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Interview: Sam Beam

Sam Beam Jesca Hoop

American folk-pop singers Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) and Jesca Hoop have bundled their musical powers to produce a charming album full of love duets, ‘Love Letter For Fire’. Two people who are not in love writing an entire album about love songs and nail it? Yes, it’s possible! We phoned up Sam Beam in the ‘states to chat about his new music and his upcoming American tour.

Congratulations on your new album ‘Love letter For Fire’, How do you feel it’s being received so far?

Thank you! It’s been received pretty good. People have been saying nice things. I haven’t really been out to play yet though. We’ve had two performances so far and everyone really seems to be enjoying it. We go on tour next month, so we’ll hopefully get a better idea then.

For those who aren’t familiar with your music, how would you define your sound?

I have been doing my Iron & Wine project for about 15 years or so. Most of it is pretty quiet acoustic stuff, but there’s also lots of other stuff to it. They are mostly story based songs, pretty word heavy. People who like singer-songwriter type of songs will understand where I’m coming from. This project with Jess was hedged as a duet project to do love songs. And it was a lot of fun!

Well I can definitely hear the nice Iron & Wine folk pop sound in this album with Jesca Hoop and they are indeed very lovely duets. What was it like working together with Jesca?

It was great! It was a new experience for me because I had never written songs with anyone else before. Luckily I found a really creative partner who had a lot of fate in me, we sort of had shared fate in each other. And it was fun to just jump in and see how the songs turned out. And we both liked what came out. A lot of it was done over email and we would do shows and short tours together and sort of hash out across the table. So it was an interesting process, that’s for sure!

Have you taken a different approach in this album to songwriting or recording?

I didn’t approach my way of songwriting terribly different, except that I had someone else’s input to fold into mine. But that was the whole point of the project, that sort of new element. And I had a lot of fun. I was able to release the idea of being in total control of the final product. And the way that the songs turned out was surprising to me, it was a real joy. So I had a ball!

You mentioned you’re starting an American tour next month, what are you most looking forward to about the tour?

Well, the band is a lot of fun! We had some people playing on the record, like old friends that I’ve known for a while and haven’t had a chance to play with yet, so I’m always looking forward to that. I’m also always looking forward to sort of reinterpreting tunes. Because you have had the studio environment, but then you have the stage where all this adaptation happens. I like reinterpreting the songs and I love the songs, so I’m happy to bring them to the public with performances.

So would you say performing your songs to the public is definitely the most fun part of making new music, or is it also a tiny bit scary to see how your audience responds?

No, I’m never scared of music (laughs). I mean of course I always hope that people like it. And we do new stuff from this project, but we’ll also do stuff from her catalogue, and we’ll do stuff from my catalogue and even some cover songs that people will probably know. So yeah, I enjoy interpreting music over and over again, even with my own songs. I like writing music and to just see what we find. Something new is much more contributing than perfecting the old songs. I enjoy the creative part of it.

And are you planning on coming to Australia any time soon?

I hope so. I love Australia. Anytime you guys want me to come, I’ll be there! I’ve been [to Australia] several times before. I like Australians, everyone that I met is really nice. It’s such a great music loving culture which makes it so fun to play in Australia. There is not much not to like!