She may be Oklahoma born, bred and based, but Samantha Crain is increasingly becoming international.
The Shawnee songstress, who recently inked her first European record deal, will play what she expects will be her last Oklahoma City show until spring Friday night at her favorite Sooner State venue, the Blue Door.
“I probably end up doing three or four actual shows — like not shows where I just like show up somewhere and start playing; I do those a lot, too — in Oklahoma a year whenever I'm home. I really like to try to do a couple of those at the Blue Door just because I really feel like it's the best venue in Oklahoma,” Crain said in a phone interview Monday from her home state, where she was stopping just long enough to unpack, do laundry and play a few gigs.
Crain, 27, also will headline Tulsa's I AM Yoga, Art + Music Festival this weekend and play Tahlequah's Illinois River Jam next weekend before she strikes out on an autumn U.S. trek, opening for three different artists: Ha Ha Tonka, John Vanderslice and Gregory Alan Isakov.
“My fall is pretty full, lots of tour dates. ... I think we're pretty much making the full loop of the United States twice,” she said. “After the fall tours, then I'll be in Europe for most of the winter.”
Earlier this month, the Dale High School graduate announced her signing with Full Time Hobby, and the U.K.-based label will release an extended version of her latest album, the Vanderslice-produced “Kid Face,” in Europe next January. She released her third LP domestically back in February via Ramseur Records.
“I've been with Ramseur Records for almost eight years now. I mean, I've worked with them for pretty much my entire career. Something that we had talked about really early on with them was getting a European record label, because Americana music does really well over there. To get the right kind of tours and the exposure over there, you really need to like get a label over there. We've been talking with different labels for the past four or five years ... but because I have such a close relationship with Ramseur, I really wanted to kind of find the European version of Ramseur Records,” she said.
“I wanted to find a label that I could be a part of, something that was long term and people that were like really interested in my music and my career, not necessarily like hopping on a fad or something. And it took us a really long time to find a label that was like that.”
‘A good fit'
She started scouting the indie label that counts School of Seven Bells, The Hold Steady and Viva Voce among its alumni when Stillwater orchestral folk-rock band Other Lives toured with and introduced her to Canadian folk outfit Timber Timbre, one of Full Time Hobby's current bands.
“It took us a really long time, but I'm glad that we waited this long ‘cause I feel like this is going to be a good fit for me,” said Crain, adding she has only played a few short tours and festivals across the Atlantic.
“It's definitely just a new thing, which I think kind of keeps this whole thing moving, this whole thing which is me creating and me touring and me making records and stuff. If I can keep like experiencing new things, it makes that whole process a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable.”
The Rolling Stone magazine Artist to Watch was surprised when her new label chose “For the Miner,” her moody tribute to her favorite songwriter, Jason Molina, who died shortly after “Kid Face” debuted, as her first European single. Since the album version is about five minutes long, she recently went back into the studio to cut a four-minute radio edit.
“They liked the vibe of it and they felt like there wasn't anything else over there with that kind of vibe of that song. So I think they thought that it would stand out,” she said.
“It is definitely a slow burner. It's one of those that you realize different things are going on in the background like the more you listen to it.”
In that way, the song is a decent metaphor for Crain's career as she becomes involved in more far-flung projects. For instance, she recently spent a week and a half in Canada with the Ojibway people at the Eagle Lake First Nation reservation, where she fished for walleye, dined on moose meat and played a community concert while filming for a new music series called “Nagamowin: The Song.” Since it is set to air next year on Canada's Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, chances are the folks back here in Oklahoma will never get to see it.
“All the singer-songwriters they get are also Native Americans, so it's bringing two different tribes or cultures together,” said Crain, who is of Choctaw heritage. “Hopefully, it's going to be pretty cool.”