He’s shared the same stage – and band – as Chris Stapleton, arguably the hottest name in country music. And now, Carroll County High School graduate Sam Lewis is hoping his own music career can follow a similar path as the Grammy and CMA award winner.
Lewis will make a homecoming of sorts September 8 when he plays live in concert at the Blue Ridge Music Center at 7 p.m. A 2002 graduate of CCHS, Lewis was known as Sam Cotner in high school (Lewis is his middle name). Since that time, he has spent the last 12 years in Nashville, honing his craft and joining the music industry full-time in 2013.
His third album, “Loversity,” continues his rapidly developing reputation as a country soul-singer and songwriter with a mesmerizing quality to his voice. It’s a voice that leaves a somewhat haunting effect that holds the listener rapt. His songs marry social commentary with infectious grooves and soulful vocals, masterfully incorporating his experiences and the perceptions of those around him. He has collaborated with songwriters ranging from John Prine and Kacey Musgraves to The Wood Brothers, and has been dubbed “a modern Townes Van Zandt” by Chris Stapleton.
Asked for this article if his sound is ever compared to Stapleton’s set off a wave of interesting quotes and facts from Lewis, showing just how close he is right now to the musical forefront in Music City, USA.
“I think if there are any sonic similarities it is he is mostly known for his vocal performance and range. The band that has been touring with him, that is my old band, and so we have the same rhythm section on our records,” Lewis said. “When he was making ‘Traveler,’ I was making ‘Waiting on You’ with The Wood Brothers, and J.C. (Cure) and Derek (Mixon) were on both albums. To put it lightly, he kind of poached my band. My old band has been his band since he made ‘Traveler’ and I toured with him numerous times while he was touring for Traveler for a couple of years. We went from 500- to 800-capacity venues to less than a year later he was playing multiple nights in 3,000-capacity venues and that transformed immediately to amphitheaters and arenas.”
Lewis said Stapleton’s “poaching of his band” is not a sore subject though. In fact, he said it has been amazing to witness Stapleton’s career skyrocket first-hand.
“To see him and Morgane, his wife, and see them manage it the way they have is quite an anomaly. It has managed to run so well. They are quite particular who they work with and take out on the road. And to get any validation from someone like that is quite a compliment. They are still the same folks I met when I first moved to town,” Lewis said. “It is not a sore subject. I honestly think a lot of those gigs I got were pity gigs for taking my band. But no, I am just happy J.C. and Derek are still together playing music. They are two of my favorite people and probably the best rhythm section in country music.”
Still, the profession has literally taken Lewis around the world. He said he has played 40 states multiple times, been to the United Kingdom five times and even played in India. He’s also performed in Canada, played on music cruises, and even the funeral for his best friend’s mother. He’s played at the two holiest sites in country music – the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium – and he’s toured with the late Merle Haggard multiple times, as well as touring with Stapleton and Marty Stuart.
“I am hoping to be a 10-year overnight success,” Lewis said with a laugh. “I have played for some very important people and played just about everywhere you can play. Working with John Prine – he’s definitely been an inspiration for me, not just as a songwriter, but just the way he evolved as an artist. He’s definitely had the career I am trying to follow as far as longevity and growing people that are just fans of really good songs. At the end of the day, that is all I care about – making good songs. I perform because I record and I am apparently wanted and needed to perform for folks, which is great, but I do it for the songwriting. That is my forever, true passion as an artist.”
The concert will be held in the outdoor amphitheater at the base of Fisher Peak at milepost 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Galax, Virginia.
Chapel Hill’s indie Americana quartet Mipso, comprised of Jacob Sharp (mandolin, vocals), Wood Robinson (bass, vocals), Joseph Terrell (guitar, vocals), and Libby Rodenbough (fiddle, vocals), is known for expanding the traditional vocabularies of old-time and bluegrass music by blending classic four-part harmonies, traditional Appalachian country, folk, jazz, and pop music. The concert comes on the heels of the group’s new album, Edges Run, released in April. Mipso expanded its sonic character and geographical ties with its latest release, which was recorded in Oregon, rather than the North Carolina Triangle.
Glide Magazine writes, “Edges Run should finally end any attempts to pigeonhole Mipso as a string band. The twelve songs range from sensitive ballads to upbeat pop/rock songs, many painted against the backdrop of an environmental soundscape, and some with electric guitar and bass, rather than acoustic.”
During the concert, The Galax Smokehouse will be on site serving its signature barbecue, down-home sides, drinks, and desserts.
Mipso + Sam Lewis When: 7 p.m., Saturday, September 8 Where: Blue Ridge Music Center, 700 Foothills Road, Galax, Virginia, or Milepost 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway Tickets: $20 advance, $25 day of show, $10 children 3-12, BlueRidgeMusicCenter.org or (866) 308-2773, ext. 212. Parking is free.
Allen Worrell can be reached at 9276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN