Portland Folk Artist Sam Greenspan Releases His New Song "Burnside Blues"
Sam Greenspan is a guitar-based artist who creates exciting music that puts the listener in a trance. He has contributed to projects such as Stoner Control, The Moaning Lorries, Risley, and The Greencarts regularly for the past 10 years. Recently Sam Greenspan released the single "Burnside Blues" and it's exactly what you expect it to sound like.
"Burnside Blues" has a laid back ballad feel, smooth bass, and twangy guitar riffs and to top it off, Sam's super smooth calming vocals. Sam's songwriting here feel nostalgic as if this is something you heard as a kid and suddenly hear it again - it's a fantastic feeling. Towards the end of "Burnside Blues" out of nowhere comes a truly epic-sounding guitar solo that just sings like it's another singer that finishes the song - it's incredibly moving and dynamic. The guitar tone in this has an almost ethereal quality to it that feels 3D as you listen to it; it has fantastically written little licks that spark interest but never get in the way of Sam's voice. Sam's vocal performance in "Burnside Blues" is incredibly captivating, honest, and dynamic, it calls for your attention with every lyric being sung. We cannot wait to hear what else Sam Greenspan can do.
Listen to "Burnside Blues" here.
Hey Sam Greenspan! Welcome to BuzzMusic! We are loving your single "Burnside Blues! What was the songwriting and production process for it like?
Back in 2012, I was living in a basement on Burnside and 60th and my buddy Mike (drummer) came up with the song title which we both loved. But it wasn’t until 2018 when we were playing with the Moaning Lorries that I thought I had anything good that was personal but also relatable to any aspirational Portlander. So many people escape to Portland to be someone they couldn't be at home. I think this forces people to regularly consider what success means to them as an artist or even an entrepreneur as Portland becomes their new home with different indicators for what is significant. At its best, this culminates in a kind of trust fall where the community is very accepting of everyone, personified in the annual naked bike ride or a regular trip to Sauive Island. The flip side if this individualism means it can be isolating and pretty hard to mobilize people towards anything except maybe the Trailblazers.
We recorded it in Todd’s (bass) garage like we did the first Moaning Lorries record, but the band was pretty burnt from playing tons of shows the past two summers and not interested in mixing what we had. I figured it just wouldn’t get finished, but I got so much encouragement from the community here, particularly Robert Ritcher at Local Roots Music NW and David Unlayao at Nashville Songwriter’s Association International that I decided to mix it myself with some help from Paul Paresa (Sweet n Juicy) on piano and Nathan Zuniga at Big Bang Recordings with mastering.
Since the Moaning Lorries are just a jammy hang out now, I figured these songs should go under my name because I want to keep playing them along with other stuff I’ve accumulated over the years. Plus playing solo shows is a different kind of challenge that has higher costs but also higher rewards. When you play solo people are more likely to point lyrics and vocals after the show instead of specific gear you are using or guitar solos. So it's super rewarding when people lock-in but if you mess up a lyric it sinks the rest of the song.
We had heard that you had mixed "Burnside Blues" yourself, that must feel exciting. Did you encounter any challenges when you did this? What was that process like for you?
Well, I mixed through Garageband, so it's kinda like using crayons in a Pixar world. Ryan (lead guitar) had the idea to record all the instruments live like the first Black Keys record, so every track has bleed including vocals and previous guitar solos. This made isolating anything impossible, but also simpler since I couldn’t do as much. We dubbed the vocals and solos, but if you listen close you can hear the original takes in the background since we never did the exact same thing twice. The whole process made mixing the drums especially challenging, but luckily Mike is an ace player so lining everything else up to his drum hits was easy.
There is a lovely guitar solo towards the end of the song, was this something that you had improvised during the recording? How did that solo come to life and sing?
Well, the fun part about recording this way was we could do as many takes as we wanted once we set up all the mics and not worry about paying for time in a real studio. So the jam at the end is a version of what we’d do live every night, but it's always changing. Precision and replication aren’t really our strengths, but that keeps things exciting and alive. If enough heads turn, Ryan is capable of hamming it up for a while lol.
What was it like to be able to contribute to so many other projects at the same time as your own? Do you ever find any challenges while doing this?
Most musicians are I know are juggling multiple projects because it gets you out of your comfort zone and you get to meet so many talented people. Plus its rare that a project requires your full attention for an extended period. So if you are waiting for the next thing to fall into place in one project, why not join another band for a few shows or hop on some songwriter bills? I get bored playing the same stuff/same style too so I’m stoked if I can indulge my love of the Faces with the Moaning Lorries, my love of Pavement with Stoner Control and my infatuation with Elliot Smith and Johnathan Richman on my solo stuff. As long as communication is good, the music is good and people are fun to work with, its not too challenging. And any project that stops being fun isn’t worth doing.
What can fans expect next from you Sam?
COVID-19 willing, I’m planning to play the annual Bob Dylan tribute show next month and some more songwriter nights around town. I just finished a west coast tour playing bass with Stoner Control and our buddies Joypress but we’ll hopefully have more shows in town and a record release show. We’ve been recording with Mo Troper and Brian Harvey at Singing Sands, this awesome studio hiding behind Pips Original Donuts. Charley (lead singer/guitar) is a great songwriter I’ve known for a long time and its been really special for me to be able to contribute to Stoner Control and see him develop as an artist. It’s the most collaborative record I’ve been a part of and I think it features some of the best stuff I’ve written. While we’re mixing and quarantined, we may even record and release a single for fun. Or if I get bored enough, I’ll do it myself.