Q&A with Texas-based multitalented musician Sam Barlow, both frontman and session player has spanned a wide array of genres.

"I miss the impulsivity, the “live” energy, the attention to detail, the ability to choke interesting and different sounds out of analog instruments, and the childlike nature that we used to have about musical curiosity and the freedom that came with the Blues, Jazz, and other truly American musical art forms. My hope for the future is that the Blues will thrive in ways that is yet to be seen…that it will be magnified to the fullness of glory and that I will be instrumental in bringing it forth."

Sam Barlow: Faith In The Blues

Sam Barlow is a 26-year-old virtuoso guitarist, harmonicist, and vocalist based out of West Texas. His 12-year professional career as both a frontman and session player has spanned a wide array of genres. Including but not limited to, Blues, Rock, Pop, Funk, Jazz, Soul, Tejano, Hip Hop, Country, etc. He has opened for, both as a solo act as well as with other artists, Sublime with Rome, John Anderson, Robert Earl Keen, Cory Morrow, Johnny Rawls, and many more. Sam “cut his teeth” in Austin, Texas, playing popular Blues/ Rock styles and had the opportunity to sit in amongst legends such as Jimmie Vaughan and Elvin Bishop. In 2010, Sam’s electrifying performance style captured first place in the El Paso “King Of The Blues” guitar competition sponsored by Guitar Center. Sam then went on to represent El Paso in the state finals held in Houston where he finished in 2nd place. In 2013, he won the FM 92.3 The Fox Battle On the Border with Outlaw Country group, TrailerBand, and In 2015, Sam was a Top 4 Finalist in the PM 92.3 The Fox Battle On the Border with his own, Sam Barlow Band.         (Photo: Sam Barlow)

As of 2016 he holds an Associates of Arts in Music (Jazz Guitar) at El Paso Community College. In his spare time, he is an avid blues historian, fried chicken lover, free thinker, hat guy, Star Wars memorabilia collector, and humorist. Sam Barlow & His True Blue Band released the album “Faith In The Blues” (2020, Montrose). The True Blue Band features Barlow, guitars, harmonica and vocals; as he is accompanied by Israel “Izzy” Aguirre, keyboards; the late Anthony Movsesian, bass and washboard; and Joseph Seltzer, drums and percussion. Additional musicians include bassist Dave Hamilton, pianist Erwin Solbach, backing singer Maribel Rubio, and special guest vocalist Chambers. The album is produced and recorded by Cagle at his Montrose Records Studio in Ruidoso, New Mexico.

Interview by Michael Limnios           Special Thanks: Richard Cagle & Sam Barlow

How has the Blues, Country, and Rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Well, music has shaped my entire life. I’ve been playing music as long as I can remember and the Blues has always been my driving force, probably the most important thing to me; however, I spent many years on the road playing Country music, as well as Rock and Roll music,  and many other genres. Those were journeys in and of themselves. I have enjoyed playing these different genres for many different audiences, in a plethora of different situations over the course of the years, and have made the comment that I am blessed to both literally, and figuratively, wear a different hat every night- so to speak.

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started? Where does your creative drive come from?

That is a very complex question because, as an artist, one thing that we can be assured of is that we will always be better tomorrow than we are today, as long as we keep persevering. I think the Lord has blessed me in being able to find inspiration and growth in places that other people might not and being able to reflect that in the music is something that I strive towards. My creative drive is mainly out of a love for the blues, a little bit of perfectionism, a little bit of spite, definitely a few women, a general curiosity, and a love to “preach” the blues to my juke-joint congregation.

"Well, music has shaped my entire life. I’ve been playing music as long as I can remember and the Blues has always been my driving force, probably the most important thing to me; however, I spent many years on the road playing Country music, as well as Rock and Roll music,  and many other genres. Those were journeys in and of themselves." (Photo: Sam Barlow)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I think by far the most important meeting that I ever had would be with the president of Montrose records and my good friend, Mr. Richard Cagle. He has helped me exponentially grow, both musically and personally. I am blessed and thankful for everything that he, his family, and everyone else at Montrose Records has done for me! The best advice anyone ever gave me would have to be the advice that I received from my maternal grandmother, Cristina Sonnen, “Anything they can do; you can do better.”

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts, and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I think some of the more recent and important memories to me would be the studio sessions when recording my debut album Faith in the Blues. I traveled to the mountains of Ruidoso, to the Montrose Records studio, with four of my best friends/worthy constituents who also happened to be my bandmates and recorded what I think is just an amazing album. I’m so proud of every part of it. Much praise to Joe Seltzer, Dave Hamilton, the late Tony Movsesian, Izzy Aguirre, Annika Chambers, Erwin Solbach, Maribel Rubio, and Michael Scott for their superb contributions. As far as a memory, that came when we recorded the final track of my album, Valentine Special. We were standing in a circle, clapping and playing-Tony playing washboard and I on guitar-and everything cut live. That was an amazing moment and really summed up the energy of the entire production.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future?

I miss the impulsivity, the “live” energy, the attention to detail, the ability to choke interesting and different sounds out of analog instruments, and the childlike nature that we used to have about musical curiosity and the freedom that came with the Blues, Jazz, and other truly American musical art forms. My hope for the future is that the Blues will thrive in ways that is yet to be seen…that it will be magnified to the fullness of glory and that I will be instrumental in bringing it forth.

"I think by far the most important meeting that I ever had would be with the president of Montrose records and my good friend, Mr. Richard Cagle. He has helped me exponentially grow, both musically and personally. I am blessed and thankful for everything that he, his family, and everyone else at Montrose Records has done for me! The best advice anyone ever gave me would have to be the advice that I received from my maternal grandmother, Cristina Sonnen, “Anything they can do; you can do better.”"

What would you say characterizes Texas blues scene in comparison to other US local scenes and circuits?

I think one of the things that might characterize the Texas Blues scene would be hospitality. I’ve never been to a blues jam in Texas where I was made to feel less than welcome. In fact, whenever you listen to the old records of Albert Collins, Freddie King, and Lightning Hopkins and alike– you feel compelled and attracted to their music. There is, however; another side to that and that would be virtuosity.

I think that Texas Blues musicians have been known for many years to generally show “the pinnacle” of musicianship in their performances and I’m very proud to have learned and played alongside so many people that embody that. And lastly, I could not forget to mention “soul”…Blues soaked with Soul.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

To trust your gut and to do your own thing. No matter what- stay in your lane and keep pushing towards your goals.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

I feel that when those of us in ‘The True Blue Band' play music for audiences and when listeners hear our record, the goal is to make people happy. My personal mission is to be the catalyst that spreads enough happiness so that everyone has “Faith in the blues.”

"As an artist, one thing that we can be assured of is that we will always be better tomorrow than we are today, as long as we keep persevering. I think the Lord has blessed me in being able to find inspiration and growth in places that other people might not and being able to reflect that in the music is something that I strive towards.

My creative drive is mainly out of a love for the blues, a little bit of perfectionism, a little bit of spite, definitely a few women, a general curiosity, and a love to “preach” the blues to my juke-joint congregation."

(Photo: Sam Barlow)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I’d like to drive a DeLorean, 88 miles per hour into the future, to the day that I win my 10th or 11th Grammy.

Sam Barlow - Home

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