Ever since I first saw Samuel James, I’ve wanted to interview him for this column. I seemed to miss out on doing that for the last couple of years when he has performed at Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center in Gardiner. Well, this year, Mother Nature was in my corner causing cancellation of his Jan. 16 show at that venue and turning it into a Feb. 19 appearance for this amazing performer. Needless to say, I hastily arranged to call him at his Munjoy Hill apartment in Portland to chat with him.

Q: Let me begin by saying that not since the late Michael Hedges have I seen such innovative guitar work. How did you come by this whole approach to playing?

James: Well, as far as the percussive stuff goes, it basically came because I’ve always really appreciated that style of playing, but the thing that drives me to play music is the rhythm of things. I mean, if I’m playing a song that I’m not stomping my foot, it doesn’t feel like I’m playing a song. It doesn’t feel right. If you look all the way back to the Piedmont style guitar — doing a bass line and doing a melody — the whole point is to try to become more than just one guy with a guitar. You’re trying to entertain people as much as you possibly can and trying to make the most out of the instrument. So I try to do that style — to make the guitar more than it is — but try to do it in a way that makes my old foot tap. Does that make any sense?

Q: Very much so. And I must say that it’s a very primal type thing, too.

James: Yeah, that’s very much the word. I agree with you 100 percent.

Q: Another aspect of all of this is that you don’t need no stinkin’ band. That must give you a freedom on stage, as well.

James: Oh yeah, I’ve never written a set list.

Q: I guess what one sees on your videos on Youtube and your website is exactly what you’re like in concert then.

James: Ah, yeah, yeah, definitely! Yeah, it can be a little stream-of-consciousness.

Q: You’re living in Maine. Were you born here perchance?

James: I was born in Biddeford — the old Webber Hospital.

Q: How far afield do you get touring?

James: Well, I’ve been to every state except Hawaii and Alaska, so I’ve been to all the continental states. I’ve been as far east as Turkey, and I think I’ve been in 22 different countries counting Canada. So I go all over, but again it comes back to that idea about being in the 21st Century and being able to afford to go places. If I had a drummer, my expenses double immediately.

Q: Good point, but for you, you have your fingertips, your guitar and your feet.

James: It pays to keep those.

Q: It would be real difficult if you didn’t, that’s for sure … and you can’t fire the drummer, let’s face it.

James: Right, but I also get in very few arguments with him.

Q: Well, maybe one or two just to keep him honest.

James: Yeah, just keeping him on his toes, so to speak.

Q: Oh, this is digressing wonderfully! (laughter)

James: (Laughter) I apologize.

Q: Don’t. I love it. Are you working on something new album-wise? When did your latest CD, “Aphroisms, Bumper Stickers, Truths and Rhymes,” come out?

James: Well, that one’s been out over a year, and unfortunately I’ve gotten sidetracked into a couple of side projects — none of them are musical. Well, that’s not true. I have a web series that is Portland-based trying to promote the Portland music scene.

Q: Oh.

James: Yeah, it’s a comedy music series, and the premise is Portland musicians going into their fans’ homes performing a song for their fans’ cats — who don’t care. And then the cat owner is interviewed by the host of the program about the cat’s opinion of the song in a real kind of Steven Colbert satirical way. It’s called “Kitty Critic.” I’m a little loopy right now on only three-and-a-half hours sleep because I’ve been editing the second season, which is due to debut at the end of February. It’s all on my laptop so it’s just been go, go, go!

Q: Well, you certainly manage to keep busy, don’t you. Oh, and you’ve also performed at Johnson Hall before, correct?

James: I have and this will be my third time.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

James: No, just that they should show up. I think it would be best for everybody if they come along. I think the last two actually sold out, and when I spoke to them last there were 60 pre-sales for this one.

Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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