Band of the Week: Samantha Martin & The Haggard
It’s been a busy seven months for Samantha Martin. The last time we spoke with her, she was gearing up for a string of residencies at The Drake and beginning to record her new album with The Haggard. Now, the singer beams with pride at the completed disc as the group prepares for its launch party at Lula Lounge.
The self-titled album — the first official collaboration between her and The Haggard, though they’ve been playing live together for nearly four years — puts aside some of the country twang of her solo outing in favour of more rock, soul and even reggae.
But the roots run deep here: despite the disparate elements, every song has a timeless element coursing through its core and, collectively, the tracks channel a hundred years’ worth of music into 13 raucous songs. We caught up with Martin and lead guitarist Mikey McCallum to talk about the release show and the new record.
So how does it feel now that the album’s finally coming out?
SM: It feels good! It’s kind of like getting married a little bit. Like you’re planning the reception.
MM: I never thought of it that way (laughs).
How long was the recording process?
MM: About a week of recording. There were more mixing days of course.
Was there a lot of pre-production?
MM: Yeah, we rehearsed the songs a fair bit so we didn’t have to change that much once we got in there.
SM: It was good knowing what we were going to do when we went in, to know the things that we didn’t want to happen.
Were there any guest musicians?
MM: We got Derek Downham to play some keys, which was awesome, and some back-up singers.
SM: Dani Nash and Alejandra Ribera, and we have these three backup singers: Amoy and Ciceal Levy and Marlene O’Neill. They’ve been singing together since they were teenagers.
MM: That was magical when they came in. They came in and listened to the songs through once, then sang along a little the second time and then went in and did one or two takes and just nailed it. Each song was like that.
So there’s a reggae tune on this record?
MM: Yeah, it’s a Tom Paxton song actually, and we did it reggae-style.
Is that the only cover song?
SM: There’s four cover songs on the record.
MM: Was it a Delroy Wilson version that we did?
SM: Yeah. I went on a Delroy Wilson kick, where I was listening to his records and Youtube-ing his stuff and everything. And he does a version of “Rain From the Sky,” which we do on this record, and he does the reggae tune with Tom Paxton. He does roots-reggae. And then we did a cover of “You Are My Sunshine.” That was just a one-take wonder; just me and the guitar in the booth. I was playing it and the guys said “You should just go in and record that because it should only take one or two takes.” So I went in and that was it. It wasn’t planned ahead of time.
The first record was more solo stuff. Were these songs written more as a band?
SM: Yeah, especially the arrangements. The way we work as a band is that I come with the chords and the lyrics…
MM: ...and then we change it all [laughs].
SM: They’ll say, “that’s too long” or “that’s too short.” Sometimes, I ramble and they cut the fat out of the songs. They make the song into a radio-worthy hit. Hopefully!
MM: Actually, we don’t really have radio in mind when we’re writing. We just want to serve the songs best. It’s not like we have an idea that we need to make it sound like it’ll be on the radio.
Any plans to tour with this?
SM: We’ve already started.
MM: Southern Ontario for March and April.
SM: From Windsor to Montreal. It's a sort-of weekend warrior tour where you head out Friday and Saturday.
So the release show is coming up? There are no opening acts, right?
SM: Nope, it’s just going to be special guests. Johnny Borra [from the Rattlesnake Choir], and Dani Nash is going to sing a couple tunes, Shawn Creamer is going to sing. It’ll be nice because those people don’t get to play with us at smaller shows like Not My Dog.
You’re still playing smaller shows like that?
SM: Yeah, actually Mikey and I are going to do a residency at the Cameron House on Tuesdays in May and June. We’re going to start that after the band tour is done to keep the momentum going.
So what can people expect to hear on this record?
SM: It’s definitely more bluesy than the first one. It’s a bit more rootsy.
MM: There’s no straight-up country songs, which is weird because we like country…. It just worked out that way actually.
SM: I think a big difference is that on the first record, Derek Downham played most of the instruments and there were a few guests — stuff that Derek doesn’t play…
MM: This one was more band-oriented. We’d already been playing for a few years before we recorded this.
SM: So, sonically this one’s a bit more cohesive. And there’s less going on in the songs, there’s a bit more space. Like, we could have put in a horn section but that wouldn’t have served the song.
Samantha Martin & The Haggard are:
Samantha Martin: lead vocals / acoustic guitar
Mikey McCallum: electric guitars
Greg Sweetland: bass
Pete Lambert: drums