Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Sam Rochford

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Sam Rochford

Michael Stover has done it again. When I get an email from him showcasing a new artist, I always jump at the opportunity to learn more. This time he brought a female singer/songwriter named Sam Rochford to the table. Sam has a great voice and looks like she is having the time of her life while writing and singing songs for all of us. She produces a lot of videos, too, including via Facebook Live, and her songs are quite catchy. She just released a new single, which is what inspired this interview, and I am excited to learn more about this young talent. Without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Sam Rochford.

Tell me more about “So Easy.”
“So Easy” is a song I wrote for my little sister’s wedding last year. I had such a hard time writing it because at first I was trying to make it about being a perfect match for someone but it felt too cliché and disingenuous. I actually wrote 6 or 7 versions of the song that I threw out because I wasn’t happy with them and gave up on the song out loud to my boyfriend. We started talking about something dumb to distract from how frustrated I was and I started laughing so hard my sides hurt. That’s where the first line of the song came from! After I got that line of thinking, I finished writing it in less than a half an hour. Once I let go of the idea that the perfect partnership means that you have no problems in your relationship and started writing about the love that I really experience every day, the song came very quickly.

What is WSM Radio Nashville and how were you involved?
I started working at 650 AM WSM a little over a year and a half ago. I started as a sales intern in the office and completely stumbled my way into a daily on air position where I talked about trending topics, and running a Facebook page that I grew to over 12,000 people under my watch. My greatest claim to fame was shooting a video of the young country star EmiSunshine that is WSM’s first video with over 1 million views. I worked for the famous Devon O’Day from The House Foundation and Great American Country’s (GAC) Nan Kelley during my time there and couldn’t have asked for better Nashville mentors.

You are also known as “Social Media Sam.” There are a lot of social media sites out there. What are your favorite networks?
I may never outlive this nickname! The hosts at WSM named me “Social Media Sam” because they would ask me so often about trending topics like Pokémon Go, or they would ask me to check on breaking news during the show that the nickname just evolved naturally. My favorite social media site is probably Instagram. I used to be a big fan of Facebook but it seems to be bogged down with too many fights about politics lately, and even if I agree with the politics people are arguing about I’m just annoyed by all of it. Instagram just seems like a simpler place to look at pictures of delicious food and cute cats.

Tell me about your relationship with MTS Management Group.
I first heard of MTS Management Group through my friend Scott Sexton. Scott is the nicest guy, and a huge friend and fan of the traditional country music community. He puts on a fantastic event called “Country For A Cause” where he gets talented musicians together to raise money for cancer research. Scott used MTS Management Group to promote “Country For A Cause” and recommended them to me after hearing “So Easy.” I couldn’t be happier with everything MTS has done for me in the last couple weeks! I’m thrilled about how many people are listening to the song.

There are a lot of great places to see live music in Nashville. What are some of your favorite live music venues?
The Ryman Auditorium is just one of the coolest buildings to be inside for any show. There’s a really special energy there that I’ve never experienced in any other venue of that size. Even if you’re not religious, it feels like you’re at church in the best possible way.

What is “Markov Music?”
I had a small radio show in Boston on the WEMF network under that name. My mom’s family name before they came through Ellis Island was Markovitch, now it’s Markley, but I always loved how BA and Russian that sounded so I adopted it for my radio show! I would do an hour show once a week where I picked music and talked about a silly theme. Sometimes the theme was something like aliens or the ocean, sometimes the theme wa “I’m in a bad mood right now.” The show was light hearted and ridiculous, but it was my first step into doing radio.

Who are some of your biggest influences?
My taste in music is very eclectic and I try to draw influence from everywhere I possibly can. Some of my contemporary influences are the Mountain Goats, Jason Isbell, Lily Allen, and Brandi Carlile. Some of the people I listened to growing up where The Beatles, Jim Croce, and Bob Dylan. I also just try to go see live music as often as I can, because weather you’re seeing a crappy open mic or a Beyoncé concert, there’s always something you can learn.

You are on Facebook Live every Saturday. When did that start and have your fans started tuning in each week?
I started doing Facebook Live videos when I realized the majority of my fans weren’t in Nashville. I played music in Boston and Connecticut for five years before I moved here, and I have a collection of people from all over the world that have just found my music online. I wanted to connect with the people that supported me so I started live streaming, and got a good response so I started doing it regularly! I definitely have “regulars” that set their alarms and try to tune in every Saturday, and every week there seems to be a few more people jumping in. I play a lot of music but I also just joke around and get to know people.

Where did you film the video for “So Easy?” Cute video, by the way.
I filmed it in my house! I made the lyric book over the course of two months, carrying a backpack of arts and crafts wherever I went so I could work on it constantly. It was a literal labor of love completing that thing! When the book was finally done, I had my friend PJ Schenkel from Three Hat Media come to my house and film the video of me flipping through in time with the song.

Do you ever make a mistake while performing?
Oh my gosh, all the time! Mistakes are inevitable in any type of performance, but especially if you’re playing music with a bunch of other people. There are just too many variables to have a perfect performance! If I’ve learned anything in my years performing music and this is true of radio as well, the show must go on. I’ve seen performers mess up and either draw attention to the mistake because their embarrassed, apologize to the audience after the song, or even stop in the middle because they’re so flustered. If 99% of your performance was great and 1% was a flub, then you should consider it a great performance. If you call attention to the 1% that you messed up, the audience is going to focus on that too and be taken out of the magic of the show.

What is your songwriting process like? Do you have a pad and pen, or do you find yourself writing songs on the back of napkins?
If I hear a line that I like while I’m out with friends I actually text it to myself. Sometimes I go back and remember why that line inspired me in the first place, sometimes I look through the messages and have no idea what I’m talking about. My process is different every single time but I typically have to have a line I like to start things off. If I sit down to write a song without my starting line, even I’m feeling a big feeling and need to get it out, I typically can’t write anything.

When I’m in the groove of writing I use a pen and a legal pad 80% of the time. Sometimes I keep track of what I’m writing in a Word document on my computer, but I try not to. If my computer’s anywhere near me I get too distracted talking to people on social media to finish the song, so I usually use paper. I only take out technology at the very end of my writing process to record the song on the “Voice Memo” app on my phone, so I can remember later how it goes.

What is the best concert you’ve ever been to?
This is a tough question! I know you asked for the best but I have to give you a couple answers because I can’t narrow it down. Beyoncé puts on the best show of anyone I have ever seen, period. Even if you don’t like her music, you should go see her in concert if you ever get the chance. Everything from her music, the backup dancers, the light show, and even the rest of the audience is just so intense it’s like being on another planet. There’s no other way to describe it.

The other concert I have to include is ringing in the 2017 New Year with Jason Isbell and John Prine at the Grand Ole Opry. John Prine’s music is probably the exact opposite of Beyoncé’s music, and his stage setup was very minimal. But him and Jason are both such incredible writers and musicians, I couldn’t help but be inspired by them. The fact that it was a New Year’s show made it extra special too, because I feel like the show set the tone for this entire year.

Do you ever do cover songs?
All the time! I play in the honky-tonks of downtown Nashville occasionally and you have to play country covers down there, it’s all bachelorette parties that want to hear “Wagon Wheel” over and over again. I also just learn to play songs that I really enjoy just to learn from other people’s writing styles. I love taking a song written by someone I really admire and making it completely my own. I post covers on YouTube and Instagram occasionally so check it out!

How many different guitars do you own? Do you have a favorite?
I technically have two guitars but I only play one regularly. I have a Martin Backpacker that I used to take camping with me, and I have an Ibanez that I play far more frequently.

What’s next for Sam Rochford?
I’m writing more music! I want to record a feature length project this year but I don’t want to set foot in the studio unless I’m completely proud of every single song I’m about to record. I have a couple shows coming up here and there, you can follow me on social media for updates on those or tune in every Saturday for my Facebook Live videos!

In all of the interviews I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
If you’re reading this and you don’t like my music, that’s OK! It isn’t for everyone. But even if you don’t like my song, please support indie music. When someone is signed to a record label they have teams of people helping with booking shows, PR, management, and sometimes even other people writing songs for them. Independent artists do the work of a team of people all by themselves. So when you support indie music, you are directly supporting someone’s dream. That’s the last word!

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