If you’re around long enough, things will change. It’s the calculus of the human experience. Neighborhoods, friends, mentalities. For Sam Evian, maybe it was the commercial whitewashing of his Brooklyn block, a revolving door of friendships, or just the feeling of aging on his body and soul. You, Forever is Sam Evian’s sophomore record out today via Saddle Creek. It's a return to his trademark patient and crisp analog soul-rock with a matured and conscious sagacity.
The single "Health Machine" is about a rejection of the typical rock and roll road warrior diet and lifestyle. Would you consider yourself health conscious? Has your physical and mental health state been different for your new record writing and recording cycle?
I’m not overtly healthy, but as a I grow older, I feel the effects of my abuse. I definitely drink too much. I quit smoking last year and it has been amazing. I suppose I’m trying to shape up, you know?
What are your strategies for keeping your health machine functioning properly while you're out on the road?
Health Machine is actually a fictional thing. I wish it was real. I dreamt it up when I was shopping for vitamins at CVS. Looking back at my taxes, I spent a lot of money at CVS last year. I always buy that zicam stuff. It kinda works!
You, Forever is your latest record out June 1st on Saddle Creek. It seems to be heavily focused on personal responsibility, deliberate living, and reckoning with being the sole liability for your own decision-making. Did anything in particular drive these themes to the forefront of your imagination over the past year or so? Have you struggled with this realization or found inspiration as a songwriter in the mantra?
Well, I'm getting older. I guess I’m trying to get my shit together…but not in your traditional job/house/marriage sort of way. I just want to be a good person, and I want to feel OK in my day to day life. I want to bring something to the table for my peers and the society that I am a part of. I don’t think it's a struggle. I'm super privileged..and I’m happy to have the opportunity to try and be my best self.
Several of the instrumentals on the new record were captured on a 4-track in your parents' home in North Carolina. How does working with such a limited piece of recording machinery help you seize your ideas and get them to the finish line; typically having a polished and tight quality?
I love the limitations…it helps me move quick and not get caught up in insecurities. In our digital world, I think it's important to create small systems for ourselves. Humans seem to do best when they have a challenge to work out. Otherwise we will just flounder around in the unlimited digi-art universe.
The record was cut to tape at a house in Upstate NY you and your bandmates retreated to with an 8-track reel-to-reel. What was the energy and pace like during the recording? Were you pushed for time or wide open to explore and be patient with the process? What made Upstate the destination for recording the album?
We had a decent amount of time..about 12 days. It's definitely on the short side. I had two reels of 1/2-inch tape, which allowed us to keep one take per song, with no edits. So we did about one song per day. It was intense. In the morning, I would play the demo for everyone. Then we would start playing around with parts and form. We’d rehearse for several hours and then have a nice lunch. Then we’d cut into tracking and would finally arrive at the ‘perfect’ take around dinner time. Then we would all hang and cook lovely food together.
It was important for me to take everyone out of their element a bit..and upstate NY is so perfect for that. It's only 2 hours from the city, so we all could just hop in the van and be there within an afternoon's drive. I suppose I was inspired to consider that area because I was heavily into Music From Big Pink.
You, Forever is also partly about separating some preconceived notions you had about what living in New York was like versus the reality you've discovered there. What was your initial idea of what "life in New York" was supposed to look and feel like? How is it actually different? What parts were you correct about?
It's been a wild ride. I moved to New York in 2011 with a thousand bucks in my pocket. I thought it would be enough dough to get started. It wasn’t… I slept in a practice space, on friends' floors, in the back of Glasslands. I’ve come a long way since then. I’m not sure I even remember what I thought it would be like, but it was so exciting. It still is. I love New York City. A lot has changed; venues, friends, bands have come and gone. A lot of neighborhoods have been wiped out and whitewashed. There is a Whole Foods and an Apple store in Williamsburg but I’m still here.
You've opened for Whitney, Lucius, Allah-Las, Big Thief and others over the past couple of years. How did those experiences impact your own performance skills? What are the most critical aspects of performing to maintain a captivated audience and to convey your songs to a room both big and small?
I learned a ton from those pals! Besides the nerdy guitar tone zone stuff, the main take away is that on the big picture, I have to be super present and committed to any performance. I can’t get caught up in the little things that go wrong. I have to connect with people, and it's fun to do that. It's a trip to look out and see someone mouthing the words to your song. I never thought that would happen, but it does! I’m lucky to have this sort of interaction with complete strangers, and I don’t want to let anyone down by being off my game or too in my own head.