“I’ve sort of always been around music,” Samantha Crain told American Songwriter. More specifically, the singer/songwriter from Shawnee, Oklahoma, described her upbringing as being enveloped in the music of her hometown church along with her musically talented relatives. Crain is also of Choctaw heritage and attended powwows growing up.
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“But I didn’t really get into music until probably like my teen years,” Crain confessed. “I started traveling outside of Shawnee, which was the town that I was from, to go DIY all-ages concerts. There was a venue in Oklahoma City called The Conservatory, it’s not there anymore, but I would just go to those shows like all the time. I think I was just really searching for where I fit in and I couldn’t ever really find that in Shawnee.”
Crain was then captivated by the touring artist and attempted to write songs like the ones she had heard in shows and on CDs. She began writing down anything that inspired her to create or to tell her story. “[Inspiration] just pops out from anywhere and everywhere and without warning,” Crain said. “I don’t really have any rhyme or reason as to what inspires me or what doesn’t.”
Recently, on April 9th, the Oklahoman singer/songwriter released some of her inspired stories via a four-track EP entitled I Guess We Live Here Now.
This EP came as a surprise for Crain. In the middle of 2020, she had released her full album called A Small Death in response to personal traumas. Usually, after releasing a record, the extensive process of touring commences and an artist is thrown into performing. But, with the forceful presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Crain explained that touring was off the table and she was pushed back into the songwriting process.
“That’s like what I had the time and space to do,” Crain said. “I could still feel that I had some writing energy bubbling up within me leftover from A Small Death, which is pretty rare for me. Normally when I finish a record, I’m just drained of ideas and I don’t have anything until I have time to build that back up again. But I just sort of began to reflect on the person that I was after this really difficult journey that I had written about on A Small Death. On that journey, I had discovered so many tools and cataloged a lot of tricks of survival just through that struggle that I went through.”
She continued, “This EP sort of became like an epilogue to [A Small Death]. It’s an expression of myself increasingly at peace with uncertainties and just sort of becoming stronger in the agency of my own decisions. And also just like finding undiscovered love in my heart for others, and also sort of beginning the lifelong process of balance between sort of ambition and satisfaction. So I view [I Guess We Live Here Now] as sort of like the postscript of the worst-case scenario letter, like the part where I can’t believe that just happened… the EP is sort of just me waving a flag and being like, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m good. I’m okay. I made it through, you know, I’m on the other side and still ticking.’”
This epilogue, Crain’s I Guess We Live Here Now, is that beautifully executed victory lap. She triumphed over the pain and grief in her life. And in just four tracks, this EP sonically and emotionally encapsulates the human experience. The EP rises and falls with complex arrangements that showcase Crain’s expertly cultivated folk flair.
“I think my whole vibe, my whole focus whenever I’m producing a song is I want it to feel very human, very intimate. But at the same time, I wanted to feel very cinematic. That’s the only guideline that I’m really going for… But then maintaining this organic human quality of intimacy,” she said.
In this sense, Crain’s ability to reach into two different realms of production — the gentle and the grandiose — sets her apart from the rest.
The songs themselves on I Guess We Live Here Now, seem to have been destined to exist. The lyrics for each of the songs came to Crain first, before the sound, and “Bloomsday” practically jumped into the recording studio.
“Sometimes you just go into a studio and every idea that you had planned on using, every arrangement, every instrument, tempo — everything you had envisioned for the production of the song just works and the song comes together immediately and like a puzzle that you don’t even have to try putting together. Like you just poured the puzzle out on the table and it was already the picture. That’s how ‘Bloomsday’ felt and when that happens there always becomes a really special connection to a song.”
Additionally, the lyrics of “Two Sitting Ducks,” ended up inspiring the EP title. Crain explained, “It is this story about these two young people that are able to find freedom in their rather limited life situation. They’re having this conversation about getting stuck in a town because their car broke down and one of them says, Man, that’s just our luck. And the line after that is, I guess we live here now / Just two sitting ducks.”
“I think that’s a really special line to me because I think anybody that’s been limited by their resources in life which would be anybody that sort of comes from a marginalized community or low income or I mean the majority of the country, you know, we’ve all had that feeling of just like something happening to us and saying something along those lines. It’s like I guess we live here now, I guess this is what’s happening to me. But it’s not like in a defeated way. It’s like a duck letting the water sort of roll off of you. And I think that that’s something really human and really important. It’s just like the resiliency of humans to be able to accept as life happens to us. To accept those things and be able to make the most of it,” Crain concluded.
Check out I Guess We Live Here Now here, and check out one of Crain’s music videos below (she has been directing all of her recent music videos herself!)
Photo by Dylan Johnson