Reclaiming your voice is like reclaiming yourown creative process. It is a kind of microcosmic healing of theworld of sorts. – Samara Jade
We are Samara Jade Fans.
When Ralph Grizzle of my828life saw Samara Jade perform live in West Asheville a few years ago, he came home singing her praises ?. At that time her name was Searra Jade. Ralph encouraged me to see her perform live my next opportunity.
We (my828life) went to the Mothlight the following year to see her perform with her musician friends and colleagues. This event was the release of her new album under her new name. Her new moniker, ”Samara Jade” and the album, Wave of Birdsong.
We were blown away. We loved the touching and quirky messages of her songs. The instrumentals and harmonies stirred and moved us.
The entire performance was full of good vibes. We tapped our feet and swayed to the music. Everyone in the audience did the same. Her sound has been classified as “Philosofolk.”
My828life started following Samara Jade on instagram as she travelled and worked her craft out west. In December of this year, 2019, Samara played a homecoming event at the Grey Eagle with Momma Molasses and Noah Proudfoot (talented musicians in their own right) as opening and accompanying acts. Samara performed new songs and songs from previous albums.
Once again we raved to everyone about the unique talent we witnessed.
My828life approached Samara to discuss potential for her performing to guests on a barge cruise in the picturesque canals of France. Ralph’s other job is as a journalist and travel blogger for small ship, river and expedition cruises at avidcruiser.com and rivercruiseadvisor.com. His April 2019 barge cruise in France will feature Asheville singer-songwriter David Wilcox.
After our meeting, Samara Jade agreed to be our first podcast victim for my828life.
We wanted you to meet her and hear her music. The purpose of the “my828life” project is, to “explore, love and support Western North Carolina.”
We would appreciate your feedback about our podcast with Samara Jade. It is a first. We’d also like to ask if you would be interested in a canal barge cruise in France with Samara Jade on board giving daily performances and workshops about creative voice expression.
This is the first of hopefully many podcasts interviewing 828’s talented people, who we will present on my828life. – Tamera Trexler
Listen To Our Interview With Samara Jade
Today’s guest on my828life is Samara Jade. You’ve just heard a short sample of her song White Throated Sparrow. It’s featured on Samara’s 2018 compilation, Wave of Birdsong. If you can catch her performing live, as we did at the Grey Eagle in early December, you’re in for a treat. We sat down with Samara at our home in Asheville to talk about her music, why she changed her name and the healing powers of song.
Ralph: Today we are with Samara Jade. She is a very talented singer-songwriter. Is that how you describe yourself?
Samara: I guess I’ve always had a resistance to the phrase singer-songwriter, but that is what I am. I am a singer and a songwriter. That is mostly what I would say if I have to break it down in a nutshell. I play guitar. I’m a guitarist, a singer and I write songs influenced from folk music, world music, blues, jazz and a variety of other things. That’s the longer way of describing it. So it is just easier to say singer-songwriter.
Ralph: Well, I do want to say, since I messed up on Samara’s name. Why don’t you tell us why you changed your name?
Samara: It’s kind of a long story, but in essence, I was Searra. A number of years ago I was going through a time period of a lot of transition in my life and taking on an initiation. It felt like kind of an initiatory period and taking on a new name just felt like a good thing to do. To close the decade of my life of my twenties and entering my thirties, stepping into a new person that I was becoming.
Samara: I was canoeing down in Florida a few years ago and the samaras, which are the seed pods for maple trees – elm trees have them too – but it’s a botanical word for a “winged nut”. So the little helicopter seeds that fall, (the little red samara seeds are from the red maples) were falling.
Samara: I was canoeing into the spring and I was just thinking to myself, I’d always thought Samara was a really nice name. There in that moment I was like, “huh, what if that were my name? “ I invited my friends who I was with, “Hey, do y’all want to try calling me Samara?” As soon as they did , it landed in my soul. I was like, “Oh, that’s my name, I think”. It was kind of this interesting process of like, “Oh, I don’t actually want to change my name because that’s going to be a pain in the butt (I already have two albums out as Searra) Everyone’s gonna hate me for having for making them call me something different. Just being one of those annoying hippies that’s like, call me Rainshadow”.
Samara: But I couldn’t put it down. I tried to, but it kept coming back. It was like, “no, this is your name”. How I ultimately decided was a few months after that. I was hiking in Panthertown here in North Carolina and I was like, “all right, I’m going to decide this for once and for all. I’m going to sit on this rock and meditate and look inwards instead of looking for external signs“. I’d been like, “should I change my name?”, asking every intuitive reader or person. I was like, “Nope, the answer has to come from within”. I closed my eyes and sat for a long time, until I emerged with the decision. I’m like, “yep, this is my name”.
Samara: I opened my eyes. The moment I opened my eyes a little samara fell and landed right in front of me. I just started laughing,“well, there’s a sign from the universe”.
Samara: I guess it seems to be how things work sometimes. When you just surrender what you’ve been wanting, like an external sign in this case and okay, just got to look within and then the universe can give you what you need anyways. So yeah, that’s kind of in a nutshell.
Samara: That’s cool. What does the samara symbolize for you?
Samara: Well it’s a winged nut like I mentioned. It’s a seed that spirals upon the breeze. I feel like the songs that I write are much like these seeds. They just kind of spiral and I don’t ever really know where they end up or go.
Samara: Sometimes someone will reach out to me on social media and be like, “Hey, I heard your song, on the Spotify playlist”. Wow, let me tell you the story about how it’s impacted my life. Usually you don’t hear that kind of thing.
Samara: There’s a lot of surrender that I find comes with with being a songwriter or an artist in, any sort of medium. I feel like songs have a special air quality, they’re sound waves traveling out on the air. Especially this day and age where you can hear it on the other side of the world. I look at my Spotify listener map sometimes and like, “Oh cool, someone listened to my song in Brazil or Australia”.
Samara: It’s just kind of this miracle. There is an element of surrender, like “wow”. I’m pouring so much of my soul into these songs. I’m just giving away and I don’t really know where they’re gonna go or where they’ll lead me or if I’ll even follow. But that’s what I imagine it to be like for a tree, like a maple, a giant maple tree. I’m just sending out thousands of these little winged nuts, spiraling around everywhere and who knows which of them will root or turn into a tree. Most of them won’t. That’s okay. That felt like a really suitable metaphor.
Samara: Also, I feel really aligned with the archetype of Gemini and the twins. I’m a Gemini and have a lot of Gemini in my astrological chart, for what’s that worth.The twins archetype has played a large role in my life. The picture of samara, the double winged nut, it’s kind of got that twin thing going on. There’s a lot of layers to it that keep emerging since I’ve changed my name. I really resonate with the seed, and the song seed.
Ralph: I first saw you as Searra Jade and this was in West Asheville. By the way, if people are listening, you are a local and you’re struggling a little bit right now with, the 828 or Washington state.
Samara: 828 or Washington state. Yeah been living in Washington for the last couple of years, I have a home out there too.
Samara: I don’t have a physical home, but I feel very much at home in these two very different places, which is an interesting dynamic. I did live here for 10 years and I feel very much at home here. I’m on an extended visit right now to recalibrate. “Oh, do I want to come back here? Or keeping on the West coast?” So I’m not really sure.
Ralph: When I saw you, if that was when ”Wave of Bird Song” was coming out. Was that? That seemed a sort of turning point in your musical journey. That particular album and those songs on that album? I thought it was, I was really struck. I was like, “wow, that’s such a unique series of songs”. They were beautiful.
Samara: Thank you. Thank you. That album was a long birthing process. I wrote all the songs while I was living here and recorded them in Asheville over a year and a half period. The recording, the writing was a bigger period. I released that album ”Wave of Bird Song”, on my 30th birthday and shortly thereafter I left for the West coast. So it was kind of like a whole lot of big things happening at once. That was part of the name thing, “Oh, I’m about to release this album. Do I want to release it under the new name or not?” I ultimately decided to, that was big. It was my third album, kind of my first real one. I guess the other two had minimal funding. I had just kind of slapped together with not a whole lot of thought going into them.
Samara: But this one, I worked entirely with the same audio engineer, Kevin Harvey, who’s brilliant . I worked with all the musicians I wanted to hear in Asheville. I got a lot of my friends to sing on it. I got some wonderful guests, artists to sing on it, like David Wilcox and Jean Rowe. I’m a songwriter, I’m friends with and a big fan of up in New York. It was big, it was my first kind of big process. I did a Kickstarter for it. That was the big thing. That was why I was able to afford spending more time in the studio and pay all the musicians that I wanted to play on it. So it was definitely a lot of life energy went into making that album. Which is why I haven’t recorded another album.
Samara: The past couple of years I’ve been a little bit intimidated like, “Oh, wow, do I really want to do that again?” But I’m beginning, I’m in the process of beginning that now. My next album is going to be a lot more stripped down with arrangements, still with strings, bass, drums and violin. Nothing quite as elaborate as ”Wave of Bird Song”, which has full string arrangements, horn arrangements, full band, and lots of singers.
Ralph: Which were wonderful, just the way that you imitate some of the birds. You can almost see yourself, waking up in a tent somewhere out by a lake, sun’s come up and all these birds.
Samara: Yeah, that’s the idea. That’s what I was trying to convey with it. I actually recorded the the first track, well, I recorded a lot of the birds on the album. But the first track is just the Dawn chorus. The Dawn chorus being the the birds, what they sing every morning when the sun comes up. That was kind of a no brainer thing, “Oh, of course I need to start the album with what inspired the rest of the album”. I was out there many mornings before dawn with a little recording device, at the land where I used to live up in Barnardsville. Just trying to get good recordings of the birds, which was always kind of challenging. You have to be really still and quiet for them to keep singing near you.
Samara: Most of the time we just barge right on into the forest. The more that you learn and tune into bird language, the more you see how much of an effect you have, even one alone human, quietly walking through the forest. You can kind of feel where the birds just moved back from you. If you stand still enough in one spot for long enough, they’ll slowly start to creep back in and return to business as usual. It was learning a lot about bird language . This process was a lot of what inspired the album. A lot of the songs in the album pay homage to them in that way. I’m really happy with that, how that all came together.
Ralph: Yeah, it’s beautiful. Where’s the musical journey? Where do you see yourself going with it? It seems difficult to be an artist and a musician.
Samara: Well, you definitely ask me this at a central point of questioning . I’ve been gigging and hustling a lot the last couple of years, touring a lot. I’ve been dealing with some burnout, just longing to have more time to play music and less time doing everything else. People don’t realize what it takes to convince people to give you money to play music or to convince people to come see you play music. So I’m kinda tired of that game. I’m trying to figure out exactly what I want my offerings to be. I’m feeling, probably less or fewer gigs but more more shows, like at the Grey Eagle the other week, where I can really put a lot of energy into marketing. One show rather than five, maybe have just a few people come.
Samara: Also wanting to move in the direction of, I’m really passionate about community involvement and using music as a means of bringing people together. Since the dawn of humanity, I feel like it’s been music. It’s amazing thing that literally brings us together and makes us feel closer. It’s like when we can sing together, be making music together, our hearts beat together. This time, these times, which are just so full of separation: separation from each other; separation from nature; and separation from ourselves. I feel that’s probably one of the biggest offerings I can do is guide or utilize my gifts and music to bring people together. Whether that’s for a concert or a workshop in singing, improvisation or creative expression. So trying to dream, into stepping into that a little bit more. That’s something I have done in the past, but put aside the last few years. I’ve just been touring a lot. I really do enjoy that group experience, what can happen when we come together and use our voices, get vulnerable with each other. I think a lot of healing can happen.
Ralph: You said about getting vulnerable, because I’m thinking with singing, and we don’t sing, but I would be a little nervous to express myself that way. Yet I feel like it would be so good for me. I know you would feel the same way. But how do you encourage that person? A person like me, for example, to take that first step?
Samara: There’s a number of people, I think a lot of people feel, really similar sentiments.I think there’s this thing in our culture where people say automatically, “Oh, I can’t sing.” That’s for a number of reasons.
Samara: Number one, we’re so used to hearing recorded music on the radio. Either it’s been auto tuned or people have been working their whole lives singing and then they record. Even when you hear a recording, usually it’s not a live recording, it’s patching together the best of the best takes. People hear the finished product and they’re like, “Oh, I can’t sing like that, therefore I can’t sing.” A really common story, I hear a lot working with people is that they have early childhood stuff. Maybe being told they can’t sing or being told to mouth the words if they were in choir or something like that.
Samara: There’s so many stories like that, if it happened in early childhood. It gets deeply inscribed in you and it’s really hard to decondition. But I think there’ are a number of portals to open. To start opening the voice again and reclaim singing as just the basic human birthright. It’s like, “Oh, we can, we can walk, we can dance, we can sing“. Our ancestors have been doing that for forever. I really believe that.
Samara: I do a workshop in ”Creative Expression” or “Vocal Expression”, as I call it. If I use the word improvisation, it freaks people out. But that’s basically what it is. Oftentimes I’ll just start off with a bunch of different fun games. To get people in their bodies, making sounds, not even singing. If you just start singing right away, it can be kind of intimidating.
Samara: Just showing people, “Oh, I can use my voice to make all these different sounds to represent different things and different emotions”. I have a series of exercises that I do that to get people in a playful mood and playful spirit, that I find can get people a little bit back into their inner child. From there you can be more open to expressing, that’s one way it gives back to people. That’s a great question.
Samara: I think it’s different for everybody. I think it depends, we’re all on different journeys. Maybe for some it’s a reconnection with their voice, being able to speak up for things, they didn’t think they were able to speak up for. A reconnection with their creativity.
Samara: The voice is really deeply tied to creativity. Feeling, ”Oh, I’m not a creative person“, being told you can’t sing. Maybe you were also told, “imagination isn’t useful”. We’ve all got kind of different versions of a pretty similar story. I think working with the voice and opening the voice can be a really powerful way of deconditioning stories that were told.
Ralph: And me, not to sing, also feels it’s this form of suppression. You’re suppressing this thing and saying ”you can’t do that”.
Samara: Right. Suppression, which is one of the big problems I think. In general suppression of creativity, suppression of the divine feminine; suppression of nature to do what it wants. You know, there’s a lot of that going on. Reclaiming your voice is like reclaiming your own creative process. It is a kind of microcosmic healing of the world of sorts.
Ralph: Well, we could talk forever, but we can’t say everything in this short podcast. I’d like to leave it here because I’m hoping we can do more.
Samara: I hope so too. This is fun. I like this place where we got to. Thanks for your good questions. So thank you.
Ralph: And maybe next time I will sing if Tamera does. Okay, well thanks a lot Samara.
Samara: Thank you, Ralph and Tamera.