Sam Marshall Trio

I confess; My main reason for going to see the Sam Marshall Trio play was because I know the drummer. You never know what you’re stepping into when you go to “hear my friend’s band.” (Call me crazy but I’m always a little skeptical with a side of caution and a big ol’ heaping side o’ humor-really, you don’t know how these things will turn out). That being said, I have known the drummer for a decade and figured a good time would be had by all (see how I did that? eh, eh?! *grins*)..

The Sam Marshall Trio plays every first Wednesday at Club Highway 99. March 3rd, I plopped down in front to hear them for the first time. The initial impression is a wave of pleasure for the familiarity of a rich, authentic and soulful sound. That kind of sound is unmistakable.. but there is something much more to their sound other than genuine humanity: a firm grip of musical understanding. But its a loose feeling like a cowboy twirling a lasso in the air. It doesn’t look very effective but there is no doubt in a person’s mind about the cowboy’s  precision when it wraps around it’s target.

Speaking with Sam later that night, I would never guess he had a raspy, worn-out-fellow voice when performing. He’s amiable, friendly, smiles a lot and he sounds squeaky clean! His bandmates Collin Andresen, the drummer and Randy Rush, the ogranist are both just as fun and pleasant guys. Both Sam and Collin are in their 20s with an older look and Randy is in his 60s with a much younger look: they all seem to meet in the middle, creating a multi-faceted pool of reflections.. of People. On stage, there is a completely different aura from when they are not playing. It is almost night and day.. and all of it real. I’m glad it has an outlet because it is an incredible thing to be aware of and to be a part of. This is a band I think you should know about and not just because I’ve been good friends with the drummer for a long time… (although this is a GREAT opportunity to be embarassing but I’m refraining *grins* ) .. So it wasn’t long after seeing them perform when I asked Sam if he would be willing to answer a few questions.. Neither one of us was sure of what to expect but it turned out to be fun, enlightening and entertaing..

1) Lets get a generic one out of the way: What musicians have inspired you as an individual and is there a specific band/musician who inspired your thoughts on creating the Sam Marshall Trio?

Well, there was a definite turning point for me that happened while I was attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. Most of my time there was spent trying to get my jazz chops up to speed, and for a while there it seemed that jazz was really all I was listening to. But toward the end of my time there, I heard two artists that really opened my eyes to new possibilities: Kelly Joe Phelps and Tony Furtado.  Both artists have such incredible improvisational ability while at the same time playing in the realm of the roots music that I had grown up loving. It was probably the next day that I went out and went out and bought an old acoustic and began experimenting with playing lap-slide guitar.

2) What lead you to creating the Sam Marshall Trio?

I had been playing around the northwest for a couple of years as a solo act when I had a gig come up here in Seattle where I was placed on the bill as a solo act after two full bands. Not wanting to just be the purveyor of exit music for the evening, I though perhaps it was time to bring experiment with a fuller sound. And so the search for band mates began… 

3) How did you meet your fellow band mates?

Our drummer Collin Andresen and I met after I posted an ad on a couple of online message boards looking for musicians for that gig. He responded, we had a great first rehearsal, and that was that! And as for Randy Rush, our organ player, I first met him through Collin. I believe he and Collin had played together in a group or two previously, Collin suggested we jam with him, and again, things just jived and we’ve been playing as a trio ever since.

4) I know you went to school for music.. I’m curious about your thoughts on this matter. I, personally, have gone back and forth on it a lot.. what is your take on going to school for music vs. not. What are the pros and cons in your view?

Music in the school setting certainly has the potential to be an incredibly empowering thing. That said, I don’t think that any school can ever teach anyone how to play, at least with any soul. I do think though that a school can give you the tools to teach yourself how to play better. While I was at Berklee I started studying privately with one of the professors there, an absolute monster player and teacher by the name of Bruce Bartlett. And while he of course showed me amazing amounts of new knowledge on the guitar and did wonders for my facility on the guitar, I’d have to say the most important thing he taught me, albeit indirectly, was how to teach myself. So I think wherever you can best learn your own style of teaching yourself, that’s the place to be. 

5) Best piece of advice to the young cats looking to get out there into the music scene.

(Chuckles) Well I’m not sure I’m quite worthy of advice giving at this point but if I had to pass along one thing, I’d say just get yourself out there as often as you can! I think it’s also important to remember to enjoy the risk of trying things that might not work, be willing to fall flat on your face, and laugh it off…then cry about it much later (laughs).

6) Describe a memorable moment/turning point for you as a musician.

I think my most memorable moment thus far was getting the chance to play with Tony Furtado down in Eugene, Oregon. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been looking up to him musically for quite some time, and somehow I landed the chance to play an opening set for one of his shows. The real kicker came though, when I was back stage and I heard Tony call me up on stage to play a tune with him! I was so damn nervous but man I had a hell of a time…thanks Tony!

7) Describe an embarrassing/humbling moment as a musician. *grins*

Hmmm…I think my most embarrassing moment happened at the second show I ever played while doing the solo acoustic stuff. It was at a small Seattle coffee shop and in the middle of a song, I dropped my slide while playing lap-slide, then I reached down to pick it up and smacked my head on the microphone and had to catch the microphone stand to keep it from falling over. At least my pants didn’t fall down I guess…

8 ) What lead you to music?

That’s an easy one…my father’s record collection. Growing up he’d always have music playing around the house…everything from Howlin’ Wolf to Handel. And at a pretty young age I thought, “hey, that’s pretty cool…I think I wanna do that!”

9) What are some of your other passions?

Well, for starters, I’m kind of a closet physics nerd. Cosmology mostly. I really enjoy reading about the beginning/end of the universe, multiverses, string theory, etc. Kind of makes you feel small…you know…in a good way. Oh, and making some good homebrew…I’m definitely passionate about that one (laughs).

To get a taste of what’s to come on Cinco de Mayo at Highway 99, which is their next gig, check out their special treat for us! Also, coming in May, The Sam Marshall Trio is playing at the Northwest Folklife Festival on May 28th at 3pm.

For more general information, check out Sam Marshall’s website.

2 Responses to “Sam Marshall Trio”
  1. Elizabeth says:

    Great interview. As a long-time fan of Sam Marshall, I’m pleased to see the Trio getting the recognition they deserve. I’m going to be sure to spread the word about SMT at Folklife to friends and family in the Northwest!

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