Sammy Hale got in touch with Third Outing last week pronouncing a sound which is the "love child of Father John Misty and Lana Del Rey that grew up listening to Lou Reed and Johnny Cash". It struck me as an interesting, but very definite mixture of musicians to compare yourself to. Aside from the obvious vocal comparisons and the aforementioned's similar lazy Country, Folk-Rock motifs, I wondered what Sammy Hale really wanted to achieve with his debut release Post Cult?
There's no doubt about it, Sammy Hale's debut LP Post Cult is a magnificent piece of work. His voice powers above all. It's a strong, raucous growl which will become his signature, and one which he rightly compares to Joshua Tillman AKA Father John Misty. Song after song on the record stand out in their own right as the moment to savour. Ol' 75, Darkness, Sweet Little Dime, High Hopes, You, and of course the obvious single choice Hollywood Hills. They all give the impression of an artist who is completely comfortable in his environment. But then why is Hale travelling city to city obscurity, looking for a place to cement his music?
"I personally think Father John Misty and Lana are two of the most intriguing figures in popular music right now. I wasn't crazy about either of them when they first stepped onto the scene, but I've been completely won over...I also love the effortlessness that both their voices seem to possess"
We might find the answer if we analyse parts of Sammy Hale's Post Cult a little closer. Hale points the finger towards certain artists very quickly when describing his sound. Indeed, we need look no further than Hollywood Hills as proof of this. The sound, the melancholic themes, even the damning description of Hollywood, it's all something that could be lifted straight out of the Tillman back-catalogue (yes, see Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings). The production both artists bring to the table is where we can differentiate. Hale opts for a rawer, unpolished finish, whereas Tillman goes for something a little more atmospheric and sound-scape. But in essence, there's little to separate the two.
"You can't think of Hollywood without thinking about the entertainment industry and all that brings to my mind is fake people caring about unimportant things. It's also sad how downhill the film industry has gone with all the remakes and flat out just bad movies being made at the moment"
It begs the question, is this why Hale travels from town to town, looking for a place where his music can fit the bill? I fear that the people of Portland have already come across Tillman and his endeavours in Fleet Foxes or as FJM. And it's no different in Pennsylvania or Nashville. What these music fans haven't come across yet is Sammy Hale being Sammy Hale in his complete entirety, just using his influences to maximise his amazing raw sound, rather than disguising it as something else, no matter how unintentionally.
And thus to our title question, what do you really want to achieve with the release of Post Cult? Is it your own sound which will find itself right for our times and places? Or do you want to receive the credit which we all believe our endless releases of EPs and LPs should deserve? It's a difficult question, for the two can be related. But you need to want one of them more than the other to reach the next level of music, like the Tillmans, Del Reys, Reeds and Cashs'.
"I've always been a little bit of an outsider in my own right. I've never really been too appreciated musically in my hometown, yet within one year of living in Portland I knew almost everyone in the music scene, was playing tons of shows, and getting the credit I wanted back home. I think working hard and being open to stepping outside of your comfort zone is what makes people successful and that's exactly what I plan to do when I arrive in Nashville"
There's no doubt about it. Sammy Hale has got the raw talent, the incredible voice, and most importantly the precise and definite songwriting ability that it takes to reach the top in the world of music. With this ability alone, Hale has already achieved somewhat in his "stop-over" towns, and will continue to do so in the towns to come...