Sam Robbins Photo by Annelise Loughead

Let’s face it, I’m a sucker for new artists, especially the ones who are talented and really good at their craft. Such is the case this week as I introduce to you the multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter Sam Robbins, who recently released his first CD  “Finally Feeling Young.” This Berklee College of Music graduate is one of six winners, out of more than 700 entries, of the 2021 Kerrville Folk Festival’s Grassy New Folk competition and will perform on the New Folk stage at the festival in Kerrville, Texas in October. In 2018, he was chosen to perform on the NBC competition show “The Voice” where he was the season’s “Young James Taylor” and the first artist to perform a Jim Croce song on that popular show. When I discovered him, courtesy of Mike Farley of the Michael J. Media Group and learned that he was available for interviews, I jumped at the chance to chat with him, especially after listening to a link of the 10 original tracks on his first-ever album. I began by asking how he was doing that day.
Robbins: Good, yeah, I’m doing good. I actually have a show today, unbelievably.

Q: Whoa!
Robbins: (Chuckle) I know (laughter), so I’m feeling good for the first time in a long time!

Q: Congratulations, man! Now, 603, that’s a New Hampshire number, right?
Robbins:: Yup, I’m from Portsmouth, actually but I live in Nashville now, I’m definitely kind of a New Englander at heart, I spent a lot of time up north but my home base is in Nashville.

Q: When was this album released?
Robbins: It came out on the 14th, so almost two weeks ago, and it’s been getting a good response. It’s my first album, so I really had no idea what to expect but it’s been really good. I wrote the songs a while ago, they were all pre-COVID songs, and I’d been working on them for so long that I didn’t really think that people might actually like them. I liked them, so I decided to put them out there.

Q: I know this CD just came out but I’ve got to ask if you are working on your sophomore album.
Robbins: Yes (laughter)! It’s funny, but when COVID happened I wrote like 20 songs because I wanted a break from Nashville and everything, so I sat down and I just wrote a bunch of songs over the past 14 months. Hopefully, I’m going to get back into the live shows this summer and into the fall, and maybe kind of thin the herd of songs by then and see what people respond to and what I like the best. You see, I’ve never played them out, so they’re just bedroom songs that this point, so I have no idea what they are like live, you know? (Laughter)

Album cover photo by Libby Danforth

Q: When you’re playing songs live do they morph into something else or do they stay pretty true to what you originally wrote?
Robbins: Umm, I think they morph. For me, I used to play drums and I used to be really into that and I’m really into finding the groove of the song. I think that that’s the thing that morphs. It’s like: where does this song live? Is it like a slow, finger-picky song or is there more of a back-beat? So, I think that playing it live is where I can kind of experiment with a bunch of different things.

Q: Now, when you play out is it just a singer/guitar type of thing?
Robbins: Yeah, generally, yeah. I’ve done a few like band things but I don’t see that going forward. I just like the solo/acoustic art form, you know what I mean?

Q: Yes, I do, yes, I do because I feel that the solo presentation, with just guitar and voice, you can’t ask for a purer form of communication of what’s in a song, you know what I mean?
Robbins: Umm, yeah, that’s a nice way of putting it, I think that’s totally true, yeah. Do you know David Wilcox?

Q: Oh, yeah.
Robbins: I’m like a huge, huge David Wilcox fan and I like what he says about it: he says, when it’s just kind of like a transplant from one person to another, he said that that’s his favorite kind of thing, you’re not hearing a genre you’re just hearing the song. I thought that was really interesting.

Q: Seeing you reside in Nashville, how far afield do you tour?
Robbins: I played a lot in New England, actually, because I went to Berklee in Boston and graduated from that college in 2019 and moved to Nashville in the fall of that year. I got settled here for a few months and then I was starting to branch out and tried to tour when COVID happened, and here we are. So, it’s mostly been around New England and I’m just kind of now trying to really expand, you know?

Q: Well, at least something good came out of the pandemic for you, you got some songs written and now that you can get out on the road, you’re supporting a really strong album, too, so I think that’s going to be a benefit, as well.
Robbins: Yeah, many things turned out positive, I mean, I was able to take a break and relax, sort of (chuckle), and write some songs. I was sort of stuck in the Nashville way of doing things for a little while while I was here, which is really not my way of doing things, so I was able to prepare.

Q: Well, look Sam, is there anything you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this column?
Robbins: Yeah, you can say that almost all of these songs were written in New England, there’s a real New England spirit to them, I talk about Tuckerman’s Ravine and about going downtown in Portsmouth. When I look at the songs, when I listened to the album all the way through for the first time, I was like, “You know what? There’s that vibe: there’s a little bit of a Nashville thing but I’m really a New Englander guy at heart.”

To learn more about the musician, visit samrobbinsmusic.com

Lucky Clark has spent more than 50 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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