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Samantha in the Press

Daily Candy 03.28.06

Ashlee lip-syncs. Avril has the rage. And Britney dresses like Slutty McSlutterson. Female musicians these days are hard to take seriously (and even harder to listen to). Thank goodness for local singer-songwriter Samantha Stollenwerck, who honed her own self-coined “Cali-Soul” music from such influences as Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Chris Robinson, and Joni Mitchell. Blame her English major for the profound lyrics, which go perfectly with her folky-pop sound… She’s a girl who rocks. No overproduced tracks. No irritating female-empowerment messages. And no exposed butt cleavage.

Vail Daily –07/18/06

Driving down the 101 along the California coast with the top down and not a cloud in the sky, you could throw Jack Johnson’s “In Between Dreams” in the CD player or you could put on Samantha Stollenwerck’s “Square One.” A rising, young singer/songwriter and guitarist, the blonde beauty from San Francisco may just be Johnson’s female counterpart.

It’s the kind of music you want to listen to on a sunny day, when you’re feeling good or on your front porch watching the sunset. She has coined the phrase “Cali Soul” and she brings her refreshing earth-pop sound backed by her 5-piece band, The Ritual, to the Ford Amphitheater tonight at 6:30.

“I think a lot of my songs are really positive,” she said from her Bay Area apartment overlooking the city where she gains much of her lyrical inspiration. “It has to do with going places and the freedom to be alive. It’s like a personal twist on life that everybody gets a grasp of.”

It’s not that life is always easy for Samantha, it’s a decision she has made to always procure the good from the bad. Life on the road, for instance, isn’t exactly a cakewalk. She gets lonely. She misses her boyfriend, her family. She gets tired traveling in a van with 12 passengers 18 hours a day show after show.

“I say every day that I’m quitting,” she said. “I come home late at night, and I’m totally exhausted. Last night, I collapsed on the rug on the floor. I’m still getting over a cold I caught from the High Sierra Music Festival, and it’s so emotional. You give your heart and soul every day. It’s like, why the heck am I trying to do this?”

Samantha grew up in a musical household, always singing with her mother and two sisters. However, also very athletic, Samantha focused on her tennis playing, traveling the state to compete and winning. Until that is, she suffered a knee injury at 17, something she now sees as a “blessing in disguise.” Unable to do much of anything, Samantha picked up a guitar on the beaches of San Diego and began writing songs. She quickly developed a soulful pop sound as the surf punk scene of North County collided with her love of Southern rock, like the Black Crowes. Her musical endeavors evolved when she formed her first band, Shady Lady, in college in 1999 at C.U. Berkley.

By the time she graduated, always having planned on entering the corporate business world and making lots of money, Samantha was drawn to making more music. “It’s totally a necessity,” Samantha said. “I think it’s the only thing that I can do. It makes me so happy to play music, to be kind of a messenger in some way. It’s universal language that everybody gets.”

In pursuing a career in music, Samantha has not jumped on every opportunity that came to pass. She has fought to maintain her sense of self, uncompromising her originality. “What’s the saying? It takes 10 years to make an overnight success,” Samantha said. “I’d rather have it not be the greatest production record in the world and have it be real instead of fancy and crystal clear. I’d rather take the long road than have other people who don’t know me do it the wrong way.”

Despite struggling with trying to make a record and dealing with the politics of the industry, Samantha’s drive and persistence to grow as an artist has only matured. “I would love to collaborate with other musicians. I would love to be big and famous,” Samantha said. “I would love to be able to support myself and support the world. I’ve been so fortunate in being given the opportunity to do this, and I feel it’s my responsibility to give back.” As for tonight, the girl from “the golden state” just wants people to rock out with her. “We make people dance,” she said. “That is a prerequisite.”

Telluride Watch 07/18/06

With two rockin’ shows last week, Mountain Village is well on its way to becoming a musical hotspot. The little hamlet keeps it up this week with a great show from a fast rising female rocker from California named Samantha Stollenwerck for the Sunset Concert Series. And the following weekend, the Village hosts its first music festival, Cajun Fest, featuring all things hot and spicy from New Orleans, including tasty grub, the quintessential funk trio Porter/Batiste/Stoltz and the rocking Gamble Brothers.

Stollenwerck is more than a sweet, beautiful girl from San Francisco. She is on a mission, giving a certain intensity to her laid back California style. When I talked to her last week, she was fending off a cold due to lack of sleep, getting ready to play a gig later that night and then wake up early the next morning to make the four and a half hour drive to play an early set at the High Sierra Music Festival. She is serious about maintaining her cool, but she is also serious about the music business.

A California native, Stollenwerck coined the phrase “Cali Soul,” defining her sound as a unique blend of soulful pop rock. She learned to play the guitar on the beaches of San Diego in high school, influenced by the surf punk scene that dominated the North County. Having spent summers on the East Coast and being exposed to rock bands like the Black Crowes, her musical mentoring hasn’t been the same since.

“Something in the voice of Chris Robinson affected me and I changed for good,” says Stollenwerck. “I just can’t believe that I found something kinda like that in me, and probably will never understand.”

Samantha formed her first band, Shady Lady, in 1999 while in college in Berkeley, Calif. This year she released her debut album, Square One. The record is packed with well-written, catchy tunes with the barefoot flair of Jack Johnson and the pop sensibilities of Sheryl Crow. The recording is much deeper than Crow’s latest efforts, however, with consistently good tunes from beginning to end (instead of the two smash hits surrounded by slightly lame songs). Although there are many similarities to Crow, and Stollenwerck admits being an admirer of her Californian-sister star, Stollenwerck’s voice is natural, organic and true to her self, not over produced and synthetic. The band compliments her perfectly, with tender piano lines, a nice blend of brushed drums with sparse percussion, and some great extra guitar work from Aaron Kaplan.

Stollenwerck often performs solo shows, with only her guitar as accompaniment, but tours with a five-piece backing band called The Ritual. It is not the same group of musicians she recorded with for her album, which she says adds to the live performances, letting tunes continue to evolve. Stollenwerck’s ability to improvise on stage allows her to transcend the boundaries of her pop-sounding songs and enter the realm of jam.

“I can’t resist a good jam. I never studied music, which explains my rough-around-the-edges-ness and raw delivery, but I like it that way. It keeps me honest.”

With a youthful and innocent perspective on life, which shows in her personality as well as her songwriting, Stollenwerck finds much of her lyrical inspiration simply looking out her window on the vista of San Francisco. She draws her lyrics from what she sees and feels, as well as what is going on in the world around her, putting a positive spin on life’s hardships by focusing on the simple pleasures in a poetic way. She reels off a long and diverse list of musical influences including Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin, Steve Winwood and Traffic, Warren Haynes, Chris Robinson, Peter Tosh, John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, James Taylor, and Otis Redding.

“These are voices that always affect me. No matter what time of day, I’m inspired.”

Recognition for her new album has critics calling Stollenwerck the “next voice of California.” “I’m so shamelessly Californian it’s hilarious,” she said. “I still wear flip flops when we’re on tour in the Rockies in the dead of winter.”