Meet Sam Newsome
AAJ: I understand you've been writing lyrics for your vocalist to sing.
SN: I was last year. I don't know; I guess I was always fascinated how you can have lyrics to a melody or vice versa and it just seems to come alive in a way that's really hard to get to when you're playing something that's just totally instrumental. It's almost like you can take a picture and when you add the lyrics it becomes 3D.
AAJ: So how did you feel it turned out? I gather you're not doing it as much now.
SN: No I'm not. The stuff I wrote I felt like was pretty good. But it's weird, I guess at the time I wasn't so much into being just a player. I was more into being a conceptualist or a bandleader. It was almost like I heard the rest of the people in my group almost like an extension of my voice, in a way. I felt like the focus wasn't just on my playing. But the past four or five months it's kind of shifted and it's like I'm back in this space where I really want to play. You know, I'm practicing a lot every day and it's just like I'm really into the sound of the instrument and just playing with people. Now I feel like where I was when I was playing tenor before I stopped. You're just into playing. You're not thinking about other people so much. So that's kind of like where I'm at now.
AAJ: How did you connect with Columbia records?
SN: Well, the group had started to gel and I had all the instrumentsit just started to feel really good and I just felt like, "I really need to record this now." It felt like it was at a place where I felt like the three or four years I had been putting into itI think it had finally gotten to a place where it was time to document it. So I went into the studio and I recorded a CD.
AAJ: You paid for this?
SN: Yeah. So after we recorded the CD, an agent in New Yorkwe have a mutual friend and she had been telling him about the group and telling him she wouldn't be surprised if a major label didn't pick us up soon. I had known him from when I used to play with Terrance Blanchardand he said, "Yeah, I heard them once. You should tell him to give me a call. I'd love to shop it around for them." So when I got it finished I gave him a copy and he gave me the rap of like he can't promise anything, that a lot of major labels weren't taking chances, that the industry wasn't doing that well, but he would try. But to everyone's surprise, Columbia went for it and bought the master.
AAJ: Were they supportive of the first record in terms of promotion?
SN: They did some stuff. But the thing with the record industry is that it's so complex, it's hard to know exactly what's being done. It's like just seeing an ad in Down Beat or Jazz Times or one of those publications, that's just one side of it, especially with a company like that where when a record comes out you have international distribution. So you have your office in France, your office in London, you have people on the West Coast, Canadaso it's like all of that costs money to put in stores, to put it in listening stations. So, from that perspective some stuff was done. They did help to get us on some festivals. They helped with tour support and that sort of thing. So they were supportive. But with a company like that the drawback is that you never really get the full push unless they start to get some returns immediately or there's like some kind of excitement around the record like when it first comes out. Because if that doesn't happen within the first couple of months it's like they pull back.
AAJ: Is that what happened with you?
SN: Pretty much. In the beginning I was just angry with them because I felt like they just weren't pushing it. But for whatever reason, the public just didn't take to it the way I thought they would. Because, maybe I would have a case that they didn't push it if it were on the top of the radio play chart or if it sold a lot or if it got a bunch of rave reviews. If I had all of that and they didn't support it then you say, "Look, what's going on? We're not getting support." But you know, if the critics aren't behind it and people aren't buying it and they aren't playing it a lot on the radio, I guess from a business perspective they probably think, "Well, what do you want us to do?"