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SXSW Interview: Sam Outlaw

Sam Outlaw is not actually a felon. Rather, he’s a South Dakota-raised independent country singer based in Los Angeles, (‘Outlaw’ is in fact his mother’s maiden name). Sam Outlaw is relatively new to Southern California’s music scene, but with 2014-15 resulting in two well received music videos and a series of single/EP releases distributed via TuneCore, he’s well on his way!

The first in a series of interviews with TuneCore Artists playing our SXSW day party at the Vulcan Gas Company on Friday, March 20th (presented with the help of Mirrored MediaSwisher SweetsDropKloud, CraveOnline, and LANDR), Sam discusses prepping for his first trip as a performer, modern and classic country influences, and his upcoming debut full-length, Angeleno.

This your first trip to SXSW, correct? Tell us about what you’re looking forward to most and how you plan to make the most of the conference.

Sam Outlaw: Yes, this will be my first time at SXSW as a performing artist – though I have gone several times for my previous job (digital marketing/advertising). I’m looking forward to finally performing and having some fun with my band. They’re a great group of musicians and I feel lucky to have some good shows lined up. We’ll only be in Austin for a few days so the schedule is already packed but I guess we’ll just make the most of it by playing our best and connecting with other musicians.

Even though you weren’t performing during your past SXSW trips, what kind of lessons or experiences did you pick up that can apply to this year’s visit?

I’ve seen so many great bands go to SXSW and play to nearly empty rooms. I know that’s a part of the deal sometimes but it was important to me that if we take the time and spend the money to go to Austin that we at least enjoy a few good gigs. It’s obviously not 1992 anymore and the whole “discover music” part of SXSW has changed dramatically. Bands have to hustle now more than ever to stand out. There are plenty of other bands, (and maybe even more brands), vying for attention.

What opportunities do you see for artists at your career level at a conference like SXSW?

My new album “Angeleno” will be released in early Summer so I’m headed to Austin to play my best and spread the word. The album was produced by Ry Cooder here in Los Angeles and I’m really proud of it.

Do you plan to tour before and/or after your time at SXSW?

Yes. Lots!

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(Photo credit: Matt Wignall)

Are there any particular events or showcases you’re looking forward to attending for yourself at SXSW?

A good artist should understand the business of their business and SXSW presents some great discussions. I’ll definitely try to make at least a panel or two.

How has TuneCore been part of you musical journey in the last year or so?

TuneCore has been a huge part of my 2014/2015 story. They’ve always been my solution for digital distribution of my music and now with TuneCore as my publishing admin team, they’ve helped me get three song syncs. These syncs have provided me money to live and breathe and finish my album. I couldn’t be more thankful for their support.

Who are your biggest country influences of yesteryear?

Too many to list, but at the moment I’m still listening to a lot of my old favorites: Don Williams, Gene Watson, Hoyt Axton, Keith Whitley, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Mickey Newbury, Emmylou Harris, Wynn Stewart, George Strait, Clint Black, Dwight Yoakam, Rosie Flores, Randy Travis, Asleep At The Wheel, (and of course most of these folks are still making fantastic music).

Are there any current country artists (independent and otherwise) that really inspire you?

Not sure if all of these artists necessarily qualify as (or want to be considered) “country” but… Pete Lindberg, Austin McCutchen, Cale Tyson, Margo Price, Luke Bell, Andrew Combs, Robert Ellis, Sturgill Simpson, Lera Lynn, Quebe Sisters, Brandy Clark, Ashley Monroe, Kelly Pickler, Miranda Lambert, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings

What are some of the pros and cons of being a country artist based in L.A. versus a a market like Nashville?

I guess the big “con” to not being in Nashville is fairly obvious – there’s a built-in country music base in Nashville, whereas country music hasn’t really thrived in So Cal for decades. At times it feels a bit uphill doing this whole thing from LA, but I love the challenge and it makes any victories all the more special. There’s a growing surge of ‘roots’ based music in Los Angeles and I’m thrilled to be part of it.


Heading to SXSW? You can catch Sam Outlaw during TuneCore Live: Austin at the Vulcan Gas Company on Friday, March 20th. His other SXSW dates are below:
Thursday, March 18 @ St. David’s
Saturday, March 21 @ Licha’s Cantina
Saturday, March 21 @ Swan Dive