When you’re raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in South Carolina, you’ve seemingly all but have a leg up in the Appalachian music scene.
Such is the case with songwriter Sam Burchfield, who took inspiration from music of the surrounding Appalachia including folk, gospel, country and southern soul. Burchfield’s first full-length album, Graveyard Flower, which dropped in February of this year, is a connection to the roots of the grounds that he grew up on. The album is meant to bring the listener back to earth, and provide a re-connecting with the soil, flesh, and blood that we seem to take for granted these days, what with our incessant obsession with screens and make believe. Graveyard Flower is honest music pertaining the human spirit and condition on a basic level, which is often the basis for the music coming out of the Appalachian folk circuit.
Burchfield’s latest creation, his single “When We Get Through,” speaks in a similar light; particularly a light of hope and optimism. But this isn’t just your standard man and a guitar folk song. He implements layers of background horns and light brush-drumming as the song starts to pickup steam. The song no doubt hits on all the levels one might want out of a country folk tune. It provides light and airy sing-a-long lyrics, and instrumental elements of sonic comfort including a dirty twang-tinged guitar solo towards the end.
Burchfield and his band of “Scoundrels” have opened for several heavy hitters ranging from St. Paul & The Broken Bones, to CAAMP, to Ben Rector. Whether it be a rowdy full-band show or an mellow acoustic performance, Burchfield’s lyrical depth and heartfelt vocals bring life to his well-intentioned songs. The rising folk singer has reportedly turned down several contracts, and proceeds to release music independently, and has developed a steadfast following across the seas.
While Burchfield’s MO is furthering his music career, make no bones about it, he may partake in Super Smash Brothers competitions if given the chance. (for N64, obviously) It seems like everyone you meet who has a penchant for the game claims to be a master, but Burchfield seems to have a stranglehold on the competition in the southeast. Or so he says…
He was kind enough to answer some questions we flung at him about the new single, what he’s got cooking for the latter half of the year, his favorite Smash Bros. character, and much more.
So who or what got you into playing and writing music?
My two older sisters were both into music and began playing cello and viola, so I followed in their footsteps I suppose.
How much has growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina inspired your music? Do you think you’d have the same musical path had you grown up in a different part of the country?
The environment we grow up in is huge. I definitely would be a different person had I grown up elsewhere. My latest album is all about reconnecting with nature and a lot of that was inspired by the Appalachian scenery I was around growing up.
What is your songwriting process like? Is it more regimented and structured, or more loose and sporadic?
I would say my best songs are loose and sporadic, but they exist in a somewhat structured life of writing since I was in middle school. All of that experience and time put into writing I think gives me the ability to not be so rigid and disciplined now. Instead I try to be present and let the music unfold when it needs to.
Do you mostly write alone, or do you take part in co-writes?
I mostly write alone, though I’ve had a few close friends I’ve written with in the past, and my wife Pip the Pansy is present in my writing as someone to bounce ideas off of.
So it was your song, “When We Get Through” that caught our ear. Can you talk about the influence and inspiration behind this track?
I was sitting in quarantine and was asked to write a song about it for some sort of advertisement pitch. The pitch never ended up happening, but I was really intentional about the meaning behind the song and ended up really liking it. I did a live take in my basement and sent that to a bunch of my friends who were also quarantined to add their piece. The song is about hope ultimately. We are in a crazy time, but I think we have to hold onto hope and not let fear consume us. Look to the light on the horizon.
Is it a part of or going to be a part of an EP or LP?
I’ve written a lot of songs during this quarantine time, and I’ve thought about putting them into a mixtape or something but not sure. Seems like all of the ‘quarantine’ branding happening has really tainted that idea, haha.
As a whole, what messages do you hope to get across to your listeners through your music?
Reconnect to nature, reconnect to each other. Live present and try to ditch the screen time as much as you can manage.
How have you been keeping busy and trying to maintain momentum for your music during the pandemic?
I was, but lately as the protests and other issues began, I really haven’t been motivated to promote my own material or have ‘me’ time to write. I know it will come, but I have to wait and listen right now. Also I’ve been busy renovating a school bus to live in so my wife and I can save money on rent etc. so most of my days have been out working on that too!
Do you feel the pandemic has helped or hurt your creative process? (or perhaps neither)
I was in a really good place creatively before the pandemic. I still am, and I think all of the time alone has caused a lot of friends and other artists to turn towards each other. I’ve had more fun collaborations (like this single) because of the pandemic, which I guess is a neat thing to happen.
What’s one of your proudest/most accomplished moments as an artist so far?
I’m getting ready to press my record Graveyard Flower to vinyl, which will be a first. Definitely a bucket list thing for me, and I’m very proud to finally be doing this and doing it all independently!
What might fans expect from Sam Burchfield in the latter half of the year?
They can probably expect me to be traveling in this bus with my wife and two dogs haha. I will likely slowly release a few singles as I feel called to, and they can look to 2021 for a new record coming out.
Who’s your favorite character on Super Smash Brothers for N64?
Now you’re hitting close to home. I’m a Kirby guy, and I’ve been known to be undefeated in the southeast…
What are some local Atlanta establishments you look forward to frequenting and supporting again once deemed safe, acceptable, and possible?
My favorite breakfast spot Sun in My Belly (I always get The Kirkwood) is a must when it’s safe to go out to eat. Also Muchacho (tacos and coffee) and Buteco (buddies awesome Brazilian coffee shop spot with live music at night). Can you tell I like breakfast?