Rhode Island’s Rhythm and Roots Festival is known to support diverse musical styles. Genres from rock to blues, folk to zydeco, and more are part of the mix at the annual event in Charlestown over Labor Day Weekend.
One 2022 R&R artist who is hard to pin down to a specific genre is singer-guitarist Samantha Fish, who is playing the festival with her band on Sunday, September 4. I spoke to Fish last week while she was truckin’ from Austin to Houston, with background road noise audible.
The 33-year-old Kansas City native is a road warrior, touring constantly. She’s had a busy summer and is looking forward to playing Ninigret Park. “We’ve done Rhode Island quite a few times before, but never that festival,” Fish noted.
“We’ve been touring relentlessly, making up for lost time because everyone was off for a couple of years. We’re just trying to get back to these places we haven’t seen in a long time and that’s a pretty massive undertaking to make up those years. I miss going overseas, we’re hitting Europe a couple more times before the year is out. We’re going to try to get back to places like Canada and Australia. All the while I’m writing and working and thinking about things to come.”
Although sometimes marketed as a blues artist, Fish has more of a blues-rock sound along with a total rock and roll attitude. Her recent album Faster, her seventh solo release, reveals that rock and roll heart.
On guitar, Fish is becoming something of a role model. I mentioned a recent study that showed more young women were purchasing new guitars than young men. She’s noticed a trend in the music industry.
“I do see more females, not just in the guitar position, but I see more female instrumentalists. I have a female drummer in the band right now. I see more women in bands, I see more women in the crew, more women running front-of-house, tour managing, its nice to see.”
Her first instrument was actually drums – Fish switched to guitar when she was 15. In 2009, at age 20, she recorded her first album Girls with Guitars along with Cassie Taylor and Dani Wilde. Her first solo album, Runaway, produced by her mentor Mike Zito, was released in 2011 and led to Fish receiving the 2012 Blues Music Award for “Best New Artist.”
Her influences range from traditional blues artists to more modern players like Bonnie Raitt and The Rolling Stones.
“I grew up listening to people like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Memphis Minnie, traditional Blues icons,” Fish explained. “There’s always been women who play. I think with the internet and the access people have, it’s no longer just one or two (artists) that the labels decide to support. With things like Spotify and YouTube, it’s kind of leveled the playing field in a way, so you’re gonna have more bands pop through and it’s a great way to reach people.”
“As a young girl who grew up not seeing a lot of female instrumentalists, sometimes just awareness and representation makes you realize you can do something,” she continued. “Maybe these young women who are picking up axes right now, a lot of it is about that access, and seeing that propels them to say, ‘OK, I can do this too.’”
Fish is looking forward to playing Rhythm and Roots. “We’re going to mix it up,” she warned. Look for her set on the festival main stage Sunday evening.