Sammy Rae & The Friends Submitted photo

To begin with, I was unfamiliar with Sammy Rae when I saw that she was bringing her band, The Friends, to the State Theatre in Portland on Wednesday, Sept. 20. Being intrigued, I reached out to her publicist and was sent a link to her first-ever, 18-track live album “The If It All Goes South Tour (Live)” and about a minute into the first track (“Follow Me Like the Moon”) I exclaimed “Sammy, where have you been all my life?!”

True, that was a bit overstated but not by much because the tightness of the band, the quality of her incredible vocal range, and the palpability of her confidence made me really sit up and take notice. Needless to say, I was back in touch with Danielle setting up a phoner in record time and a lot of the resulting 22-minute interview can be found below.

Q: I’ve been doing this for over 50 years and when somebody comes along with a live album like yours, it makes me very excited to find out more.
Rae: Well, thank you very much, that’s very kind of you, thank you.

Q: Is that album any indication of what you’ll be bringing to the State Theatre in Portland on the 20th of September?
Rae: (Chuckle) Well, that’s the idea, that’s the live show, so we will be bringing that and then some.

Q: Now, this was just released, do I understand this correctly?
Rae: Yes, it’s been out a couple of weeks now.

Q: Have you performed up in Maine before?
Rae: Yes, we played in Portland at least once and it was a wonderful show. I remember that being a really great day.


Q: Maine’s a little bit off the regular tour scheduling, I’m afraid, but when acts do get up our way the turnout is usually pretty good.
Rae: Sure, and it’s always special to play cities like that, too, where I know that music from out-of-town doesn’t come in too often, so when people get a chance to come see someone from out-of-town they really get excited.

Q: For total transparency, I should add that this was my first time hearing you and I must say that your vocal range is incredible and your runs are equally amazing. And the variety of genres and styles really make for a wonderful musical experience … it’s understandable when one hears the cheers and applause you get when you sing.
Rae: Yeah, thanks. It makes us kind of hard to pin down sometimes and I always just say that there’s something for everybody, that’s kind of the idea.

Q: What kind of music inspired you to perform?
Rae: I come from classic rock, make no mistake; I come from the E Street Band and the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac and that sort of thing, so a lot of the music that we cover by other artists is in the classic rock era like Doobie Brothers and Chicago and Steely Dan. So it creates this environment where we’re really tapping into folks who are our age, which is like around 30, and who grew up on this stuff, as well. We’re also tapping into the younger audience who are closer to college age, so it’s a full gamut of age range. If you’re a rock fan there’s something for you. If you like disco there’s something for you. That’s just how it shook out: a little of everything!

Q: Are you going to be releasing this album in a CD format?
Rae: We don’t have plans to print a CD but we have printed a vinyl and the vinyl will be available when we’re on tour. It’s interesting, vinyl is really coming back; I’m a vinyl person, I love vinyl, I listen to vinyl every morning, but I find more people are interested in vinyl reemerging as a way of listening to music than they actually are a CD.

Q: I grew up with vinyl but for traveling in my car, the convenience of a CD as a music source is far more practical. The whole idea of an album, the way it flows from song to song, is that it’s a journey and your live release is just that: a trip through what all music has to offer.
Rae: Well, that’s the idea, thank you! And that’s what I do, I’m an album person. I like to listen to stuff top to bottom, so the idea with this live album was to take as many songs from the same show as we could that would flow together so that you really felt that you were at a show. It’s worth mentioning now that we’re actually in the process of recording our first full-length album, which we’re very excited about, which kind of catches people off guard because we’ve released two EPs and a couple of singles but we’ve never released a full LP, top to bottom. So we’re in the process of recording that now, which is very exciting and we’re grateful to be able to do that now.

Q: Now, when it comes to songwriting, do you do a lot of it?
Rae: So, I actually consider myself a performer first, and as a songwriter I don’t do songwriting very often. I write a handful of songs a year and I tour the rest of the year. I find it difficult to write and create music on the road. I’m very inspired by what happens on the road but I find I really need to come home and squeeze out my emotional sponge and process what happened on the road before I can turn it into a song.

Q: What does that process entail?
Rae: In terms of of the band, I’m the primary writer for the project so I’ll write the bulk of the chords and then the whole melody and the lyrics, sometimes supported by our guitarist, Will Leet, who’s a brilliant songwriter in his own rite, and then we’ll take that to the band where it’s hugely collaborative in the arrangement process. And after playing together for so long, you learn how to effectively write and play for and with each other. We tap into each other’s strengths and we learn from each other so the arrangement process is always a joy. And we know our audience, we know what they like and what they respond to, so it just gets easier all the time from playing together so much and writing so much together and experiencing so much. The seven of us really live our lives on top of each other and it’s great, we consider ourselves a family because that’s the only way you get something like this to have longevity: you have to take care of each other, you know?

Q: Is there anything, Sammy that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Rae: You know what? Absolutely there is, and I was hoping you would ask! So Portland, Maine, is home to one of my favorite establishments in the entire world which is the (International) Cryptozoology Museum. It is one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. One of my weird, non-musical things that I love is cryptozoology, and I have been to that museum twice since I’ve been on the road. Oh, and you can tell your readers that I say “Sasquatch is real!” It’s crazy and I love it!

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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