Photo by Aigars Lapsa
In the seven years since she first picked up a guitar, Samantha Fish has accomplished what scores of musicians strive for throughout their career—and rarely achieve: She secured a
record deal, toured the world, and now makes a living solely
from her music. By all signs, she seems poised to become a key figure
in modern blues. All at the tender age of 22. And she didn’t pull it
off by using some Rebecca Black-style YouTube stunt or having an
industry connection. She did it the old-fashioned way, by playing her
ass off and paying her dues night after night in dingy, smelly clubs.
As a teen, after a long night of delivering pizzas, Fish would
sneak into Knuckleheads in Kansas City, Missouri, to check out
big-name blues guitarists. She also sat in with them at every opportunity,
and soon she became a fixture on the blues scene there.
Eventually, she quit her job and went after music full-time.
In February 2010, Fish recorded and produced a live album
entitled Live Bait
. Word spread quickly, and it wasn’t long before
the stars aligned, so to speak: Tina Terry of Piedmont Talent saw
Fish perform at Knuckleheads and was so impressed that she
referred Fish to the company’s director, Steve Hecht, who then
contacted Thomas Ruf of Ruf Records. Soon after, Fish was offered
a contract. Upon signing the deal, the label put Fish on Girls with
, an album that placed her alongside female blues artists
Cassie Taylor and Dani Wilde. This act toured Europe and the
United States on the Ruf Records 2011 Blues Caravan.
Fish’s debut Ruf Records album, Runaway
, was released last summer,
and it’s an impressive outing that spans several styles—from
the rumba-fied country-boogie of “Soft and Slow” to the smoky
jazz vibe of “Feelin’ Alright” and “Today’s My Day.”
Who are your main influences?
That’s a hard question, because
there’s so many. I grew up listening
to a lot of classic rock, like
Tom Petty, the Rolling Stones, and
Sheryl Crow. Keith Urban was
also a real big deal for me, growing
up. When I was 17, I went to
his concert, and I wanted to learn
how to play lead after that. Stevie
Ray Vaughan was also a big influence
on me. I take influences from
different styles of guitarists, but
when I got into the blues it was,
like, Freddie King and the old
Delta guys. Right now, I’m really
into Elmore James and contemporary
guys like Mike Zito, Ronnie
Baker Brooks, Michael Burks,
Tommy Castro, and Tab Benoit—
who is huge
How did you make the shift
from Sheryl Crow to the blues?
I was 18, and I wanted to go
out and jam in Kansas City. I
live in a blues town, but I didn’t
really know much about it until
I started going out to the open
jams. I didn’t even want to play
the blues at first. I was into classic
rock and I wanted to be a
rocker, but then I started playing
the blues and I felt the soul in it.
I fell in love with it and started
doing my homework by listening
to the old guys like Son House
and Skip James.
Did you ever take guitar lessons?
Not really. I took a couple of
lessons here and there, but I’m
mostly self-taught. When I was
about 18, I started hitting the
scales hard, trying to be a lead
player. I started just making up
my own solos, picking up little
bits and pieces from things that
I heard. I never had the patience
to sit down and learn somebody’s
solo, note-for-note. I kind of
wish I did have the patience, but
I would get distracted and start
doing my own thing.