SHAWNEE, Okla. – It’s laundry day at Samantha Crain’s Shawnee house. A few days’ break from touring doesn’t signal a flash getaway to the Caribbean; it’s time to clean house.
The Choctaw musician whose career is closely watched by the music industry and national media has made a sort of cleaning on her newest record, Kid Face, which will be released Feb. 19. Into Kid Face went her thoughts on recent events in her life – from finding freedom in the photo of a former lover and his new wife in the album’s opening track Never Going Back to the eventual longing for home places and grasslands when even the most exciting tour becomes too much in Somewhere All the Time.
As private as Crain is about her life, writing the songs for this album came easily, maybe necessary.
“I wouldn’t have done it if I was scared to do it,” she said. “I think the older I get, the more sort of a confessional songwriter I become, maybe because I just get more comfortable with myself and I feel a little more ready to put that stuff out there.”
Crain packs up the band and guitar soon enough. She has shows scheduled in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Singers Parker Millsap and Skating Polly join Crain for the Kid Face release show at Tulsa’s Fassler Hall, 304 S. Elgin Ave., at 9 p.m. Feb. 15. Cover is $7. Then, Crain moves to the Blue Door, 2805 N. McKinley, in Oklahoma City (8 p.m. Feb. 16) joined again by Millsap. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
The Blue Door venue is particularly special to her and Crain plays it a few times a year.
“It’s a very comfortable place to play. It’s a small listening venue. Nobody’s going to go to a show there and then sit in the back and talk really loud,” she said.
It’s also ideal for her newest album, a collection that finds her going back to her folk beginnings and more cohesive, she admits, than 2010’s album You (Understood).
“I think a lot more was going on with me emotionally and personally. I think that album was a lot … less focused. This album [Kid Face] is kind of the opposite of that. It’s not that more has happened to me. I’ve had time to get my focus back. I think it’s a little more put together and has more of an identity to it,” she said.
Crain, 26, grew up in Shawnee. Choctaw from her father’s side of the family, she – like many of her family – has always had a creative bent. She started out writing short stories and poetry as a little girl, well before she ever picked up a guitar.
As she began to put her stories to music, she blended elements of fiction into songs rooted in real life. As a student at Oklahoma Baptist University, she turned a series of stories written for a creative writing class into songs and recorded them as The Confiscation: A Musical Novella. The project gained her notice from a North Carolina record label, which formally released The Confiscation in 2007 and earned her praise from New York Times’ pop culture critic John Caramanica.
Songs in the Night, released in 2009, was her first full-length album. Music writers and audiences everywhere listened and began talking about the Oklahoma singer with a youthful face, a way with lyrics and distinctive voice. Naked and honest, Crain’s voice (and music, too) owes some of its qualities to her earliest exposures to music – a mixture of her dad’s Bob Dylan and Grateful Dead records and hand drum songs she heard at powwows. Those songs contain non-lexical words “that aren’t necessarily words. They’re more sounds,” she said.
“That music has a lot of emotion in it that goes beyond the throat. It sets down in your stomach. It sets in your brain and your heart. I think being introduced to that kind of music at an early age really put me in a good spot for being able to be an emotional musician,” she said. “I think I’ve held on to a lot of those properties in music from those early, early exposures to drum music and powwows.”
Kid Face, her third full record, will be released Feb. 19, but the album has already received wide notice from Rolling Stone, Spin and other music publications. Now she takes it to the live stage for all to experience.
“I’ve never wanted to or never tried to do anything over the top or showy just because that’s not something that I identify with,” Crain said.
What you can expect is a sound described as “hypnotic” and “heartfelt,” and completely honest from an artist’s hands.
For more about the Fassler Hall show, call (918) 576-7898. For more about Crain’s show at the Blue Door, go online to www.bluedoorokc.com or call (405) 524-0738.
TODD ROETH | COURTESY PHOTO