Inspired by some of the greatest sonic storytellers of our time such as John Prine and Randy Newman, Kentuckian songwriter Sam Filiatreau is one such disciple carrying on the torch.
At the age of 16, Filiatreau kicked high school to the curb to pursue his calling of pickin’ guitar and writing songs about the world around him. He would go on to join a rock band, (as a teenage boy struck by the music bug often will), travel to festivals across the country, and consume music that would inspire him today.
The Louisville-based folk artist got his start at a last-minute house show by some familiar faces. Filiatreau met Taylor Meier and Matt Vinson of the band Caamp, which kindled a friendship and soon after, a record deal with Meier’s own Gjenny Records.
Filiatreau has garnered a reputation for his catchy acoustic blend of Appalachian folk music and vivid lyrics. His modern vocals have a traditional and classic twist when showcasing his storytelling and everyday moments. Soon after signing with Gjenny Records, he worked on stacks of original music, following the release of his first two singles, “Wrecking Ball” and “El Camino.”
On June 1st, Filiatreau released his anticipated debut self-titled album. Meier and Vinson helped him craft eight of the tracks, with Meier on drums, Vinson on bass, and Filiatreau’s partner, Maggie Halfman, on backing vocals. He expressed that he didn’t have a theme for the album but wanted it to be “honest and not trying too hard,” and trying to “find that fine line of doing something well, but also not taking it too seriously.”
We got the chance to discuss the album and much more with him.
So when did you start writing and performing music, and who or what inspired you most?
I started writing and performing pretty early on. Maybe close to 12 years ago? Writing music was always a lot of fun for me, but being able to perform is just the gift that keeps on giving.
So I see you met Caamp band members, Taylor Meier and Matt Vinson, at a house show all of you played at. Can you tell us how that friendship came to be and what transpired since?
We just really hit it off from the moment we met that night. Everything was so easy, whether it was conversation or the songs we were connecting with. Since then we just kept it rolling with some CAAMP dates, recording this album, and now the Gjenny Records venture.
Your self-titled debut album was just released. Does the album have any overall themes or motifs throughout, and what kind of messages or feelings do you hope it invokes in the listener?
There’s not really a theme for the album. After it was all recorded and I was thinking about the songs that were picked I can only really categorize them as what it felt like to be recording in that cabin. It was all just very loose and free flowing. Never too serious.
Before the album dropped, you released two singles, “Wrecking Ball” and “El Camino.” What was it like making both songs, and what made you choose them as the singles? Was one harder to write than the other?
“El Camino” was difficult for me to write just because of the subject matter. It was something I was actually living through as opposed to making a love song out of nothing like with “Wrecking Ball”.
What does a day in the recording studio look like when writing/producing your music?
In this session it was all fairly easy. The lyrics and structure of the songs were pretty much all there, so it really came down to Taylor and Matt adding their mark to the songs. It’s tough finding players that play to the song rather than just playing to be heard, but they have such great ears and experience that they knew exactly what each track needed.
What does a dream gig look like for Sam Filiatreau?
At this point, any gig is a dream gig. I’ve been locked inside for too long to be picky right now!
Speaking of gigs: do you have any lined up for the summer, or even some light touring?
I’ve got a few things in the works, but the only official one is in Louisville, KY, in July. It’s this free outdoor show called Waterfront Wednesday with my buddies Houndmouth and The Jesse Lees. Other than that, maybe a few more dates towards the end of the year.
What does success as a singer/songwriter and musician mean to you?
Just being in a position where I can write songs and share them with people is good enough. I’d love to be able to be comfortable doing this job, but I’ll take what I can get.
What might fans expect to see or hear from you moving forward?
More music. More shows. This album is just an introduction for me. I’m excited for the future with Gjenny Records and recording more albums.