Sam Evian | You, Forever
Sam Owens, known as Sam Evian, hit the scene with his debut full-length album, Premium, in the Fall of 2016. The New York based musician, songwriter and producer is back with his second full length album, You, Forever. Released this past June, You, Forever is an introspective gaze into Sam's unique awareness of the responsibility within the idea that one is, in essence, stuck with oneself forever.
“This is you, Forever” Sam says, It is about accepting that you are responsible for you, that you’re in charge of your actions. Everything you do affects others and yourself, so, no matter what you choose to do, be there and learn from it.”
Sam is intentional. He moves and speaks with an awareness of himself and those around him. I first met Sam and his bandmates at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, where they were playing a KCRW summer nights concert. I was there to speak with Sam about his current tour, recent album release and more so, to find out who he is.
The bustle at The Hammer Museum was great for the concert however, not so much for an interview. Join us as Sam and I walk the streets of Westwood until we stumble upon the solace of mosaic steps across from a Dennys. We contemplated enjoying a cup of coffee but decided tequila and soda after the interview was more our style. There, we sat and discussed everything from producing, disdain for the internet, and the differences between human perception, to the vulnerability of songwriting and of course, his album, You, Forever.
Meagan: First of all, how are you, Sam? You have a new record, you’ve been tour! How have you been since your most recent album, You, Forever, has come out?
Sam: I’m good! With this record that I put out last month, I’m starting to get hit up by people not just form New York which is really exciting. There is this guy from Australia who is coming to work with me in August.
Meagan: Woah, sounds like you’re world wide huh?
Sam: Yeah, expanding for sure
Meagan: What did you do when someone from Australia hit you up about recording and producing?
Sam: I just thought it was so beautiful. I usually get really depressed about the internet and iPhones and all that stuff. Now I’m like, there are redeeming qualities. The channels of the internet are a bit sad and a bit dull but you can work through it.
Meagan: I’m sure you have found pockets of good in there but can you be more specific about what makes you sad about the internet?
Sam: How its basically become like three websites. The internet is not itself as designed anymore, it has been commercially modified.
Meagan: So the monopolizing aspect of it? I suppose it has been relatively taken advantage of, hasn’t it?
Sam: Yeah, you know, everybody gets sad about that kinda stuff. The optimist in me wants it to come back around and for it to be another open platform for information to exist. We’ll see I suppose.
Meagan: Well, the optimist in me wants to say that it could as well. It’s hard to say.
Sam: It is hard to say or attempt to find and maintain that optimism. Here, we could sit on these pretty steps?
Meagan: Absolutely, these are beautiful.
Sam: This is why I like LA.
Meagan: So, you do like LA?
Sam: Yeah, I like LA. I like visiting. I tried living in LA once. Well, I left. I had a hard time. I think I was more nervous and shy than I am now. I was just young, couldn’t make friends very easily.
Meagan: I can understand that being difficult. How old where you? And where did you come from?
Sam: I was 21. I came from North Carolina but I was ready to get out of the east coast. I’m a surfer so that was really appealing to me in that sense. The music scene back then wasn’t so happening here but now it is. All my friends from New York are dropping like flies and moving here. This year, I’ve lost either 5 or 6 friends who I think were really instrumental to the music scene that we had in Brooklyn.
Meagan: Do you think it is more about what Los Angeles has or what or lacking or has changed in Brooklyn?
Sam: Both. I mean LA, it is not cheap here but it can be a lot cheaper than Brooklyn. I mean the scene has changed a lot in Brooklyn in the last ten years. It is so concentrated and now, wealthily developers have come in and turned down everything. Made up these huge stupid buildings that people pay a lot of money to live in. It’s just artists are being pushed out and you know, it is a cycle and I’m sure it’ll come back around at some point but right now its drying up. When I moved there, there were like fifteen DIY venues you could go play a show or go out to a show every night. Now there are about two left.
Meagan: There is something about DIY music. Any creative space for artists where they can do what they want , how they want to. It is an important platform and option for those who love to create and share what they create.
Sam: Yeah, a platform where they can try stuff out, fuck up and just have fun with the community. That is why I moved to New York and that is what has kept me there for so long.
Here, our conversation shifted gears as Sam began asking me questions. This is what I mean when I say Sam is aware and present. He harnesses a genuine curiosity for people and situations around him. You can hear it in his songwriting and you can feel it when encountering him. I appreciated it and found out we had more in common than I thought, Sam was born and raised for part of his childhood in Cazenovia, New York…not to far from where I went to college. We agreed that seasons are beautiful there and that Los Angeles needs to calm down when it rains.
Meagan: So when did you first pick up a guitar?
Sam: My Dad is a guitar player and I grew up with guitars all around my house.
Meagan: Was that your first instrument?
Sam: Technically no. I’m actually a saxophonist. I have played saxophone for most of my life. I didn’t start taking guitar seriously until I was like 20 but I had already fucked around on it because my dad always had them around. I didn’t really start learning it until then though.
Meagan: Have you ever written a song with Saxophone?
Sam: It’s funny, I have not.
Meagan: You should try it!
Sam: Yea, I should try that. I mean when I was playing saxophone, I was really heavy into Jazz and I wrote music, and took composition classes.
Meagan: Where did you study?
Sam: I went to Berkeley in Boston. It was a weird place. Actually, I didn’t graduate by I was there for a couple years. It was weird.
Meagan: Did you enjoy studying music as you do now as a touring musician?
Sam: I mean, I am good at studying music, I can get into it. But I guess I always would prefer to just experience it and to try and play music with my friends.
Meagan: I can imagine that makes it interesting playing in a band. Playing with your friends, all these different minds coming together to place different pieces together. How long have they been playing with you?
Sam: Almost two years now. It has flown by! I put out my first record late 2016 and now, late 2018. I kinda wish it was faster. I would like to make two records in a year or maybe three.
Meagan: Could you?
Sam: Yea, I think so. If this were my job then I could. I still have to go home and make money and pay rent and stuff. I Record other people and producing stuff. I’m really luck that I can stay in music. They inform each other as well. I will get an idea recording someone else and I’ll get to try it out on them. I learn so much seeing someone else process, how they write songs or how they record. It kinda depends, I’ll help them make arrangements. I’ll help write or finish songs or Ill just back up and make it sound cool.
Meagan: It has got to be helpful, creatively, being a musician and then being in the studio for other musicians. The collaboration of minds and thought process has got to be interesting. Especially because you’ve done solo work and collaborative work. You’ve been in a few bands right? Before your solo records? How was transitioning from a band to a solo show?
Sam: Yea, it was alright. Bands are awesome! It is such a good experience playing music with people and to have it be collaborative. That is still deeply embedded in my process. With my band now, they were very involved in the recording. It’s still very democratic, it’s kinda funny that it consists of me as a front man, I feel kinda silly about that. I think when it started, I didn’t even know what was going to happen. I thought I would just put up a record on band camp and call it a day. It has kinda morphed into a really collaborative thing which is awesome.
Meagan: Just “toss it on up there” huh?
Sam: Well, I was going to. I had made the record very casually because I work at a studio, so it was easy to record. i just sent it to some friends and one of my friends who I have known since like 2010, she’s here tonight actually, She just started working for Saddle Creek, the label that I am on. When I first finished my first record, I sent it to her and she was working for Anti Records. She was like, this is awesome, lets do something and it kinda turned into more of a thing. Then I ended up signing to Saddle Creek and she started working for Saddle Creek. I didn’t anticipate the label situation happening but it did. So it turned into a touring, record making thing. I’m really lucky.
Meagan: Things have their way of working out, that sounds meant to be. As a songwriter or any kind of artist really, so much of it is natural. Like breathing, you don’t think about it and it tends to just happen. The art you create is almost effortless and unconsciously occurring. Did you anticipate this album? You were always writing and creating it anyway but where there specific intentions behind it?
Sam: Yeah, I was just kinda making it. I was playing with this other band and I had all this other music floating around in my head that didn’t really fit with the band so I was just like, hey I think I need to do this thing. So I just tried it and it was fun. I mean you never know how its going to go and I try not to develop expectations fo music ahead of making it or releasing it because then you build up weird situations in your head.
Meagan: Yeah, so things happen so happenstance. Writing and creating all happens so momentarily, it will not happen like it does in any other moment than the one in which it occurs.
Sam: It is a chance, I feel the same way. Although, I will prompt myself. Like as an exercise, write a song using these chords or write a song using this instrument. Certain instruments will pull certain songs out of you.
Meagan: Of course, you write your own music. That can be terrifying to share with people especially with the vulnerable way in which it comes out of you.
Sam: Yea, it is. It is very scary at first, but then you get used to it. It is like the first time you see someone naked, or something. Then you’re like oh, I guess we’re used to this now. Now, I feel excited to show people.
Meagan: There is something really beautiful about that. It can be a very intimate thing, if you allow it to be.
Sam: Yeah, especially if you are surrounding yourself with people that you really do love or that you think are great musicians or just cool people. Then, of course what they are going to offer will be positive. They are going to be supportive and helpful and help you hone in on what you’re going after. Ultimately, whenever you have different energy working on something, it will be better.
Meagan: Yeah, you and I could listen to the same thing and hear it entirely differently.
Sam: Yeah, its like…can you describe the color blue. Do we actually see the same thing or receive it the same way?
Meagan: I suppose, well never really know. I’m thankful for collaborative work because of this. I think it might be the closest we get to understanding the way in which the minds of our creative counterparts work. Listening and hearing the creative processes of the minds around us can only feed our own creativity.
Sam: It is the same thing with music. I don’t think we ever necessarily see the same thing. Music happens that way too. All our senses, we just take for granted that we have a similar experience. Or, you would assume that we have a similar experience. Our brains are floating trying to process all these outside things, you never know how it gets put together in someone else’s brain in comparison to your own.
Sam and I wrapped our conversation as we followed our own footsteps back towards the venue. We walked through crowds of people awaiting his performance. I imagined the amount of people that approach someone in Sams position as I watched one after another come up to say hello. Then I Imagined how difficult and overwhelming that can be and how gracefully he accepts his place. Sam talks about his album as accepting responsibility for yourself and taking charge of the positions that you put yourself in.
"Everything you do affects others and yourself", Sam says.
A true songwriter, Sams lives by the word he writes and sings. Consume yourself with Sam Evian and his most recent album, You, Forever. Listen to the words, hear the sound and let it remind you of yourself and the responsibility that comes with harnessing who you are. Their is an honesty you owe to yourself and if ever you are looking for it, the relatable honesty of You, Forever, might help.
Check out Sam Evian and You, Forever as he starts back up his tour next Month in Baltimore.
Available on: The Sam Evian website, Spotify, Pandora, Play Music, Deezer, Tunein, Apple Music, and Bandcamp
Written by Meagan Rafferty