sarasota, Florida, where she received the title of “Best New Act” before making the move to Denton. The Dallas Observer calls Sam Robertson, “A gal with a lot to say and a [dang] pretty way of saying it.”

Sam Robertson’s natural vocals and acoustic guitar are complimented by Chase Johnson’s warm keys and Carlo Canlas’ skilled violin. The three bring their talents together, achieving a sort of melodious folk-pop that you can hear on her self-ttiled EP Sam Robertson.

Sam Robertson

Interview with Christian Musician Sam Robertson

O21: How would you describe your sound? What artists influenced you?

Sam: I would describe my sound as a mix of singer-songwriter, acoustic folk. It’s hard to pinpoint all of my influences; they’re all over the map. I know that Bright Eyes got me into writing music, but some of my recent influences would be the songwriting styles of Andy Hull, Sufjan Stevens, Conor Oberst, Ben Gibbard, Paul Simon. The list goes on and on. Like I said, it’s hard to identify where the influences come from, but anything with heart and honesty just blows me away.

O21: Tell us about your recordings? What is your favorite Sam Robertson song?

Sam: I had recently recorded a full-length album, but in the process realized there were still things I wanted to work on. It didn’t feel like it reached its potential. So, I released a four-song EP instead, and it’s a sort of a preview of what’s to come. I would say my favorite song right now is “Two Parts”, mainly because it’s my favorite to play live. It’s also a good example of the direction we’re headed in. While I’ll always be writing sad, slow, acoustic lullabies, I definitely want to start creating music that I can rock out and dance to on stage.

O21: What is the best thing about making music?

Sam: My favorite part about writing music is the unique ability to make my emotions, experiences and beliefs into something sort of tangible, something I can really turn over in my hand and examine. Its funny how much I can learn about myself and what I’m going through when I’m writing. Not only do I learn about my own walk in my faith, but there’s this amazing aspect to music that transcends all sorts of boundaries and discrepancies in experience.

O21: How does your faith influence you musically and lyrically?

Sam: Jesus is completely present in every experience I have, whether or not I realize it at the time. So though some of my lyrics don’t explicitly mention my faith, it’s always there. When I write, I’m writing about where I am, whether it’s heartbreak or joy or pain or apathy, it’s just where I am at the time. The truth is, being a Christian doesn’t mean being perfect, it’s realizing our incapability of perfection and our need for a savior. I feel that my writing reflects that exact point. I’m not perfect, and I have my struggles, so that’s what I write about. The more and more I mature in my faith I find myself writing more directly about Jesus himself.

O21: What is your view of Christian music?

Sam: I think that there are perfect times and places for music that is made specifically for Christians, music that is intended for worship. However, I think there’s also something so beautiful about Christians who make music that isn’t just for other believers. Rather, music that expresses their faith but in a way that can seem more inviting to non-believers and can appeal to a broader audience in the hopes of ministry.

O21: What is your best memory of your career so far?

Sam: Definitely the tour we went on in January of this year. It was only 6 days or so, but it was my first experience with tour. We went with a band called Western Giants and it was only through Texas. I loved it. I met so many great people who were so enthusiastic about our music. It’s such an encouraging thing to encounter strangers who legitimately care about what we’re doing. One of my favorite nights on tour was our stop in Houston. There wasn’t a soul there except the bartenders and quite a bit hesitation to even play. But we did, and we rocked out and danced around. It was a good reminder of who we’re playing for. You can’t depend on people to listen to you, there’s going to be those nights where no one shows up. And that’s okay.

O21: What do you love about music?

Sam: Man, this is tough one. What’s not to love about music? What I love about it is that while it’s just sound, just words, just melodies, just instruments, it seems to evoke this emotion that few other things can even try to. I love it because it brings this certain group of people together who automatically have something in common, the music. It’s hard to answer this question, but I love it because it’s honest. It’s so real to me; it’s what I connect with the most. My own music has led me to meet my favorite people on this earth and share things with people that I hardly know. It’s this great exchange of feeling and passion. It’s universal, there’s music everywhere. I love that.

O21: What is your favorite song?

Sam: Oh man. Ha, that’s an answer that changes way too much to have an all-time favorite. Right now, it’s “Losers” by The Belle Brigade. It’s my new anthem to life, and the music video is AWESOME and everyone should check it out. It will certainly be on repeat on our 17 hour drive to Cornerstone.

O21: What is the best live show you have ever seen?

Sam: I’ve been to so many amazing live shows, it’s hard to pick. It might be a tie between Bright Eyes’ Cassadaga tour back when I lived in Florida, and Sufjan Stevens’ Age of Adz tour in Dallas. Both were amazing shows that left me inspired and awestruck. It was my first time to see Bright Eyes’, I think I was 15. I couldn’t have been more excited to see someone perform, Conor Oberst sort of introduced me to this realm of indie-songwriter music that I didn’t know existed. Sufjan’s performance was just unexpected and blew my mind. He was dancing like a fool, and it worked. We’ve had several Age of Adz-inspired dance parties since then.

O21: What is one thing people don’t understand about your music?

Sam: It’s hard creating music that’s different or original. So, the least I can do is try to be sincere with my writing and my music. Let’s be honest here, I’m not much of a guitar player, so when I write music, it’s usually pretty generic. I’ve definitely been blessed with band mates that know a heck of a lot about music and the science of it, so they act as the mind behind the instrumentation. As much as I’m trying to discover new ways of writing and going outside of my comfort zone, it’s still hard not to use the same four chords over and over again. I think that a lot of people have a hard time looking beyond that.

Thank you Sam for sharing a little of yourself with our readers.  I think they will hear a lot more about you over the next few years.  I look forward to catching your show at Cornerstone 2011.

If you just want a taste of Sam Robertson’s plaintive acoustic music check out “Coming End” from the One21music Cornerstone 2011 New Band Showcase sampler that will be released on One21music on June 22nd.

Sam Robertson will be playing the Cornerstone 2011 New Band Showcase on Thursday, June 30th at 1:10 p.m.. See you there!