Lights Down and Unreleased 2007-2008

Among the many places I recorded and co-wrote, Virginia was one of them. I spent some quality time in the countryside outside Charlottesville writing with a great songwriter named Chris Keup. We sensibly threw gasoline on tree branch piles, tossed horseshoes too close to our heads and went for long walks ignoring the many “No Trespassing” signs along the way. When we weren’t causing trouble, we wrote songs. His studio partner Stewart Myers had an entire room stacked floor-to-ceiling of vintage keyboards and we spent hours plugging and causing, yep, more trouble.

We recorded in an old Civil War-era house on the banks of the James River, where Mennonites had tilled the fields. Rumor has it that it the original owner of the house, a famed Confederate general, committed suicide on site and his ghost sometimes hung around the sessions. I never saw his ghost, but the drums sounded amazing .

“Edge of the World” was written in Philadelphia, in a back room of ‘The Studio’ with a young engineer named John McGlinchey. This studio was legendary, having recorded D’Angelo’s Voodoo (one of my favorite albums), Erykah Badu, Mary J Blige, The Roots… it was epic. Sometimes we worked out of Questlove’s room who had an amazing vinyl collection, and wrote songs that to this day I still adore. I remember that is where I met Amos Lee the first time, and we drove out to a random party in the outskirts of Philly, and all the while I wondered whether we’d actually make it back :/ We did. Thanks, Amos.

“Summerlove” and “How to Let Go” were written in Los Angeles with another fantastic songwriter named Dave Lichens. He told me the only joke that I can actually tell without ruining (Why does Snoop Dogg need an umbrella”- For drizzle!!) and we played so much Wii Tennis during tracking that I couldn’t lift my arm for a good four days. I love these songs so very much.

“Fetish” was the first song that Jeff Trott and I ever wrote together, at his home studio in Manhattan Beach, CA. Jeff went on to produce “Carefree” and is one of my mentors and most favorite people in my life. If you ever meet him, ask him to show you his Yo Gabba Gabba dance.

We did a scorcher version of it, but thinking I might put the fear of god in people, I went with the funky version recorded by the amazing Mike Bradford, aka the Mad Genius, and we went on to write gems such as “Trouble” and “Headache” amongst solving all the world’s problems while watching the Spike Channel. I think Mike actually might have invented the ionic compound chart. More from Mike later since he needs more than one blog post.

The photo was taken in New York City by the fabulous Taylor Crothers in the loft of leather designer Jordan Betten’s Lost Art Studios (amazing). It was my first “real” shoot and as you can tell was completely against a hair stylist. I obviously had no idea what I was doing. Yet we had so much fun!

I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I enjoyed working with these masterminds.

Lights Down and Unreleased” on iTunes



Interview with Matador Network

Samantha Stollenwerck’s soundtrack for world travel

by  on MARCH 20, 2013 · 3 COMMENTS

When California musician Samantha Stollenwerck returned from a year of travel, she turned her pics into music.

Photo: Samantha Stollenwerck

NOW THAT PRINTING PHOTOS is almost obsolete, it’s inevitable that pictures get lost and forgotten in the bits and bytes of hard drives.

The trick is to do something with them. Right away. A photo book. A collage. Or, as my musician friend Samantha did, turn them into a music video: a great way to revisit or share a year-long, around-the-world adventure in a three-minute burst of color and enthusiasm.

And if it also happens to plug your music and raise money for charity, well, now you’re just overachieving.

NM: You were on the road for nearly a year — what inspired such a big trip?

SS: It was a combination of needing to get inspired as an artist and realizing that I’ve never really traveled before. I went on a trip to Antarctica with some friends, but as soon as I landed in Buenos Aires, I knew it was all over. Life is short. I went home after that trip, sold my car, a few guitars and other recording gear, rented out my apartment, closed up shop, and booked a ticket back down to South America. It happened really quickly.

I know you’re not really a photographer. What camera are these photos shot on?

A Nikon D-300 with a Tokina super wide angle and a Tamron 18-200mm. But a lot of the shots in my music video were (sad but true) from the iPhone. It was easier for me to just collage and play with the smaller images. I have so much to learn about taking photos, but one thing I did absorb was that it’s all about putting yourself in the right place and connecting with the subject. When I write music, I like to focus on one special, sometimes off-center moment in the story, and I started to see that similar focus with photography.

What did the trip teach you about yourself?

It was definitely nice to be the observer on this trip. As a musician you are always trying to grab the mic and say something. It’s way cooler to watch the world unfold before your eyes and tell a story without words, from behind the lens. I loved that part of it.

Were you playing music along the way?

Actually, I decided to leave my guitar behind on these travels (mostly because the idea of lugging it to the base of, like, Mt. Bromo, sounded hilarious). But music still came with me. I did music therapy with a group of girls in the Philippines, girls who were victims of sex trafficking. That was incredible. I also absorbed the cultural influences around me and would love to infuse that into my next record. For instance, I loved the sound of the gayageum (a Korean folk instrument that sounds like an eerier version of slide guitar) and I loved the three-part harmonies from traditional Fijian music. I absorbed all of these things along the way.

Does the video feel more personal than a photo album?

Absolutely. Music has been my life forever, and my manager and I were always talking about doing a music video for this song showing snapshots of global moments — it’s about not taking life for granted — and this seemed perfect because I took the shots, so the story is a lot more personal.

So how does this end up raising money for a school?

Anytime you download the single off of iTunes, I match it with a donation of my choice to Pencils of Promise, an organization building schools on the ground in four developing countries to date. I have already raised the majority of my goal, but I wanted to use this video as a way to continue the conversation of education in the global sphere. Especially for young women. I don’t expect people to donate, but if I can pass on the information through my music then I thought this was a good vehicle. 



Song with Finn Martin on “Change”

Hi Friends,

The song I wrote with Finn Martin in Germany -“You Are The Music”-  is on his new album, “Change,” out today! Check it out on iTunes. It was super fun working in Berlin with this talented fellow.

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© 2014 Samantha Stollenwerck