"I like to hear the lyric, to hear the story, to be able to relate" Introducing Kashena Sampson
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You won't be familiar with Kashena Sampson yet, unless you've seen her in the recent July Rolling Stone feature 10 New Country Artists You Need To Know. But there's no need to worry about that, on the eve of her debut album release, Wild Heart on 18th August, we chat all things Nashville, production, real jobs, and that brilliant debut with the lady herself.
Hey Kashena, how the devil are you?
I’m doing well, How are you?
Great, thanks. What've you been up to today?
Just trying to take it easy.
So, you’re about to release your debut, Wild Heart, what can you tell us about how you got to here?
I come from a musical family. I have two older sisters who both sing and write music, and play guitar. I started writing music much later than them though; I went through a real rebel phase! I made a clear decision a few years back that music was what I wanted to do with my life, and have been following that since. It has taken me from California to all over the world and now to Nashville. It took time to write the songs and find the people to work with for this record. I recorded at The Bomb Shelter in East Nashville with Jon Estes co-producing as well as playing bass, Jeremy Fetzer on guitar, and Jon Radford on drums. They are all great dudes and fantastic musicians. It all fell into place perfectly. It was like magic in the studio! I have talked about making this record for so long and now that it is here it feels wonderful.
What was your process for writing and selecting songs for the record?
Well, I just started writing songs a couple years ago actually. I wrote the majority of the songs on the record myself, with a few that were co-written with my sister Jolana Sampson. It took some time to get all the songs. I had to live a little, have relationships and experiences that turned into the inspiration for Wild Heart.
If you only had two lines to describe the record, what would you say?
It’s has a little California country with a touch of Laurel Canyon, woven together with vulnerability and perseverance.
I hear ‘Greasy Spoon’ is about The Nashville Biscuit House. I was there recently and loved it. I know working there wasn't the best for you, but you got a great song out of it. It’s one of the most descriptive I’ve heard, how was writing it? Cathartic?
It was humorous really, I mean, you gotta laugh about it. I actually started writing the song driving home from the job interview. Ha! I don’t hold any hard feelings. It wasn’t all that bad, I mean people really do love that place! It was the head space I was in at the time. I was miserable, I hated waiting tables, but I can laugh about it now. I had just moved to a town where I knew no one, I had never even visited before. I was broke and chasing my dreams of pursuing my music and making this record and I had no idea what that looked like. I was terrified, and nothing looks good when you are terrified….but look, I’m still standing.
Your voice is front and centre most of the time. Was having such a naturally strong voice part of the reason you chose to go light on the production on the record?
I don't think the production on the record is light. I actually find it to be theatrical in a way. It's the mix that you're hearing. It has that old school sound. I like the vocals to be up front. I like to hear the lyric, to hear the story, to be able to relate.
Which is your favourite song on the record? I love ‘Greasy Spoon’ but that’s too obvious, so I’ll choose ‘She Shines’, which is just beautiful.
Thank you! It’s so hard for me to choose a favorite. All of the songs are special to me for so many reasons. It's funny, because I wasn’t sure I was going to record either of those two songs. It was Jon Estes (who co-produced the record with me) who talked me into it, and I am really happy that he did! I think they came out great, especially 'She Shines'. That is the first song I ever wrote so It does have a special place in my heart.
You sang on a cruise ship for a while, what did that teach you?
Man, that experience taught me a whole lot. Taught me about performing and about life. I did a lot of living and learning out there and I'm grateful for it. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I learned how to work with people, how to live with people, I became a better performer and vocalist. I met so many different people from all over the world and saw so many places, you learn from all that! I got to experience things that not everyone gets a chance to, and now I get to write about it and share it.
So you worked behind the bar at The Basement East in Nashville. I was there last month for a Little Bandit/Joshua Hedley/Coco Hames show, it’s a great venue. Who are the best band you’ve seen live?
I was bartending that show! That was a great night, Little Bandit is fantastic and so is Josh Hedley. His voice is just incredible! I think I would have to say one of my favorite musicians in town is Erin Rae, Her songs, the words, her voice. She is ethereal and strong. She has a presence that's pretty powerful.
There seems to be a real community in Nashville. Is there? And how would you describe it?
Oh yeah, there is! It’s really great, that's what I love most about living in East Nashville. It’s a very kind, supportive, artistic community. There is music every night, always something to do. Every time I leave my house I run into a handful of people that I know, and I really like that. I’ve never lived in a place like that before.
Are there any instances when you’ve thought “A guy wouldn’t get treated like that!”?
I’ve been fortunate enough to not have experienced anything like that yet in my music career. I surround myself with some really great people. However, I have felt that way in other areas of my life.
What female artists inspire you?
Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks, Joan Biaz, and Dolly Parton
If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
'Box Number 10' by Jim Croche
What are you doing next today?
Visiting with a friend, then playing a show tonight at The 5 Spot!
Finally, how do you take your coffee? (Or alcohol?)
Thanks so much for your time Kashena, love the record and hope it all goes awesomely.
Thank you so much!!!
To find out more about Kashena visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or check out her Facebook page. Her debut, Wild Heart, is out on 18th August and you can pre-order it now.