By: Thomas D. Mooney
First time I interviewed Sam Sliva, was a few years ago. At the time, Sliva was really just beginning to make a name for himself outside of the San Marcos and Austin areas. It was after their debut album, which while Sliva is definitely proud of, felt wasn’t the best representation of the band overall.
“I know our first record had a little bit of “countryness” in it, but you can hear towards the end of the album that it’s going a totally different way,” said Sliva. “This new record is going to be totally different than the other record.”
After the typical origin questions, what dominated the discussion was “the sound” of The Good.
What it was. What it was going to be. What people were (and are) classifying it. Were they right.
You could say that Sliva and company were still going through some growing pains, and growing in general, as a band. And like we discussed, it’s not often an album is compared to The Killers and classified as Texas Country.
At the time, Sliva told me that their sophomore album, “…And the People Say,” was going to be a tighter, more defined sound. Which admittedly on my end, I wasn’t exactly sure where he was pushing The Good towards, other than that it was going to be less country.
Seconds into the first track on “…And the People Say,” I knew exactly what Sliva was talking about. A sound that’s a bit bluesy in a Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights kind of way, a dash of southern rock in a Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell way, and still, cigarette-smoke and whiskey-drenched Steve Earle growl.
Sam Sliva & The Good play The Blue Light, Wednesday, November 2.
New Slang: Last time we spoke, it was right before you started working on your second album, “…And the People Say.” Personally, I feel you really started to find yourself as a band and what direction and a definitive sound you wanted. You feel you guys hit a giant stride with the album?
Sam Sliva: Absolutely. On “See You Around” I felt like I was doing what was ‘in’ at the time. I knew it wasn’t really me from the get-go, but I was so much about getting our name out there that I made a record that never really portrayed The Good. That being said, some of my favorite and most personal songs that I’ve written are on that record. The only thing I dislike about it is the fact that my vocals are all over the place pitch wise. With “…And the People Say,” I feel that Keith Davis (producer) and I really did a good job of combining all of my influences into one sound. I have grown a ton as a musician and writer and think that it shows in the new effort.
NS: On “…And the People Say,” there’s definitely a balance of hooks that really reel you in as a listener where anyone off the street can instantly relate to (such as “Blind Addiction,” “Surrender,” and “It Is What It Is,”) and some deeper, more personal songs (such as “My Last Goodbye” and “Nothing at All”). How are you walking that line as a songwriter?
SS: A lot of songwriters talk about how writing is “theraputic” and it helps them to “get things off their chest.” I am not one of those writers. When I write songs, it’s mostly because I was driving down the road and had a good melody or a hook come into my head, and I recorded it on my phone and couldn’t stand to let it just go by the wayside. More often than not, it was a hook. What I’m getting at is what Blues Traveler already said…”The hook brings you back.”
NS:”You asked me to write you a love song, I wrote you a letter instead,” from “My Last Goodbye,” are some of the best lines you written in my opinion. I mean, you still write her a song, but it’s definitely not a “love” song. But, like you say, it’s a goodbye. You mind talking about the song?
SS: I wrote “Last Goodbye” about five years ago. It was supposed to be the final song on our first record, “See You Around,” but it never made the cut. Fortunately, we finally got it right on “…And the People Say.” It’s about my ex-girlfriend that I broke up with because I wasn’t ready to take the next step. She ended up dating and eventually marrying one of my good (ex) friends. It’s probably the most personal song I’ve ever written.
NS: There are numerous examples of great word play in this past album, like the use of “Californ-I-A” in “It Is What It Is.” There’s definitely an underlying sense of humor in your songwriting. Have people really picked up on all those?
SS: Honestly Thomas, you’re probably the first person that has. Ha! I have always been a very metaphoric writer. “Jim Marshall,” and “Blind Addiction” are good examples of that. Both of those songs are about something other than what I am trying to make the listener think they are about, which I think is kind of comical in a way. When I was younger, I thought I wanted to be a comedian (thank God I didn’t go that route because I’m not that funny) and sometimes I guess it shows in my writing.
NS: On the album, you of couse did the great cut of the Whiskeytown‘s “Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight” with Jason Isbell (who also plays The Blue Light Tuesday, Nov. 8). When you have interviews, do writers automatically go straight to here?
SS: Actually, that particular song hasn’t gotten as much attention as I thought it would. Since I didn’t put, “Featuring Jason Isbell,” on the track title, I don’t think many people even know that that is him singing on the last verse. Personally, it might be my favorite track on the CD…probably because I didn’t write it [laughs].
NS: What are you guys currently working on? What are all the details and where are you wanting to go with it?
SS: I have taken a little bit of a hiatus from writing, but have a ton of material recorded that I am getting ready to start working on. Expect a couple more “love” songs on the next record. I have been having people (mostly women) ask me to write a ‘happy’ love song instead of my usual ‘fuck love’ songs that I’ve written in the past.
NS: Not sure when you guys first started it, but you’ve got your own Sam Sliva Insider App. You’ve got a pretty good following on Twitter and you’re constantly tweeting on there. Seems like you guys are really taking great steps in the social media side of this business. How do you think that’s helped spread the word on The Good?
SS: In this day and age, if you don’t keep up with all of the technological advances in society, then you are miles behind the ‘competition.’ As much as I hate it, I realize this and try to be as social media savvy as possible, but sometimes it gets pretty irritating keeping up with the times. For example, I haven’t updated anything on the SS and the Good app in quite sometime so my apologies to anyone who has subscribed to it and not seen anything new in the past few months!
NS: Also, I read about the national music marketing deal you guys signed. You must have been really exicted when you heard the news. Where do you think this will take you?
SS: Yessir. Thanks to my manager Wes Hoffman, we have made major strides in the last year. We are currently talking with New Ocean Media and are looking forward to them helping us reach a broader audience very soon. We also recently got invited to play on one of the late night talk shows on NBC coming up in January and are very excited about that and where that will take us. Once it is set in stone then I will let you know which show and when to expect to see us!