There is a really wholesome energy that happens on the island, and it’s best to get swept away in it.
– Samantha Savage Smith
We recently had a chat with CFMF40 performer Samantha Savage Smith for Dote Magazine. We chatted about about her history with the Festival and her recording on our forthcoming 40th anniversary album that features 40 Alberta musicians covering iconic artists who have graced the stages of Calgary Folk Fest.
How long have you been a part of Folk Fest?
My first performance was almost 10 years ago! I was so green, and incredibly nervous. They scheduled me on as a tweener on Mainstage before I had even played a smaller stage. It was wild being twenty-one and playing my lil songs to this massive crowd — a sea of tarps and hats. I remember that Stars was the next Mainstage act so they were line checking, and I was just trying to maintain my focus between synth hits and Canadian rock stardom... it was quite a task!
What are you most looking forward to at the Festival this year?
Just being there! I kinda shed any preconceived notions of what I’ll like or probably won’t like. It’s so eclectic, and it’s easy to find moments that transcend any preferences. There is a really wholesome energy that happens on the island, and it’s best to get swept away in it.
Oh, and Mauno, I friggin love that band.
Samantha Savage Smith recording at the National Music Centre studios at Studio Bell
You’re also featured on our 40th anniversary album. Can you tell us a bit about what that was like?
Interestingly, my very first Calgary Folk Fest was the same year St. Vincent played Mainstage. I adore her, and she is one of the top ten artists that pushes me to be better: a better guitar player, better songwriter, better composer, just better. I saw her backstage and she smiled and waved at me as I was standing awestruck twenty feet away. I ran like hell!
For the 40th Anniversary album, I chose “The Party” from the 2009 album Actor. It felt appropriate choosing “The Party” out of all the amazing tracks on the album and it gave me some space to reimagine it a little bit and take more creative liberties in production and arrangement. I wanted it to sound and be different but still pay homage to the entirety of Actor, while maintaining my own vibes in the same breath. I broke up the track into two segments: “The Party” then the “After Party” and it just flew off into the sunset from there. The recording process was incredible — Graham Lessard at The National Music Centre is a saint of a technician and person/producer — we had a fairly ambitious plan for our four hours of studio time and it went swimmingly. My band cranked it out like a bunch of pros, and I literally finished my last harmony vocal take one minute before our session was supposed to close. If you’ve worked in studios before, you’ll know how far out that is!
How long have you been involved in music? What can you tell us about how the music scene has evolved in Calgary?
I suppose I’ve been involved since I was around 13. I started performing at coffee shops and what not pretty young, and playing in weird scrappy feminist no wave bands in high school. I religiously went to all ages shows at the multi or carpenters union hall (which I believe are all condos now with cat cafes below) and the first thing I did when I turned 18 was to go to bar venues to see bands.
The Calgary scene is constantly evolving. It ebbs and flows. I think Calgary is underrated as a city for an extremely eclectic and even downright iconic music community. I feel like we could just do a whole interview on this topic alone. To keep things brief, as a person who has toured the country from coast to coast, a Calgary audience is truly something special. It’s not just the musicians, it’s the listeners and show goers here. You can play to ten people or a thousand and it’s hard to leave a set and not feel your work wasn’t valued. I know this town holds a special place in a lot of artists’ hearts that aren’t from here and we still don’t even realize what kind of impact we can leave.
Who are your recommendations on who to see perform at CFMF 40?
Start planning your festival schedule now so you don’t miss out on great performances by Samantha Savage Smith, Sharon Van Etten, Belle & Sebastian, Bedouine, Lab Coast, Sheila E. and many more. Our 4-day Festival features over 70 artists on 8 stages including a kids area, arts market, beer garden and eclectic local food vendors.