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A sneak peak of Sam Burchfield's next album

Georgia-based Americana artists Sam Burchfield (right) stopped by PRE Studios for an interview with The Sound's Neal Ganaway (left).
Ryan Shaffer
PRE News & Ideas
Georgia-based Americana artists Sam Burchfield (right) stopped by PRE Studios for an interview with The Sound's Neal Ganaway (left).

Sam Burchfield is a Georgia-based musician with an Americana, Appalachian-style of folk and country music. Currently on tour for his second album, Scoundrel, with his band The Scoundrels, Burchfield spoke with The Sound's Neal Ganaway about the album, musical influences, family and travel, as well as some sneak previews of songs for his next album.

Born in Charlotte and raised in South Carolina, Burchfield met his wife in Georgia, where he attended college. He settled down in Jasper, Ga., and now has his first kid.

Sam Burchfield and The Scoundrel's performed at the Beaufort Music Festival in May.


Neal Ganaway: I know you're originally from South Carolina, Seneca area, so is that where you were born and raised, all that good stuff?

Sam Burchfield: I was born in Charlotte, actually, but we left Charlotte when I was probably like 3. So yeah, I was raised in Seneca.

Neal: And then the Georgia for school. Is that what got you to Georgia? Because that's kind of home now, isn't it?

Sam: I'm a Georgia bulldog. I went to Georgia and met my wife there, so we ended up settling near her folks in North Georgia, in Jasper, Georgia, where we are. It’s not actually too far as the crow flies from where I grew up, but it's a lot of mountain driving, so it's about 3 hours. It's not like beach driving right like you got it over here on the coast.

Neal: You’ve got some ties in North Carolina too, don't you?

Sam: My granny had a house in Silva, and Seneca is only like an hour and a half from Asheville. I'd go up for church stuff all the time to Asheville. I worked some summers there in Black Mountain, N.C. All my summers were pretty much full of mountains of North Carolina, basically. I go up there for my granny's house or different weekend stuff. My heart's in the mountains for sure. It's always been that way.

Neal: Well, you can't be all bad then. I guess you're at the Montreat Conference Center. What's it mean to be the music man at Montreat Conference Center?

Sam: Well, that was a church thing that I was working in college. Back then, I was singing for every age group of kids. They have like a day camp thing, so they'd be 3-year-olds to high schoolers. That was fun. It was maybe one of one of the biggest musical challenges, man, is playing for like a group of middle schoolers that are bored after 10 minutes and trying to find something. That's a challenge.

Neal: I would think so. That's a tough audience. They always say never with the kids and dogs, right or whatever, kids. Or something like that. Well, this album came out last year. Our audience is familiar with it – Scoundrel. It's a great album. It's got everything from slow burns to barn burners on here. It really runs the gamut. The title track, of course, is the tune we've been playing, “Scoundrel.” You want to give us a taste?

Sam: Let's do it.

Scoundrel - Sam Burchfield, Live at PRE

Neal: I guess this is a good time to talk about that guitar you got there, man. What's that?

Sam: It's a late 50s Silvertone. A guy, Scott Baxendale, in Athens reworks them. He takes the top off and rebraces them, and I love them. I would get 10 more.

Neal: Does it have a name?

Sam: It doesn't, actually. I started naming my guitars a long time ago and then it just fell off.

Neal: Some people do. Some people don’t. Well, speaking of this LP Scoundrel here, it's your second full length, right? And you did a couple of EP's earlier on, too. Tell me about this picture on the front.

Sam: I will. It's a fun story. So, someone tagged me on Facebook one time because that guy's name is Sam Burchfield – that guy on the cover. They said “hey haha, this looks like you,” and I wondered if we're related. I did some digging. My mom's really into the family tree stuff, so she did some digging. The photo is from Smoky Mountain National Park in Cades Cove. They have all the historical stuff because the Burchfields used to be settled there before it became the park. That actually is a very distant great, great uncle or something. Like, maybe his grandfather is my ancestor. So, that's long haired Sam Burchfield – that's his nickname – sitting on his porch.

Neal: Well, it fits, you know.

Sam: Yeah, right. So, that's him sitting on his porch and, he was a moonshiner in East Tennessee and supposedly shot a guy for riding out about his still. So, I thought that was actually, you know, the records about this idea of ‘scoundrel.’ Like who's good and bad. Sometimes that's a gray area, and a lot of the people we condemn as bad are actually the heroes. So, I thought it was kind of fitting and cool to have this distant relative who – I don't know his story fully – he might have done some bad things, but he also might have been alright.

Neal. Well, it's fitting. The word scoundrel – he does have kind of have that scowl. He looks like he's a bit of a scoundrel. No, that's a great tune though, man. Speaking of tunes and writing and stuff, what's your process? Are you a lyric guy, and then add some music to it? Or are you a music guy that adds lyrics? Or does it kind of come at the same time? Or does it change?

Sam: It's more of the same time. It's letting it kind of flow at one moment where I'm singing and playing something. Normally I have to find at least a musical riff that catches my attention to start singing, and then from there it turns into what fits lyrically what stands out. Then at some point I do end up having to sit down and draw out what was there and be like, “OK, here's what this is.” Sometimes it can be really quick – the crazy stuff that just happens. Sometimes it'll be years of sitting a song down like “Alright, I’ve got to come back to that one. It’s not working.”

Neal: It's a good idea, but you can't quite get it all the way formulated. So how long have you been at this? When did you first pick up an instrument and all that?

Sam: Gosh, I picked up my first instrument 20 years ago.

Neal: What were you in diapers? What the hell?

Sam: I'm older than you think! I'm 31. I was 11 and started playing guitar. I would say I've been doing this professionally for 10 years, which is crazy to think about too, but just trying different things slowly, just playing house shows or doing whatever I can – different versions of the band. It's been a journey of sort of discovering myself as an artist, and it's finally felt more like I have that.

Neal: Well, yeah. And now you have to not only the LP that's named Scoundrel, that's the name of your traveling band, too.

Sam: Yeah, it's really locked into being this group. It feels like a band more than anytime in the past. Me and Colin and Trygve – the drum and bass players – have been playing together for 3 1/2 years, maybe 4. And then Ryan's kind of new to the band, but we actually just recorded our first album together as this band in Muscle Shoals about a month ago that we're excited about.

Neal: Wow. What's the plan on that? When do we get to hear it?

Sam: Probably next year we'll be back here on the radio talking about it, hopefully.

Neal: We're looking forward to it. Don't forget to come down here and visit us again. As a matter of fact, why don't you give us another either off of Scoundrel or if you dare so venture forth into something new?

Sam: Ohh, I would love to. I'm all about playing some new stuff.

Neal: Why don’t you give us another piece.

Sam: Yeah, I'll do a new one off this new record.

Neal: Oh, awesome! You heard it here first.

Sam: First time on the radio for this one. This is called “Shangri-La,” which has become the name of our band van.

Neal: Right on. Y'all should this band van. I'm telling you what, it’s got some hard miles on it. When they pulled up, I was like “That's them. It's got to be.”

Sam: We think it's a little Incognito because it's got the roof rack, so I think people might think it's a work van. They won't steal our stuff out of it. Alright, this is Shangri-La.

Shangri-La - Sam Burchfield, Live at PRE

Neal: I know we're all influenced by everything we see in here, you know? But is there's some people that you point to or some music to point to that says, you know, that kind of really set me off and got me going?

Sam: I've always loved The Wood Brothers.

Neal: Oliver and Chris, yeah, we're very familiar, man.

Sam: Yeah, they’re so good. Anything that is soulful, but the song is still the center of it, because sometimes you get soulful music like you get stuff that's kind of funky and you lose the lyricalness of like old country music, which I grew up listening to. My dad was a big Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash fan, and all that. But I love the like soulful, almost like something that you can feel.

Neal: Well, they're saying something, you know.

Sam: Yeah, something to say. Just any music like that has always drawn me in, and whether it's the songwriters are like the Dillons of the world or McCartney or Willie or more of like modern people like the Wood Brothers. I call them modern, but they've been doing it for a while longer than me.

Neal: It’s some good places to pull some influence from. There's no doubt about it. And it shows. I really enjoy your song right there. It sounds like you do have something to say. You know what I mean? That's important.

With the band and getting out there doing these shows, is it more of a nervous or confidence thing when you've got more people? Is it easier for you just by yourself, or does it give you more of a burst or a boost having a backup band like that especially now that y'all been together for a little bit? Is it playing in front of folks and going from show to show. You were Charlotte last night and going to be down in Beaufort today. How does that work on your nerves?

Sam: I would say I love having the brotherhood of it. It's different playing solo and with the band. I like both of them. When I'm playing solo, I can be a little more free with just what I do. I don't have to communicate to anyone. I can just do whatever.

Neal: Right. Slow it down, speed it up.

Sam: Change it up, sing a different thing, make up a song, like anything can happen. With the band, we still do a lot of that, but it's nice to have the support. Especially playing a festival or something, you want to be able to rock out with your buds. It's a different energy and it's been awesome having them. Again, it’s more so just the brotherhood of it, having buds on the road that we can through the highs and lows. You're kind of like throwing your lot in on this. Collin is getting married this summer, we're flying to Canada for his wedding up there. It's a family and we try to make it more like that, where the more people we bring into the team, booking agent and manager, stuff like that, that it becomes a family and that we're keeping that kind of the center of it.

Neal: Well, it's important to have people that you get along with, especially in a van that size.

Sam: Yeah, even if it's only most of the time.

Neal: And speaking of festivals, I see July 1st the Rock Hoppin Ruckus, tell us about that.

Sam: I told you, Black Mountain, I used to work up there in the summers and just a lot of time in those mountains and in the community there. I know a lot of the folks there. I do this show around 4th of July because people kind of come back during that weekend. I've been doing it for forever where I just go back there and play a show and I was like o we just try to make it a little bit bigger this year? So, it's the 1st festival we're hosting, and it it's just going to be a one day thing right now be four acts maybe a fifth. Just an all day thing in Black Mountain. It's going to be fun. There's a new spot in town that a friend just opened up called The Railyard, a big outdoor space.

Neal: Something I always ask folks that we get in here is – because it says a lot about people without going into a whole lot detail; the answer alone gives a lot of insight – how do you define success for yourself?

Sam: For me, success is just taking care of my family.

Neal: Right on.

Sam: I'm blessed to be able to do that. Hnestly, we bought our first house. I have a a 15 month old son at home.

Neal: I have a 15 month old daughter.

Sam: Congratulations. It's my first kid, so it's such an eye opening thing. For me it's just if I can just keep my wife and son taken care of and be able to be there too. That's the real challenge with defining success now for me is it's crazy that I can provide for them, but I would love to grow what I'm doing to where I don't have to be gone as much. If I can do a few shows and have that be the same as doing 10 shows and be able to be home most of the time, that's what it is. I don't want to get lost in the “What things could be like?” because I'm so grateful and blessed and amazed that when I think about this journey I've been on, the fact that we have a home and that I'm like providing for this family is crazy and I don't want to ever get lost in anything else being, you know, more important than that.

Neal: There is nothing more important than family. Well, give us one more, will you?

Sam: Man, you got me feeling emotional, like a slow one or something.

Neal: That's the idea.

Sam: Then we might have to do a new one if I'm going to do that. I feel bad for your listeners that have been listening to the Scoundrel stuff. You're getting some new stuff here. I'm going to do another new one to close it out here.

Untitled - Sam Burchfield, Live at PRE

Neal: I feel like we're getting the inside scoop, an album preview over here. That's awesome and kind of a preview of this afternoon, too. Looking forward to seeing that. We'll be down there checking that out and just wanted to really say thank you very much for taking the time to stop by here. I know we're a little bit off the beaten path, so we really appreciate the time and want to thank you very much for coming by The Sound.

Well, I'm really really grateful for y'all playing my music and and a bunch of other indie artists. he least I can do is come say hello. Thank you for having me and I hope to be back.

Yeah, we're expecting you next year for the album. Go ahead and put it on your calendar.

Born in Jacksonville, FL, the youngest of four to a Navy Chaplain and an elementary school teacher, Neal Ganaway followed his family around the world as a military dependant. He moved from Mississippi to Rhode Island and Japan to Germany. Neal graduated high school from Havelock High and holds a degree in Radio, TV, and Motion Picture Broadcasting from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. He worked in commercial radio for over 10 years. Neal currently works in sales and quality control for a locally owned and operated ready mix concrete company. He enjoys all kinds of music and welcomes the opportunity to share his appreciation for it on The Sound.