Truro-based singer songwriter Samuel Powell is one of Cornwall’s most promising artists and has been touring Cornwall and the South West for the past seven years. Intricate and delicate guitar melodies, sparse instrumentation and Sam’s brooding vocals make up his melancholic yet melodic sound.
His new EP ‘Perfect Alibi’ is set for release in the next month, and will be preceded by a launch gig and after party, both of which details are expected to be announced soon.
As well as one of the many talented artists on these shores, Sam is also the brainchild behind the Howling Jar showcase, a monthly event launched this week at The Nightjar in Truro that will be bringing together local artists for one night of quality live music, with a different theme each month. The showcase debuted last Tuesday with a showcase for Cornwall’s finest female singer-songwriters.
Here, Samuel Powell discusses why Cornwall has such an influence on his music, his time living around the music scene in Bristol, what he thinks could be done to help the Cornish music scene, and why he first set up the Howling Jar showcase.
Which artists do you count as your biggest musical influences?
My biggest influence overall would probably be Jose Gonzalez. I taught myself guitar and took inspiration from his guitar playing style and the chords he used in his songs. Jeff Buckley is another major influence, along with Band of Horses. Then there’s artists from the heavier end of the music spectrum like System of a Down and Queens of the Stone Age, mainly in terms of the intricacy and detail in their song structure.
Can you tell me more about your new EP ‘Perfect Alibi’ which is set for release soon?
It is set for release this July and consists of four new tracks. In a move similar to what Radiohead did with their album ‘In Rainbow’, I’m not actually going to sell it for any particular price; instead I’m going to bring hard copies of the EP to all gigs I will be playing over this year and if anyone wants to buy the EP, they can simply pay as much as they think it’s worth whether it’s 50p or a tenner. The idea behind all this is exposure, not making money. The EP will be preceded by a launch gig and after party; the date for that is to be announced very soon!
The music scene in Cornwall is very overlooked. Do you think the Cornish music scene has the potential to get bigger in the future?
Cornwall has its own ‘niche’ and purpose in that it is a great place to write music. The beauty of the place is truly inspiring. In terms of the ‘business’ side of things though, it is always going to be different because it’s so sparsely populated. If you’re living in a city, you can advertise your gigs to large numbers of people and there are all these great music venues on your doorstep, whereas in Cornwall such venues aren’t on your doorstep and you have to drive to get anywhere. I think things are always going to be smaller in Cornwall, especially as for any artists doing a tour, Cornwall isn’t a convenient location like other cities so gets overlooked as a potential location to do a gig. There a lot of things that make Cornwall a less cost-effective place to be able to have a music industry, but I think that’s part of its charm. There’s so much amazing talent here and genuine, unique artists, and Cornwall is the perfect environment to develop as an artist.
What do you think needs to be done to help the Cornish music scene?
More venues, more gigs! Existing venues need to invest more in live music and promoters need to have more confidence in the artists we have. There’s so many music lovers in Cornwall but there isn’t always the gigs for them to go to. If Truro, for instance, had a few more venues that promoted live music more regularly, it would attract more music lovers to come to Truro. If there’s just the odd gig now and then, no one will be interested in coming here.
You also lived and studied at university in Bristol for a number of years, and fronted a band called Point to the Sun. Did both Bristol and its music scene help you develop as an artist?
There’s a much broader spectrum of music in Bristol. It’s a very art-inspired place and the whole culture there is based around being creative in all forms. The industry in Bristol is very different to how it is in Cornwall. The idea and the importance of ‘image’ is less important in Cornwall than it is in Bristol. In Cornwall it tends to be more about the actual music itself, whereas in Bristol or any other city it’s equally about how you look and the people you know. It’s definitely more about the ‘business’ strengths and how well you are marketed.
Have you ever considered going back to Bristol or any other UK cities and tour outside of Cornwall, to increase your audience?
I’d definitely consider playing in other cities across the UK but in terms of going back to Bristol, for the time being that chapter has ended. If I do go to another city, it will be a completely new place. Staying in Cornwall more means I’m closer to my family and can concentrate on my work with The Nightjar in Truro, and supporting other artists in Cornwall.
Outside of performing, you’re launching the Howling Jar showcase at The Nightjar every fortnight, starting with a showcase tonight for female artists in Cornwall. Can you tell me more about that?
The Howling Jar was originally an open mic night which I set up at The Nightjar. I thought that rather than just organising something where people just turn up and play, I wanted to organise it more like a showcase in the sense that people have to book slots in advance but it’s still open to anyone that wants to play. Mainly, my reason for organising the showcase is that there are a lot of talented artists in Cornwall and I want to bring all our artists together and show the talent that Cornwall has to offer. Plus, I want it to be entertaining for spectators. If it stayed as an open mic, people might eventually lose interest and Cornwall is a small place so there are only a limited number of artists here. The plan is to do a showcase every month with a different theme, such as different genres for instance. I’ve branded it in a way that it can be moved to other venues as well.
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