BY EARL HORLYK | Courtesy of the Sioux City Journal
Blues rocker Samantha Fish has a knack for naming her albums. For instance, her 2017 record was called “Chills & Fever,” while she came out with “Kill or Be Kind” two years later. Back in May, Fish collaborated with outlaw country guitarist Jesse Dayton on “Death Wish Blues.”
Um, are things going OK for the critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter? Apparently, life has been good for Fish, who just completed a whirlwind European tour with Dayton to support their album. Plus Fish has been prepping for Saturday in the Park, where she and Dayton are slated to perform July 1 on Grandview Park’s Main Stage.
“’Death Wish Blues’ is definitely an album that plays off a couple’s dynamic, that is both good as well as toxic,” she explained. “But mainly toxic.” Indeed, the album’s cover features Fish and Dayton as if they were starring in B-grade movie from the 1950s.
“Oh, Jesse and I were definitely going for a film noir vibe,” she said with a laugh. “That’s for sure.” Fish has known Dayton for a while and had admired the work that the veteran musician had done with icons like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and, even, Rob Zombie. “Jesse is a great collaborator because his style is so different from mine,” she explained. “It forced us to work outside of our comfort zone.”
Adding to the mix was legendary noise rocker Jon Spencer (of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) who was the producer of “Death Wish Blues.” “While I’ve worked hard to get to where I’m at,” the 34-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, native said, “I’ve had the privilege of having some very talented people in my life.” That includes her mom, who sang in church choir, and her dad, who played guitar with his musician friends.
“Having musical parents was awesome,” Fish said. “So was having a record collection that had everything from Tom Petty to the Rolling Stones and Stevie Ray Vaughan. “By the time I turned 18, I knew I was going to be a musician,” she added. “I never really had a Plan B.” Eventually, Fish became a regular at the Kansas City musical landmark Knuckleheads Saloon, where she’d listen to all of the touring blues artists before joining in.
As a way to make ends meet, she began delivering pizzas. “This is the perfect side gig for any struggling musician,” Fish said. “You got to drive around all day while listening to the radio. Would I mind working a double shift? Sure, it gave me more time to hear Nine Inch Nails or Iggy and the Stooges.” Throwing caution to the wind, she began writing her own music.
“You always feel insecure with your first few compositions,” Fish said. “’Will I find my own voice? Do I have an original voice?’” Over time, she became more confident in the craft of songwriting, enlisting a uniquely visual approach to music.
“Though songs should have a musical hook, they also need a mood,” Fish said. “You can hear it but you can also picture it in your mind.”
During her down time, she enjoys listening to an eclectic assortment of music from Buddy Guy to Lana Del Rey to the Detroit Cobras, a garage band with a big cult following.
“I love Spotify but I do miss record stores,” Fish said. “If I’m on the road and see a record store, I’ll try to pop in. “Who knows, she may do some shopping in Sioux City? “Jesse and I will be playing music from ‘Death Wish Blues,’” Fish said. “We’re looking forward to it.”