For Samantha Clemons, the road to her debut record “Burn” has taken the long way around. A singer-songwriter blending soul, folk and blues influences, Clemons’ sound is sonorous, ringing out over her percussive-style guitar from the depths of a long life that's been crowded into too few years.
Though she’s settled for now in St. Louis, Samantha never really had the chance to put down any roots. Texas-born and the daughter of two retired veterans, Samantha spent her childhood packing up & shipping out every few years, moving from North Carolina to California to Germany to Kansas, all before she turned twelve.
That nomadic life has served her well, though. In her lyrics, she offers up razor-sharp observations with seemingly no effort and her ability to make common ground out of thin air is a gift hard-earned and liberally shared with her listeners.
Her feet haven’t always been this sure, though. Learning to embrace her voice, vocally and lyrically, has been a messy endeavor littered with disappointments, devastation and outright desertion. “I can’t tell you how many times I have given up, just up and walked away,” she says. “Before I started this record, I had gone over a year without writing anything. I’d pick up my guitar every few months, the way you call an old friend to check in out of guilt. My music has always demanded so much from me, and it was time & energy I didn’t feel I could spare because I was barely making it on what I had.”
But just before the birth of her son, there was a paradigm shift.
“How do I tell this person that they can do anything—that the sky is the limit, if you will—if I can’t even imagine myself 10 feet off the ground? As a child, I was as stubborn as they come. ‘Because I said so’ wasn’t good enough, I HAD to be reasoned with… and reasoned with well. If I was going to offer up the whole world as an option to this person, I had to practice what I was going to preach. I had a real responsibility to give him good reason to believe me.”
Since that moment almost 2 1/2 years ago, it’s been a slow burn as Samantha shed the acoustic pop sound she was so familiar with and checked her type-A perfectionism at the door. Channeling her frustration and disappointment, catalyzed by the dramatic social and political shift of recent years, Samantha found herself descending deeper into her register, discovering an ease that had long been elusive. Leaving the love ballads and feel-good anthems to those better suited, Samantha took up the mantle of the mourners and the maligned, opting to saddle up to the sorrow she was swimming in.
Of befriending this darkness, Samantha reasons “if you think about it, it’s the only place where light is of any use. Someone has to sit in those dark corners. Someone has to give it a name, stare it in the face.”
Photography by Yoohoo Photo