Holler Country Music
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New Artist of the Week: Sam Filiatreau

By Matt Wickstrom

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Always play your heart out because you never know who’s watching. That advice became especially meaningful on Valentine's Day in 2019, when Louisville native Sam Filiatreau got the opportunity to play a last-minute opening spot for Caamp's Taylor Meier and Matt Vinson at a house show.

Within a few seconds of playing, the rising duo became fixated on Filiatreau, and immediately began plotting out plans to record with him. They eventually signed him as the first artist to Meier’s newly established Gjenny Records.

Recorded soon after that fateful day at a cabin near Athens, Ohio, Filiatreau’s debut single 'Wrecking Ball' is a metaphorical tale of someone who can never catch a break and who constantly questions their self-worth.

Set to a landscape of cosmic country, vintage folk and Appalachian soul, the song showcases Filiatreau’s quirky lyricism and specific storytelling - reminiscent of influences John Prine and Randy Newman. "Well, I reckon you don't want to know my name / I'm here to tear down the home you erected back in '28," he sings, playing with the homophone in the song's title. As self-deprecating as 'Wrecking Ball' can be at times, he finds brightness even in the darkest of times.

Ahead of Filiatreau’s debut album release, out June 1, Holler spoke to the Kentuckian about how he wished he could've collaborated with two of the greats - John Prine and Guy Clark - and why he almost ended up playing sports professionally instead of music.

Where are you from and has that influenced the type of artist you are?
Louisville is so strange because people who have never been here usually assume it’s pretty rural - but it’s a city. So there was influence coming from everywhere. Although, having Appalachia and Nashville so close certainly drove my inspiration toward folk and country music.

Speaking of influences, what were you listening to growing up?
I was listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen growing up thanks to my dad. Most of my music taste early on was just streamlined through him. A lot of Jerry Jeff Walker, Steve Earle and the Rolling Stones.

Did you ever want to do something other than music?
I really wanted to be a baseball player when I was younger. Whatever I was into, I always tried to be as good as I could. I still have the all-star jersey to prove it.

Are you more creative when you’re happy or when you’re sad?
Based on a lot of the songs that I’ve written in the past few years, I would say sad, but there comes a point that no one’s breaking your heart and you have no choice but to write from a happy place. I’m partial to the sad songs though.

What drives you the most?
Hearing friends and artists I like writing good songs. Every time I hear someone write a great line or melody, it just inspires me to make something great too.

In general which comes first for you, the title or the song?
It’s always the song for me. I'm usually just singing nonsense over a few chords before anything comes to fruition. Then one line comes and it starts pointing me in some sort of direction.

Who would be your dream collaboration?
John Prine or Guy Clark would’ve been incredible. Even to be a fly on the wall at one of their writing sessions would’ve been a dream. If we’re talking producers, I’d love to cut an album with Dave Cobb one day. He’s keeping country music alive.

What’s next?
It’s hard to say anything concrete right now, but I’m hoping for touring toward the end of 2021. It seems like a lot of bands are at least starting to book their tours and cross their fingers for the country to be where it needs to be for live music to continue. Other than that, a vinyl pre-order for the record will be out soon!

'Wrecking Ball' is out now, on Filiatreau’s self-titled debut album, via Gjenny Records.