Sam Amidon is a storyteller. Itâ€™s something that comes out immediately in his music.
The Vermont native has made a name for himself playing traditional American songs and turning them into understated modern folk masterpieces. He openly admits to being fascinated by the power of these old tales, but whether through his art or his upbringing, Amidon has learnt how to tell a good story.
â€œI did this amazing gig,â€ he regales down the phoneline. â€œI was playing violin with Glen Hansard and Bono at the funeral of [US statesman and activist] R. Sargent Shriver â€“ Maria Shriverâ€™s dad â€“ down in DC. I went down to DC and played some violin with Bono and Glen and Stevie Wonder, and my friend Thomas Bartlett. It was just a jam at a funeral, basically. But they had no security. We were ushered in with all these black cases. And the Obamas were there, most of the US government was there, and it was just amazing to me that I walked in with a fiddle case. It was like a joke; like something out of 1920s Chicago.
â€œI tried to play in tune as best I could; I donâ€™t know if I succeeded. I donâ€™t always play in tune on the violin. But I tried then, because I figured I had to play in tune for the US government. Not to mention Stevie,â€ he laughs.
Turning up to play offbeat concerts seems to be Amidonâ€™s lot in life. He never seems to know what space heâ€™ll find himself in next. â€œOne night Iâ€™ll be in a classical music hall, and the next night Iâ€™ll be in some super dingy rock club. And then the next night Iâ€™ll be playing Irish tunes in a corner of a pub, and the next night Iâ€™ll be at a folk dance. It is very strange.â€
Itâ€™s no different on Amidonâ€™s current tour of Australia. Having already supported Beth Orton in Brisbane at the Old Museum and played two nights at the Sydney Festival, Amidon is also playing Perthâ€™s iconic Quarry Amphitheatre before returning to Brisbane for the latest round of GoMAâ€™s popular Up Late series of live performances. Itâ€™s a dizzying set of dates, and Amidon has been switching it up appropriately. When he takes the stage for Matisse Up Late, Amidon says itâ€™ll be a very different set to that with which he supported Orton earlier this month.
â€œIt will. Just in the sense that when you walk out on the stage and you see people out there, something happens where you go, â€˜Oh, here I am, and here they are. Letâ€™s do this!â€™ Thatâ€™s a performance. Just out of the necessity of being a person, you always do things differently based on the zone that youâ€™re in. Opening for another artist is really fun, because you know that youâ€™re unknown to a lot of people out there, and that can be quite invigorating because you have a certain sense of you appearing as a stranger out of the mist. Whereas playing your own show is different, even though people might still not know who I am,â€ he laughs.
â€œItâ€™s a different feeling, and you have more time to get deeper into the stories and into the storytelling and just feel out the space. Also, itâ€™s an art museum, right? So maybe we can make art together. Itâ€™s going to be wildly, just viciously artistic, for sure.â€
Amidon admits that itâ€™s a strange time to be hitting the road in Australia for the first time, given heâ€™s currently not peddling a new album. But the stars aligned to provide an opportunity that was too good to turn down. â€œI have a friend over here who had the idea of bringing me over. It was wintertime and it was getting cold in America, so we thought why not. Letâ€™s hit the beach, yo! I would have loved to have come here before, but I never quite had the people in place.â€
And as far as albums go, Amidonâ€™s fans can expect a new release sometime later in the year.
â€œI canâ€™t figure out if Iâ€™m starting or finishing,â€ he ponders. â€œIâ€™m somewhere in the process of conceptualising it. Iâ€™ve definitely conceptualised it. Itâ€™s in my head and in my head itâ€™s a fucking great record. I have a great album in my brain and I just have to put it into the space of the universe. Itâ€™s happening; itâ€™s underway. Everyday my mind expands on the whole situation a little bit more. The songs exist, I exist, and if a tape machine exists somewhere, eventually an album will exist. Maybe the spring, summer or fall. But sometime soon, and itâ€™ll be fast once it happens.â€
SAM AMIDON PLAYS MATISSE UP LATE AT GOMA JANUARY 27.