Sam Houston: The Human Influence Interview

by James Stratton

Sam Houston opened Locals Only, Human Influence's SXSW opener, this past Friday at Austin's Swandive lounge. I sat down yesterday with Sam Houston himself, his guitarist Alejandro Rios, and Sam's brother, Jordan, who was getting a ride from the two musicians. In our chat, Sam and Alejandro discussed their backgrounds as musicians, coming together to form Sam Houston, and what's in store for the band this coming year. I had a great time talking with the guys. They are vivant, humorous, and full of a joie de vivre about music and creativity. Below are excerpts from our chat:

On Austin as a home for musicians:

Sam: Austin is a great place, honestly man. What ive learned is that its a great place to build your live show… you don't make money off of anything else… Austin has been an excellent tool of refinement.

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Alejandro: Everyone here also appreciates original music… Here is just a very original playground. People are here to listen, they’re expecting it. You come and deliver your artistry to people who want to hear it… There’s a lot of organizations that facilitate to musicians like Austin Music Foundation, which helps get bands on their feet, a bunch of promotors, it’s just a melting pot out of creative weird people.

What distinguishes the Austin scene from Los Angeles and New York City:

Sam: In comparison to a lot other place around the country - New York, LA, or New Jersey even - everyone here seems to have, at least, some interest in helping each other grow. 

James: Really?

Alejandro: Yeah, very true.

Sam: I’ve never been in a place like that where I’m posting the other band’s stuff or tagging them in all our pictures; I’m retweeting all their stuff, they’re retweeting all of my stuff. They’re showing their friends in their hometowns our music, and I’m showing them.

James: This doesn't happen in LA or New York?

Sam: Hell no. Absolutely not. Not in the slightest. It’s more of a competition, it’s like a rat race… Whereas here in Austin, it’s like, if one of us does good, like really, really good, like, you can consider Gary Clark Jr. kinda putting Austin on the map. So if one of us does really good then that gives all of us the motive that we can do really good out of here. And people encourage that rather than discourage it.

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On Money: 

Sam:  I never wake up in the morning and say ‘Damn, i make these really good records and have these really good shows so I can have a lot of money.’ Honestly, that’s a really selfish way to think about it...Money is, like, really opaque. You can’t see through it, and, in an industry like this, you have to be able to see a broad spectrum of things in order to really have success.

Making Music in the Digital Age: 

Alejandro: The album is the vessel for your creative expression. I think it’s still absolutely relevant just as singles are super important. I don’t think it’s changed that much; people are still listening to albums, there’s still going to be people who just love music and want to hear it… Whenever you make an album you really get to enter someone’s brain… like you [Sam] said, it’s like making a movie, you just want the listener to feel what you’re feeling.

On future plans (half-year, year) for the band:

Sam: It’s looking really good right now. We just got back from New York; did a showcase. in front of some real hard-hitting labels out there. Just this time last year we signed with a super cool management company in LA called Faction Entertainment. Signed with a manager, his name is Mat Devine. He was the head of a band back in the day called Kill Hannah… we're getting ready to put out a project within the next few months, release our video on some cool platforms, and try to travel a little bit more, hopefully get some booking deals, maybe a record deal, see what happens.

Alejandro: Just excited to see what comes in the next year, for sure… As soon as we drop our next album, I’m sure we’re gonna be traveling a lot more. Probably hitting LA and New York as much as we can.

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Sam Houston Band's next album:

Sam: Hopefully, we going to be working with a real popular cat in town. His name is Omar Valejo, super influential in the music industry out here in Austin and a great guy. We’re gonna work at his studio, 512 Studios, go there and clean up the tracks. Everything’s fully produced right now: the vocals, the guitar, everything is done basically. Now, we gotta go down and master it out, get everything balanced, and the project’s gonna be done.

If you didn't catch Sam Houston at Swandive, you'll be able to catch the band in Austin at upcoming dates this month and next. Sam Houston Band is next performing this Thursday (March 15) at One-2-One Bar with a follow-up performance on Saturday, March 17th, at Sixth Street's Rattle Inn. The last time in March you can see Sam Houston in Austin is the 30th as the opening act for the Austin Urban Music Festival at Auditorium Shores. Next month, on April 27th, Sam Houston opens for the Dirty Worms at Come and Take It Live.


James Stratton is Human Influence's Digital Content Editor; slide into his DMs at @atxfornian (twitter) and @austifornian (instagram).