With the return of the Monday Night Concert Series at Slates in Hallowell comes an influx of both familiar talent and new, and on Dec. 19 the latter category will be represented with a performance by Sami Stevens. The vocalist currently resides in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York, but on her website she states that she’s originally from Maine. So that, plus the fact that she’s the third show at Slates’ new digs, prompted me to call her and chat for a while on Nov. 30.

Q: Just out of curiosity, were you born in Maine?

Stevens: Yes, I was born in Maine and I was raised in the same house until I went to college — it was in East Winthrop on Cobbosseecontee. I went to Winthrop public schools when I was growing up. Then my last three years of high school I did at Kents Hill before I went to college. My family are long-time Mainers — my dad’s side of the family, but they’re from up north in the County. My dad’s a lawyer in Augusta and my mom’s a visual artist — she’s a teacher. I grew up listening to jazz and eventually started singing (it). That was really like my passion when I was in high school, so that’s what I studied when I went to college: I was a jazz major. And now I sing jazz still. I think of myself as a jazz singer, but more and more I’m singing like soul and R&B and music like that.

Q: Now where did you go to college?

Stevens: I did a dual program so I got two bachelors which I got at the same time at two different schools. It was a weird thing — like a five-year program. I went to Tufts where I studied psychology and I went to the New England Conservatory where I studied jazz performance.

Q: So two degrees, one in psychology and the other in jazz music — that’s a rather unusual combination.

Stevens: Yeah, just two things that interest me; two things that could hold my interest, basically. It was kind of crazy with a lot of commuting because those schools are not really close to each other in Boston. Tufts is in Medford, not even Boston, so the logistics were pretty difficult as was the work-load but I learned a lot.

Q: Do you get up to Maine often?

Stevens: I have not been getting up as often as I would like to, Basically because I’m more or less a starving artist in New York and spending all that time and money to be out of town has been hard for me. I’ve only been here for like two years but now that I’m kind of getting into the groove of things more I think I’m going to try to go up more and more. Especially now that they have that nonstop bus from Portland to New York — Concord has it — it’s a lot more viable than it used to be.

Q: I read on your website that you have an all-star band, but I would imagine that you won’t be bringing them to Slates in Hallowell, or will you?

Stevens: No, I’m not bringing my whole band on tour with me unfortunately, but fortunately I am bringing an amazing guitar player named Steve Bilodeau who I went to school with when I was in Boston. He’s incredible so he’s going to be accompanying me. He’s learning all my music for it. And he was briefly in that band — my all-star band. It didn’t end up working out because he lives in Boston and the band is based in New York, but I’m always happy to play with him.

Q: I’m going to assume that you’ve never played as Slates before.

Stevens: That’s right.

Q: Are you at least familiar with the venue?

Stevens: Yes, where I grew up was very close to there and what makes it very special playing there is that I remember their Monday Night Concert Series and thinking, ‘Surely I could never sing at that!’ It was a big deal for me and I just love that place and I love the spirit of it, as well. I have not seen the new room yet but if the people are the same, then it’s going to be great. It’s also my favorite place to eat when I go home, anyway.

Q: Seeing you haven’t performed in the area before, could you possibly give some kind of description of what you do, musically speaking, so people have an idea as what to expect? I don’t mean to have you Pidgeon-hole yourself, though.

Stevens: Yes, absolutely and I have no problem doing that — you have to put things in words sometimes. It’s going to be set of original acoustic soul and R&B would be the best way to describe it, with maybe a little bit of jazz thrown in there. It’ll be guitar and voice — that’s the arrangement. But, it’ll be mostly original music with maybe a cover or two.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the readers of this article, especially seeing this is a venue debut and a homecoming?

Stevens: Oh, I don’t know! Well, it’s going to be fun, that I know, so you can pass that on. And I’m just excited to be going home and I’m excited to play at Slates. I mean, like I said before, I grew up dreaming that one day I’d play at Slates so I’m like very genuinely excited to play there — that’s it!

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]rpoint.net if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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