Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist Samantha Fish to play Blues on the Fox Fest 2018 in Aurora
By Eric Schelkopf
Samantha Fish's presence has only grown since she last played the Blues on the Fox festival in Aurora in 2014. In May, she was named the Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist at the Blues Foundation's 39th annual Blues Music awards. Fish will return to the Blues on the Fox festival this weekend when she takes the stage at 7 p.m. Friday, followed by Grammy-nominated artist Elle King at 9 p.m. The festival will take place Friday and Saturday at RiverEdge Park, 360 N. Broadway (Route 25), Aurora. Gates open at 2 p.m. for the second day of Blues on the Fox on June 16. Fourteen-year-old blues guitar prodigy Brandon "Taz" Niederauer will perform at 3 p.m., followed by Chicago blues musician Toronzo Cannon at 5 p.m., slide guitarist Sonny Landreth at 7 p.m. and the legendary Aaron Neville at 9 p.m. Tickets cost $30 each per day. Children 12 and younger are admitted free to Blues on the Fox, but must be accompanied by an adult 18 or older. For tickets and information, visit RiverEdgeAurora.com, call the RiverEdge box office at 630-896-6666, or stop by in person at RiverEdge's satellite box office, the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. I had the chance to talk to Fish about the upcoming show.
Q – Are you looking forward to coming back to the festival? Did you have a good time the last time? I definitely did. It was a huge festival back in 2014 and I know it's only getting bigger. Q – And you’re opening for Elle King. Are you a fan of hers? Oh, yeah. I like her. We just did a show at the Denver Day of Rock. She was the headliner on that, too. I actually got to catch her set for the first time. She’s a great talent. Q – It's already been a big year for you. You were named the Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist in May at the Blues Foundation's 39th annual Blues Music awards. What did it mean to you to receive the award and what did you think of the other nominees in the category, including Chicago’s own Shemekia Copeland? Well, first of all, she's amazing. I was nominated for that same award with her a couple of years ago, and she took it that year. I've always been a big fan of hers. She's always really deserving of those kinds of accolades, because she carries the blues forward. She's really amazing. To be honest, I didn't expect it. I really didn't expect it. And it is nice just to be nominated. I know that is like a total cliché thing to say, but at the same time, we did put out two albums in 2017 and it was like, thank God. We've been working so hard, and it felt really good just to be recognized for that kind of hard work. It was just like a little pat on the back and motivation that you're on the right path.
Q – And obviously a lot of people do think you are on the right path. This is your second Blues Music award. I know you received the award for Best New Artist debut in 2012. How do you think your music has grown since then?
It's obviously changed a lot. From "Runaway" to now, that artist back then is unrecognizable to where I am now. I’ve grown a lot. My style has evolved. I think it's become more diverse and expansive. I think the records have gotten better, not just performance wise. The songs themselves are better. There's more of a fluid thought process behind each record. It's less about random songs and stuff, which is kind of where I was at earlier on. There's just more of a concept.
I just feel like more of a well-rounded artist than I did back then.
Q – Your music does roam through a lot of genres. In November, "Rolling Stone" magazine named you one of the "10 new country acts you need to know." How does it feel to be called a country artist? Do you see yourself as a country artist, blues artist or something else?
I don't know, man. The whole genre thing is a little bit mind-boggling. My favorite kind of music is stuff that sort of pushes the boundaries of genres, and you don't know exactly what to call it. If you look back at the history of music, all the most legendary acts do that, put out something that was defining and new and innovative.
I don't mind not being put in a box, because it kind of pushes me forward to try and find my own sound and not try to make a record that's too stylized and something that's already been done. I just follow my own muse.
Q – Who are your biggest musical inspirations and how have they influenced your music? How much did your sister Amanda influence you in wanting to become a musician?
We kind of found the profession independently of each other, but when I was growing up, she was one of the first singers I heard. She was so passionate about it when we were little kids.
Anytime my parents would leave, Amanda would run into her room and start singing. It was kind of like a secret that only I knew about for some reason.
I always thought it was cool. It was like a secret passion that she had. I think eventually, she would go up in her room and start singing, and I would hang out in my room and start singing.
It probably did have a lot of influence on me growing up. Her voice is powerful. She's really into blues and rock and roll. She goes out and delivers.
Q – A story on you ran under the headline, “Samantha Fish is breaking up the boys club of blues singers.” Has that been a goal of yours? Do you see yourself inspiring other women to get involved in blues music?
I think that anytime that you are a female and you do something to get some recognition, it's like there's some kind of threat to the boys club or something. I think it's wonderful, because I have women who come up at shows and they tell me that it is great to see a female up there. Even now, it's not typical. The music industry is really hard to break through as a female. I think it's like that with a lot of industries. It's nice to see young kids and little girls say, "Oh, man, I've never seen a girl play guitar like that." Hopefully there will be more kick-ass little girls coming up playing guitar, or playing whatever, just working and being bad asses in their own right.
Interviewer Eric Schelkopf has covered the arts and entertainment scene in Chicago for over 25 years. Visit his informative blog at: http://www.thetotalscene.blogspot.com/