MY INSPIRATION: Sam Nix | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Alt. Americana songwriter Sam Nix has been revisiting the places he grew up in as inspiration for his brand new single Small Town which releases on Friday 24th March. Here, Sam lets us know some of the influences that led him to write the sentimental track.

Unlike a lot of my songs the initial “spark” for ‘Small Town’ didn’t come from an experience or poetic thought” but from a music hero of mine. At the time I was listening to a vinyl of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River’, an incredible record that cements Springsteen as a songwriting great. What recalled caught my attention was the eponymous song due to the complicated feelings it presented as it described a narrator reflecting on their hometown. This encouraged me to look back on my own old haunts along the river Tees. Walking through Middlesbrough, Darlington and Upper Teesdale I noticed how in 20 years so much had changed, complicating my own feelings, yet my living memories remained.

The first line of the song; “The corner shop’s gone; they said it went last year” is a reference to when as a kid every Friday I would go to pick up the new edition of the Beano from a newsagent in Barnard Castle. The building hasn’t been a newspaper shop for almost 13 years, but I will always remember it with a dozen comics stuffed on the bottom shelf and that sense of excitement as a child. I realised everyone must have memory like this in some form, so I then moved forward with this concept for the rest of the lyrics. Everyone has joyful memories and a dozen heartbreaks from where they grew up, but it forms who they are now. There was an option to be vague in the references for even wider appeal but songwriting, to me, isn’t just for the audience but for the songwriter as well. The river Tees holds a special place in my heart as it has been my home for as long as I can remember, so it felt right that the song represents the area over anything else. My brilliant producer on the song, Chris West, loved the idea and pushed it’s anthemic tone that I’ve tried to make present in its opening and closing riffs.

In the process of constructing the sound for the record I looked to some of my other musical heroes like Frank Turner and Chris Stapleton. The tracks ‘A Wave Across the Bay’ and ‘Nashville, TN’ played on my mind owing to the duality of sad and happy colours in the vocal and lyric. That’s a brilliant space to inhabit as it offers so many different variations of how the song could be portrayed through the instruments. In the end I settled on the verses having a sense of melancholy while the chorus acts as a  celebration, a stance against the winds of change. The idea of places changing then bled into the promotional photos. I had this image of a model town that could be moved and morphed into any shape, but theoretically never changed as the buildings were always the same. Six weeks of infuriating construction using glue and balsa wood and I had my own ‘Small Town’ that was captured excellently by my friend and photographer Stef. In the end the song and it’s philosophy all comes back to our individual perceptions and how they can be different. Small Towns aren’t just in the countryside, they can be in big cities, it’s what we consider our close neighbourhood growing up. It is because of this I have chosen to hold the single release show in the oldest building in my hometown of Barnard Castle. The event takes place on Thursday March 23rd at Blagraves from 8pm and tickets are available from Blagraves itself. I hope this single encourages you to maybe look back on your neighbourhood in the same way Springsteen’s ‘The River’ caused me to and see if you have the same interesting journey I did.

Sam Nix releases Small Town on all digital platforms on Friday 24th March

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