Louisville songwriter’s beginnings rooted in folklore
You could argue that the heyday of the acoustic songwriter ended sometime after the early 1970s. The nightclub got cool, and synths and electronic samples dominated the 1980s soundscape, leaving dry a herd of troubadours in front of the porch and their faithful six ropes.
Louisville musician and singer-songwriter Sam Filiatreau, 26, challenges this narrative with his eponymous solo debut, Sam Filiatreau, an album that cracks and explodes with all the charm of an inherited vinyl record. Filiatreau attributed the traditional feel of the album to his love of folk music and songwriting.
“Deep down, I’m just a songwriter,” Filiatreau said. “Folk music and songwriting is me.”
Recorded for three days in May 2019 in the emptied living room of a secluded cabin in Hocking Hills, Ohio, the album is marked by its simplicity, featuring mostly acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and the steady dragging of Filiatreau on its eight titles. Accompanied throughout by musicians Taylor Meier and Matt Vinson of Caamp, an Ohio-based folk trio with an Appalachian curve, Filiatreau said the entire recording was done with a “loose” approach to maintain the wild spirit of the place and the moment.
“We didn’t rush anything,” Filiatreau said. “We were literally living with the record.”
Before a recording even took place, the three grabbed beers, and Vinson and Meier, who also produced the album, asked Filiatreau to perform some of his favorite original songs acoustically outside. from the cabin. This helped them decide which songs to record and how Vinson and Meier could best accompany the music.
“We got there, we figured out the songs we were going to cut, and we got along a little bit, we figured out how we like to play them and then we just hit the record,” Filiatreau said.
Meier and Vinson, who played drums and bass on the tracks respectively, were extremely important to the arrangement, sound and feel of the album. Filiatreau said hearing his own music for the first time with accompanying instrumentation was immense.
“To finally hit a record and hear more instruments coming back, it’s like, ‘Whoa’,” Filiatreau said. “I think we did what we were supposed to do.”
Filiatreau first crossed paths with Meier and Vinson during a Louisville show house hosted by a mutual friend on Valentine’s Day 2019, performing an acoustic ensemble of original music between their respective solo ensembles. Vinson said he and Meier were immediately drawn to Filiatreau because of his writing, performance and general good nature.
“When we got down to Louisville and did the show, it was just like, you know, socks,” Vinson said. “Tay [Meier] and I looked at myself from across the room and I was like, ‘Woo, this is really, really unique and fresh.’ “
Vinson said he and Meier went out soon after to smoke and decided on the spot that they wanted to record an album with Filiatreau. Meier said Filiatreau’s talent for authentic writing is undeniable.
“The first thing I noticed about him as a person in his songs and in his writing was just honesty,” Meier said. “It was just effortless.”
With influences like Bruce Springsteen, John Prine and Townes Van Zandt, Filiatreau noted that he had always been drawn to lyrics. After years of playing in bands, most notably Louisville rock group Lazy Sunday from 2011 to 2017, he is happy to finally be able to play music with more attention to words.
“I love the lyrics,” Filiatreau said. “I’m thrilled to be playing a kind of music that it seems like this will be the focal point for a little while.”
Filiatreau said the album’s closing track, “Fine By Me,” is his proudest lyrical accomplishment on the album. Written without a chorus, the song is made up of three verses, each describing a unique stage in love through the eyes of an aging couple. From smoking joints and hiding in bed in a house full of children to accepting the inevitability that one must die before the other, Filiatreau said he wrote the song after contemplating his own experiences with love.
“It’s just taking a little piece of love that I’ve been through and thinking about where it’s going to go in a perfect world,” Filiatreau said.
Since the recording of the album, Filiatreau became the first signer of Gjenny Records, Meier’s new label, in April 2021. The label released Filiatreau’s first single, “Wrecking Ball,” on streaming services on April 22 and will release his first album. June 1.
Although Filiatreau has noticed that he is excited to finally share some of the music he recorded almost two years ago, he remains focused on all the work still in store, like finalizing tour dates and promoting the album.
“Success has not yet come,” said Filiatreau. “We’re just on the way.”