Red vs Blue, which is released on May 1, showcases 18 new diverse songs taking inspiration from everything from politics to Play-Doh. The Wolverhampton musician wrote the first track around three years ago with the last penned during lockdown.
“That seems to be generally how I write though, I’m not particularly prolific,” he tells Weekend. “I’ll have periods where I don’t write anything for a long time, then inspiration will come and I’ll suddenly have three or four songs from it. We live in incredibly politically charged times, and that is reflected on this album.
“It’s not all politics, but it’s definitely a running theme! The title of the album, Red vs Blue, is taken from a line in the song ‘Who We Are’, which is first track on the blue disk. That song is about understanding your own political beliefs and convictions, and in turn understanding those whose beliefs differ from your own.
“The album itself is split into two disks, one red and one blue, which mirror each other in the way I’ve ordered the songs,” explains Sam.
It would seem music runs in his blood. “I’ve always sung, it runs in my family. My dad is the singer in one of the covers bands I play in, The Pale Aliens, and his dad used to sing at Bilston town hall. My other grandad was also a musician, a bass player in a jazz band, so I never really had a chance!,” he says.
Among his other musical influences are singers such as Bob Dylan and Billy Bragg.
“I admire anyone who stands up for what they believe in, and musicians are no different. There are plenty of stories of musicians who started out with noble and steadfast values, but as fame and notoriety caught up with them they compromised on those values to appeal to a bigger audience. I’m learning to appreciate their music for what it is and give them the benefit of the doubt, but I still seem to always come back to those who stay a little more on message.”
Sam, who has been gigging since he was a teenager, became a full-time musician in 2017 after a few years working in education.
The first song he ever wrote was 7 Days a Week, a version of which opens his Anthology album, which was released in 2012 and had followed 2010’s The List.
His last album was 2017’s As I Live and Breathe which was launched with his first ever full band show.
Red vs Blue showcases the talents of Daniel Hart on guitar and Dickie Davis on drums, as well as Ewan Stevens on cittern/mandolin and John Hare on accordion.
Generally, Sam’s songs may start life as a single lyric or are formed around an idea that’s popped into his head.
“I like to write songs about things that are important to me or that I believe in. I guess that comes with the territory as a ‘protest singer’. I like to think my music is at least an honest portrayal of who I am as a person and what I believe,” he explains. As an independent musician, Sam handles everything himself, whether it’s recording, booking or making and distributing music and merchandise. As well as his solo work, he currently plays in two covers bands – The Replicas and The Pale Aliens.
“I’ve a list of almost all of my gigs since I started playing on my website which tells me that I’ve played over 1,200 shows, so I’ve been around a bit,” says Sam.
“Locally some of my favourite venues to play are The Robin 2 and Katie Fitzgerald’s, both of which I’m hoping to return to with full band shows later this year,” he adds.
Like for so many other musicians, life suddenly changed for regular live performer Sam when the first lockdown was announced – but the 33-year-old was determined to make the best of a bad situation.
“As a full-time musician who relies on live performance for pretty much all of my income, it has vanished in the blink of an eye. I had one gig when lockdown eased in the middle of last year, but other than that I’ve not had any work since March 2020. It’s a similar story to almost everyone across the industry and wider arts sector.
“But from a positive side of things, it has given me chance to re-focus my efforts on my original material.
“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m trying to break into the independent festival circuit, and while I laid the groundwork in 2019 with a few support gigs for acts established there, it’s been during lockdown that I’ve really managed to make myself better known to the promoters, musicians and punters in that particular circuit, playing livestream festivals with many of them on the bill or watching from home.
“There is a real community in the people who attend the festivals and gigs of the artists that frequent them, and I’ve been introduced to some of them virtually during lockdown, so I hope to get the opportunity to play for those people for real once restrictions are lifted.
“There’s also a real chance that, without the time at home that lockdown has given me, this album wouldn’t exist, or at least be recorded,” he tells Weekend.
During lockdown his Facebook live streams every Wednesday at 7pm have proven a hit with fans.
“I’m planning to continue those for the time being. I’m also launching this new album on May 1 with a special live stream gig, supported by three brilliant acts in Matt Johnson, Jess Silk and Davey Malone. As far as live shows go, I’ve started to tentatively book dates for the second half of the year,” says Sam.
Four years after deciding to concentrate solely on his music, he remains grateful to be doing a job he is so passionate about.
“I hope to keep being able to make music that people enjoy, and keep being able to make a living doing this, the best job in the world! It took me quite a long time to be comfortable writing songs about myself directly, but now I find it a really enjoyable expression of who I am. It’s a privilege to be able to play these songs to other people, so seeing and hearing people enjoying my performances is a humbling and rewarding experience.”
To find out more about Sam’s music go to www.facebook.com/samdraiseymusic or www.samdraisey.com