The complete artist is one that everyone should be reminded of from time to time - the one who writes, sings, performs and handles every aspect of the form of expression found in music.
And this is where you find Sam Lewis, blending a mix of country and soul in a manner such as Van Morrison or Ray Charles. He has a story to tell that is relevant to all in the wake of his new self-titled album.
A traveler of time and space, Lewis made the trek toward Music City by way of Knoxville as he spent three years in the city honing his songwriting craft.
Lewis made the rounds across the local coffee shops and dive bars, gaining know-how in the business, as he was tallying more than 150 performances in 2007 and playing venues such as the Bijou Theater.
After a failed relationship, he began to play less and was more selective in his shows. He then made the move to the midstate with the first stop in Murfreesboro.
“I understood immediately what Murfreesboro was ... it’s a college town but not really,” Lewis said.
But it was Murfreesboro where he wrote a greater portion of the new album including “Bluesday Night,” “Dreams,” “Equal Love” and the autobiographical “Southern Greek Tragedy.”
“Murfreesboro was definitely a productive break,” Lewis said. “This was where I wrote a batch of my most responsive songs.”
If Knoxville was the introduction stage of the artist, then Murfreesboro was definitely the growth stage.
With a brief stay in the city, Lewis crossed the Davidson County line into Nashville in late 2009.
One of the first faces he met in town was local musician Matt Urmy, who heard his work and was immediately drawn to Lewis and desired to produce his latest album.
In Nashville, Lewis continued to observe the scene and continued writing, all the while gathering a group of skilled and accomplished musicians in Kenny Vaughan, Dave Jacques, Derek Mixon and Reggie Bradley Smith to lay down tracks in March 2010 in Eastwood Studios. The album was also recorded by Eric Fritsch and mixed by two-time Grammy-nominated engineer Brandon Bell.
“This place is an artist safe haven. You walk in and it’s like your favorite three-quarter finished basement. It just has a warm feel,” Lewis said in relation to the studio’s atmosphere.
As Lewis walked in with his songs, this batch of musicians had their first meeting with the artist while recording all tracks live.
“I walked in with sketches and they walked in with paint and brushes,” he added. “They didn’t know me and this was my introduction to them. I knew everyone through their sounds and art. It’s three chords and the truth. The mood was set soon after that. I had zero worry about anyone or anything else. I knew I had my trust in them.”
With no hitches, this ensemble smoked through a recording process with six songs. At first thought of an EP release, Lewis was encouraged by friends and colleagues to pursue a full-length record.
Opening with “The Cross I Wear,” Lewis gives the listener a foreword to himself, showing that he’s not perfect by any means.
Other standouts from the album include “I’m a River” and “Bluesday Night.”
While “I’m A River” includes a guest appearance from Jonell Mosser, “Bluesday Night” is reminiscent of work from Fred Eaglesmith, as it paints a character in a sad situation and is the only song where the music was written before the words.
One of the most essential songs on the album is “Southern Greek Tragedy” – an account of adolescence told through the eyes of his mother.
Lewis is appreciative of working with a crew such as this and counts anything past this album as a bonus.
“I did a project with talented and loving people who cared about my songs,” he said.
The album is no doubt a presentation of the artist, but the subject matter weaves a patchwork and tells a story that is relevant to all and the human condition.
“It’s a surrender of life. These songs are about everybody,” Lewis added.
A CD release show is planned for The Basement on Monday at 7p.m.
RB Morris and the Kenny Vaughan Trio will also be performing on this night, in addition to Lewis.
The album is set for release on March 13 on digital and CD along with vinyl as well.