We recently featured Sam Rochford’s latest single and video So Easy. Find that article here.
Now we’re here to share our chat with Sam discussing influences, her favorite things about Nashville, the latest project, challenges and more.
Full Q&A along with links and the video for So Easy below.
Where are you from and what style of music do you create? (In your own words, not necessarily in marketing terms or by popular genre classifications.)
I’m originally from Connecticut but I’ve been living in Nashville for the last year and a half. I wouldn’t classify my music as country music even though I live in Nashville and sometimes my music gets categorized as country by other people. I think it fits more into folk or Americana music if you’re going by popular genre classifications. Stepping away from popular genre classifications, my music is very lyric driving and personal. I write from my own personal experience or I tell stories based on what’s going on in my friends’ lives. Having lyrics with substance is the most important thing for me when I’m evaluating how much I like a song that I’ve written.
What led you down this path of music and what motivates you to stay the course?
I started playing music when I was very young but I started writing music when I was 18 or 19 years old. I used to make up songs on the spot about the dumb stuff my friends would be doing around me just to be entertaining and I caught the writing bug. I moved away from comedic improv songs, but I never stopped expressing myself that way. In some ways nothing has changed, I still draw a lot of influence from the big life events of my close friends and I still tell stories about what’s affecting me in the moment, I just put a little more time into the writing process these days.
The thing that motivates me to stay the course is that I just couldn’t imagine doing anything else. When I started writing I was just starting college and trying to put myself on a major course that would influence the rest of my life, but nothing felt right until I started playing music. I’ve never cared about anything the way I care about creating music and expressing myself on stage. I’ve worked plenty of office jobs and restaurant jobs leading up to this point, but they’ve always been a means to an end, this is my passion and I won’t do anything else for the rest of my life.
Who or what are your biggest influences when it comes to your creativity?
My music taste is very eclectic. I draw from a lot of current folk and Americana acts like Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, the Secret Sisters, and Jill Andrews. One of the best things about living in Nashville is that most of the big names in Americana are local and I can see them play live pretty much whenever I want. I’ve been a long time lover of indie music like the Mountain Goats, Neutral Milk Hotel, and the Magnetic Fields. I also grew up listening to a lot of music that really inspired my father like the Beatles and Jim Croce.
Outside of music, I’m really inspired by other forms of art. I am a huge fan of the artistic community on YouTube especially PeterDraws, JacquelinDeleon, Fireflyfiphie, and Alythuh. I’m just in awe of their ability to approach the conventional medium of illustration in completely untraditional ways. And the best thing about YouTube as a medium for sharing their creative process, is you can really track their process and see how they grow as artists over time.
How is your new release different than previous ones? Did you set out to accomplish anything specific?
Well this is my first single! I’ve released demos before and shared music with people through SoundCloud or Facebook Live, but this is the first song that I’ve released this way. I think the reason I chose this song instead of the hundreds of songs I’ve written before is that I’m just really proud of it. Since I started playing music in such an unconventional and silly way, I feel like it’s been a slow struggle to take myself seriously as a writer and as a performer. This song seems like such a departure from that stuff I was writing on camping trips and in friends’ basements back in 2010. This felt like the first song I felt comfortable sharing with the world instead of just my friends and family.
Do you face any challenges as an indie musician in a digital age? On the flip side, how has technology helped you (if it has)?
I’ve had a complicated relationship with technology since I started putting music online in 2010. Since technology is such a new part of the music industry, all the advice I got from musicians and creative people that had been playing music through the 90s and early 2000’s was very technology resistant. I remember people being very against YouTube as a platform to share music because, in their opinion, artists aren’t compensated fairly for their intellectual property. I also got advice that covering songs on YouTube or on any platform put you in this box where nobody would want to hear your original material. I can remember other musicians saying that social media wasn’t important because it just wasn’t about the music, it was about your selfie or your online persona and that’s not what being an artist was about.
I got caught up in all this when I was starting out, but I’m telling you as an older and wiser Sam Rochford that it’s bad advice! YouTube is a great platform for exposure! The music industry has changed so much in the last ten years, that artists are just not being compensated the same way that they were 10-20 years ago. That doesn’t mean it’s unfair, it’s just different! Back in the day the only way someone could listen to your song was to buy it and with streaming services now that’s just not the case. But you can either be indignant or try to work with the systems in place and keep up with how technology is changing, because it can be a really great tool to connect with people and get new fans! Covers are a great way to get exposure, and it doesn’t put you in this box of “cover artist” anymore! You just have to be good enough at writing and performing your own music to keep people’s attention and there are countless artists that have done this successfully. Last but not least, social media has been the most important tool in my music career! I do weekly Facebook Live broadcasts where I play live music to people all over the world that would not otherwise be able to see me in concert. I keep people updated on my life through Instagram and Twitter so these people don’t just feel like my fans, they feel like my friends. If you can get people invested in you on that level, they’re going to support your music, they’re going to buy your merchandise, and they’re going to share your stuff with their friends.
What’s your favorite thing (or things) about being an indie musician in Nashville?
Nashville is the place where everyone who was the best musician in their small town comes to make it in the music industry. That means the level of talent here is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, which is a good and bad thing! I feel like I’ve learned a lot since moving here. It’s impossible to be surrounded by people of this caliber and not learn something every time you leave your house. But there’s also a certain level of competition since everyone here has the same dream. I haven’t experienced any of the backstabbing that you might see on a show like Nashville on CMT, but if you’re trying out for a gig playing at a Honky Tonk, there are probably 50 other really talented musicians vying for the same job.
How do you feel about streaming services? Any romantic attachments to the physical formats: vinyl, 8-track, cassettes, CDs?
I ranted about streaming services a little bit in a previous question, so I will try not to repeat myself. I think streaming services are great. It would be wonderful if they compensated artists more than they currently do, but I do love the ability to search and listen to any music I want any time I want. It’s a great tool for an up and coming artist to get new fans and followers. I’ve discovered countless new artists that I love through Spotify or YouTube and even though they’re getting paid very little every time I stream their song, I’ve become invested enough in some of them to buy concert tickets or physical copies of their record.
I do have a romantic attachment to physical formats, especially vinyl, but I’m not likely to invest in a physical copy of someone’s music unless I’m already a fan. That’s where I think streaming and physical formats work hand in hand. I’m only going to pay $30 for a vinyl of someone’s record if I’m a superfan, but I discover a lot of really great music through streaming services.
Where can we follow you online and hear more music?
Anything else before we sign off?
Thank you for supporting indie music!