Samantha Preis’s brand of contemplative and introspective singer-songwriter music has found its way into the hearts of people all over the world. After studying at some of the most prestigious music colleges around, Samantha has fine tuned her craft through songwriting and performance, most recently working as the director of Devin Townsend’s Empath choir on his European Tour. We talked about her musical background, her solo album, her time with Devin Townsend & Company, and what she’s up to lately. Oh, and if you like what you hear, don’t forget to donate to her GoFundMe campaign for her forthcoming album!
Tell us about how you started playing music. Who were some of your musical heroes growing up?
I grew up in a really musical family so there wasn’t a day where music wasn’t playing in my house. Some of my biggest musical loves growing up were (and still are) Michael Hedges, Joni Mitchell, Django Reinhardt, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Steely Dan, Jethro Tull, Burt Bacharach, Bill Evans, Frank Sinatra, Antonio Carlos Jobim, etc. (I could go on forever.) I was also really inspired by my father and my uncle who are both amazing guitarists. My dad frequently performs with blues bands in the United States and my uncle Wayne owns a great guitar strings company called “Web Strings” where I get all my strings: https://www.webstrings.com/. Some of his recordings can be found through his site and his Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/webstrings_guitar_strings/
I started playing the piano when I was eight though my sisters and I were singing as soon as we could speak 🙂
You have pretty extensive musical education, from Berklee College to the Philippos Nakas Conservatory in Greece, to UCL in London. How do you feel like this education shaped you as an artist and a person, and what are some of the things you learned that you have found most helpful in your career?
Pushing myself to expand my mind and my experiences has always been important to me. Through all my experiences and education, I’ve learned that perhaps the most important thing of all is recognizing that there is always room for growth. Some of the most successful people are not always the most talented, but rather those who deeply believed in themselves (sometimes even delusionally) and didn’t give up. I know a lot of insanely talented people who have been held back by their own lack of ambition or self-esteem. One has to be creative in achieving their goals and not give in when the going gets tough. There is always an avenue that has not been explored; when one thing doesn’t work, try something new.
You released your first full length album, Good News, in 2013. Tell us about this album!
I wrote most of the material from Good News as a teenager with the exception of a few songs so this was my first real presentation of my work and my first experience making an album (which I did not record myself). I haven’t released an album since then for a lot of reasons. It is sometimes qI wrote most of the material from Good News as a teenager, with the exception of a few songs, so this was my first real presentation of my work and my first experience making an album. I haven’t released an album since for a lot of reasons. It is sometimes quite overwhelming to be an independent artist with very little support. I also sometimes feel that studio recordings can take away from the original vibe of performances. This is one of the reasons I decided to do a self-engineered LIVE album during this lockdown.
You’re raising money to release an album. You mentioned that it’s a “stripped down, honest presentation of [your] work”. Tell us about your songwriting process, and how this album will bring people into your world.
My songwriting process is honest and emotive. More than anything, I want to convey feeling and emotion through my work. This live album will be full of imperfect performances that I hope will convey the feelings I had originally intended for my work.
You recently had the opportunity to tour with Devin Townsend and his amazing band as director of the Empath choir. Tell us about that experience! What were some of your favorite moments from that tour?
It was a once in a lifetime experience to tour with this group of people. We were all thrown together and most of us had never met or played together before. It was an incredibly rare chemistry we had as friends and as a band. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done, musically or not. I constantly look back and think how amazing and special it was; it couldn’t be replicated. I hope we can all collaborate again for another tour in a different but equally amazing way.
What are some of the best, most direct ways that your fans can support you?
Pre-order my live album:
Become a Patron:
Subscribe & Follow me on Social Media:
You have a Patreon. Tell us about the types of things that one could expect to see if they subscribe.
Patreon is a really cool platform for listeners to support ongoing music projects while getting exclusive looks at what’s happening in my life. They receive cool rewards like unreleased demos, song ideas, signed postcards from around the world, birthday calls, and more. It is also a really cool community where patrons can share ideas and converse with me and each other. Patrons can pledge anywhere from $1 to be part of this exclusive circle.
Your Quarantine Queens video was pretty great. Will the Quarantine Queens be releasing anything else over the next few weeks?
Well, we did actually release a cool “Quarantine Queens” T-Shirt which is available here: https://www.bonfire.com/store/samantha-preis-merch/
Other than that, we’ll have to see what sort of insanity the next few weeks bring and determine whether we can pull something positive and fun from it. 🙂
My sister, Anne Preis, who also joined me singing on Devin Townsend’s Empath tour, is the most awesome person to be in lockdown with. We always have a blast together and have been trying to stay positive during all this Covid-19 madness. She is a great talent and amazing sister. Follow her instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annepreis
Finally, who are some artists that you’ve been listening to/have been keeping you sane lately?
Michael Hedges is my go-to. He relaxes me and makes me feel introspective. I listen to him whenever I’m feeling stressed or when I want to be inspired. I particularly love his album Aerial Boundaries. He was a genius.
-Which Harry Potter character(s) do you relate the most with?
Probably the Weasley twins. I generally feel rules are meant to be broken and am often trying to find the most creative and ridiculous solutions for achieving my goals.
-What is your patronus and why?
Maybe a Phoenix. I like to keep an open mind and remind myself it is never too late to reinvent myself.
-Would you rather have an extra arm or a third eye?
Third eye. (Do I get to pick where it is and does it have any special powers?)
I hadn’t heard either of them before you asked but now that I have, I’d probably rather just chew on ground glass. (I’ll totally donate to the cats though…)