We recently caught up with Samuel James to hear about his music influences, growing up here in WV and more. Check out his music HERE.
BB: So Samuel, where in West Virginia do you come from?
SJ: I was born and raised in the Southern part of the state, in the Greenbrier Valley. Lewisburg will always have a piece of my heart.
BB: And who are some influences on your music and writing style?
SJ: The influences for my music, like my first album, spans across multiple genres. There are some amazing songwriters out there like Stapleton, Prine, and Isbell that I aspire (as any songwriter should) to be mentioned in the same conversation as, yet I feel like my writing isn’t like any of theirs. As I am starting to find my own voice as all artists do, I want to sound like me and not just another Nashville career songwriter. No matter what genre or taste you have, a good song is a good song.
When I think about my influences on my guitar playing I would have to give it to two people: my generation’s guitar hero, John Mayer, and to my dad, Jim Snyder. My eyes have laid on the hands of these two more than my own. Mayer is one of those guitar players for me that I know who’s playing once I hear the first note. As for my dad, his long time bandmate, John Thompson, told me “There’s no guitar player that can make one guitar sound like a band except for your dad.” Ever since I heard that, I noticed and continue to notice the expertise my dad has. I owe so much to these two.
BB: How has being from West Virginia influenced your music?
SJ: Many of us West Virginians have a lot of history in these hills. This land is rich in culture and music has helped pass that down for centuries. There is still an essence of the bluegrass and old time music that’s been rooted here and always will but as the tides change, so must the times. I try to use some of that history to influence my own style of songwriting and playing as a part of the new generation of West Virginia’s music scene.
BB: What can people expect from your set?
SJ: I present myself as a singer-songrocker as I try to be as present and as energetic to serve each one of my songs. I like to push the boundaries of genre as music is music and we don’t need a classification for everything. I guess if you’re looking for my “sound” you’ll have to hear a few.
BB: Who are some West Virginia artists you’re listening to?
SJ: I’ve been in Morgantown for the last 5 years and it’s given me an extremely cool opportunity to become friends with the artists that I listen to. Some good buddies of mine have some real cool music out. Tucker Knisell, Joey Adams, Intoxicated Zen, Mother of Earl, and Hello June to name a few. I feel like 5-10 years ago the Nashville/Kentucky scene was the center of our kind of music. I feel like there is a shift coming very soon for some of us WV artists.
BB: What else are you listening to currently?
SJ: I listen to all kinds of tunes but one thing that I have been trying to do is to listen to albums rather than just songs. I’ve been on a big “country” kick as I started playing with Tucker. I’ve always been a Isbell fan and I have recently really been digging Brent Cobb’s new album, “Southern Star.” JD Clayton, Sam Marrow, and Gabe Lee stick out to me as newer releases go. I try to always be a seeker of music.
BB: And what inspired you or took you down the path of music?
SJ: At some of my shows you can hear me say, “I got this guitar from my dad, and I like to think I got some of his talent as well.” My dad has definitely been a driving force in my musical career but my mom was the first one to get me on stage as she put me onto a theater stage when I was about 4. My dad threw me on stage with him when I was about 12 and said, “Watch my hands for the changes.” I’ll tell you what, that hard lesson to learn has been one of the best in my musical career and I am forever grateful.
BB: Okay last question, what is one song you want people to listen to from your catalog if they were to say, “Hey what do you sound like?”
SJ: If I had to choose one song for people to check out, I would have to say ‘Wanting to Win.’ This is a track that is aligning more and more with the unreleased stuff that I have been brewing up.
BB: Thanks so much Samuel!
Be sure to check out Wanting to Win and follow Samuel James for upcoming shows!