Talk Thursday To Me – Samantha Crain

One of the best parts of bringing Postcard Elba out of cryostasis is that we can catch up with old friends of the blog. It’s especially sweet when one of those old friends just dropped a career changing album that it is destined to make many a Best Of list at the end of the year and/or decade.

Samantha Crain’s new album “A Small Death” is a gorgeous, lush, intimate album that is a watershed moment for an artist who has consistently released great albums. We were stoked to sit down and chat with Samantha about the new album and what she’s up to now.

Editor’s note – Samantha was in a series of car accidents in 2017 that left her bedridden and unable to use her hands for over a year. These accidents are referenced in the interview but not directly talked about.

Postcard Editor: Can’t think of a natural way to start this (I’m rusty) so I’ll just jump in. How are you doing on this fine day?

Samantha Crain: Swell, just eating a bowl of cereal and listening to classic rock radio.

PE: What type of cereal and what classic rock song is currently on? Let’s really paint this picture.

SC: “I Love Rock n Roll” by Joan Jett and Frosted Mini Wheats. Honestly I can’t believe I’m 34 and that is what I’m doing. I mean, I like that that is what I’m doing at 34.

PE: Yeah, own it! I think both are a great way to start the day. What breakfast cereal do you think pairs best with your new record?

SC: Hmmm….interesting… probably something like Kix because everyone has forgotten about that right? But I’m sure we’d all still like it…. it’d be just the right mix of nostalgia and new discovery.

PE: Strong disagree, your album just came out and people are all about it. Like some new flavor of granola that has enough chocolate that it’s delicious but also enough grains to be nutritious and sustaining.

SC: Haha okay, I guess one can never really see their art through the lens of others.

PE: That is true. Still, now that “A Small Death” has been out for a month how do you feel about it? Obviously I’ve been a fan for a long time, but it felt like something really special, which seems to be a common response from reviewers. Does it feel special to you, or just another album documenting where you are as an artist at the time?

SC: I think this one definitely feels special. For me it’s my favorite thing I’ve made…and I also feel like people are responding to it differently than my past records. It feels like people are really connecting with these songs on a deeper level, like they have a sense of ownership over it. They are really living with it and talking about how it’s affecting them personally, and that is what I want, I want to be making art that people are living with, not just more noise in the world.

PE: Does that intention exist from the very beginning of the songwriting process? When you’re first drafting lyrics and melodies are you thinking about how it could be more, for lack of a better word – true, or is it something that reveals itself later in the process? That this batch of songs is particularly good and something you feel is expressing a deeper sense of connection?

SC: I try not to think about how people respond to songs as I’m writing them. I try to only think about if I like the thing I’m making, because that is when you are actually tapping into your voice. I’m not always successful at blocking out those voices and thoughts but with this record, because I didn’t really even know I was making a record – I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to release it or anything, it was much easier to just think of it as a cathartic project for myself and not really have any input from outside sources or expectations or anything like that…and that makes it the most “true.”

PE: It definitely feels almost like a conversation with yourself at several points, like diary entries, which is fantastic.

When you say you didn’t know you were making an album and this was more of a cathartic project was this originally more of an experiment to see if and how you could play following your car accidents?

SC: Yeah, well all of the lyrics I wrote before I could play instruments again. Lyrically I felt like I was much more freed up to say anything because I didn’t know if anybody would hear it or not.

PE: Do you think this will change your approach going forward as to how you write?

SC: Yes but I think it’s just a product of a deeper change within. I don’t think the success of this record will change the way I write. I think a deeper change within myself led to the change in the way I write which led to the success of the record…if that makes sense?

PE: Definitely, and that’s what I meant. Not the success of the album critically and commercially (which is also nice) but that feeling that this one feels special to you. Like you’ve found a way to work that is more rewarding just from the work itself.

SC: I regard that as success…that’s the only success….that this feels right and whole and special to me.

PE: You’ve always been open to mixing it up sonically and trying things outside of the traditional americana box, but this one has a lushness to it that I don’t think we’ve heard from you before. It’s hard to describe as it’s not a particular “sound” as much as a vibe. Did you approach recording and arrangements in a different manner as well?

SC: Well I produced it, which is first for me with my own work. I’ve produced records for other artists but not my own before. That’s the main difference. That I envisioned the record and executed it myself. Before I would just write the songs and the production and vibe of the record would be more collaborative. The notes for production of this record, what I was trying to convey to the player, was one of “feverdream.” This cloudiness of remembrance, to keep the organic nature of the songs (as actual life events, actual struggle, actual trauma) but to apply a more lush soundtrack quality to it to represent the separation we experience from those events…the faintness of the memories, like looking through smoke or water.

PE: Well you nailed it, and that’s a much more accurate and poetic description of the sound than I was able to muster. It really is a remarkable album that feels both immensely personal and dream like.

I know you gotta go, but before you do – what’s next? Obviously the traditional touring to support the release is not an option right now. What’re you doing instead?

SC: Well i’m working on an EP (some straggler ideas that would’ve worked well on the new record but I just didn’t get finished in time) that will hopefully be out in the spring of 2021. I’ve been doing a lot of composition work for podcasts. I directed the music videos for this new record of mine and that has led to getting a few jobs directing videos for other people so I’m doing that as well. Plenty of creative projects to pour into right now.

PE: That is awesome, and I’m definitely looking forward to the EP and all these other projects as well.

Let’s bookend this. What classic rock song is on right now and what cereal do you think best matches it?

SC: “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benetar…and I think I picture this song during a Rice Krispies commercial but they replace “shot” with “pop” or something cheesy like that.

PE: If by cheesy you mean beautifully and brilliant then I agree.

Samantha Crain’s new album “A Small Death” can be found on her website at as well as at all the usual online places.

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