Sam Amidon – an old folk head on young shoulders
Vermont native Sam Amidon explains how he went from office typist to folk revivalist - and how he loves to jam with Martin Hayes on the Lower East Side
“It doesn’t have to be any kind of literal personal connection, but just a deep connection to the melody, or to something in the words,” he agrees. “When I’m putting an album together, I don’t think too consciously about which songs to choose. You can really let your instincts take a lot of the work on, y’know? A lot of the music on the album really reflects the place I was in at that moment, and it’s definitely a product of that. It’s just that simple.”
Amidon may have been in a different mental place for the shaping and recording of the album, but the somewhat sparse, melancholy feel to parts of the album can be attributed to his geographical displacement, too. Over the past few years, he has been based in London with his musician wife Beth Orton, their young son, Arthur, and Orton’s daughter, Nancy.
“It’s weird, because being in London has almost been like this solitary, monastic-like rural feeling to me, even though we’re in one of the biggest cities in the world,” he says. “Compared to New York, my experience of it is that it’s so quiet. I don’t know if other people have a wild, swinging London time, but we live in a quieter area and obviously have kids . . . so my universe there is much more solitary and traditional, in a funny way. But the constant drizzle keeping you inside drinking tea all the time can be good too,” he chuckles. “It’s a much more quiet life for me.”
His relationship with Orton also meant that he was exposed to British folk music in a way that he hadn’t been previously: people like John Martyn, Bert Jansch, Martin Carthy and The Watersons. He even hired Jerry Boys, who had produced albums by the latter, to work on his own album.
“That kind of English and Irish tradition of psych-folk, weird ’70s acoustic, very inventive records were not something that I was in a position to appreciate when I was younger; I was into either weird stuff like Jimi Hendrix or random field recordings,” he laughs. “It’s taken until now to figure out that there’s actually some really deep stuff there. I think that definitely seeped into Bright Sunny South. But Bright Sunny South is also very much an album of longing and of something that you’ve left: the song Bright Sunny South is about a guy looking back to a time in his childhood, and how fleeting the moments of his childhood were before he had to go off into the world. So that might be a theme that also resulted from being in a foreign place on my own, in a way.”