It’s all a long way since his first gigs as a youngster, inspired by watching “The Monkees” TV show. “My brother, my cousin and I had gotten these toy instruments and we’d pretend to play along with the Monkees' first three albums at my Aunt’s house,” he recalled. “Shortly after I got the first Monkees album, I saw a TV ad for an Emenee Tiger Guitar and Amp. It was real expensive at the time, a plastic, steel-stringed guitar with a plastic amp the size of a large transistor radio. I used to look at that thing in Toys R Us (it was called Bargaintown USA back then) and dream of owning it. Gradually, we got real instruments, and started putting a band together in junior high.”
Of course his folks tried to steer him in another direction first. “I was taking violin lessons and playing in the orchestra at grade school, and I hated it,” Samuels said. “My dad and stepmother used to time me to make sure I practiced 30 minutes every day. They never timed my practice on the guitar, and the orchestra teacher told me he could teach a monkey to play guitar. All of that helped motivate me to put my time into guitar rather than violin,” he laughed.
Samuel’s recently released his fifth solo disc, “Completely Amazing Days,” an anthology of his recordings from 1991 through 2017. “Most of what I write falls squarely in the rock 'n' roll genre, particularly power pop, though some of it is sort of folk-rock,” he said. While he does use plenty of harmonies and melodies in his music, he notes another important part of his songwriting. “I try to inject a bit of humor into my lyrics,” Samuels commented. “I guess I learned that from Slade, my all-time favorite band. They were never pretentious in their writing or performing.” He cites 1970s glam rockers such as Sweet as well as Cheap Trick, the Raspberries and the Plimsouls amongst a long list of influences. “From all of those bands, I learned about the value of humor, simplicity, melody, and compactness in writing a song.”
He acknowledges that no matter how well-crafted, it can be difficult to capture an audience’s attention with original music. “It can be a challenge,” he said. “But I've found that if I can stick with themes that resonate pretty well with people's life experiences, and keep things pretty simple as well as a bit self-deprecating, people appreciate that. I also try to stay away from a “downer” kind of sound in my songs, so even if the topic is a bit morose, the song still sounds happy. That helps.”
With more than four decades of music behind him, Samuels consider himself to be just ramping things up, with work on his next album already in preliminary stages and a new side project, Neil Diamond tribute band, Solitary Diamonds set to debut at Campland On The Bay on Sept. 2. “Performing music is really my way of connecting and being able to share a bit of myself,” he remarked. “I'm generally pretty shy, quiet and introverted. I could walk into a bar, have a drink, and have no idea how to talk to anybody. But when I've performed, it's so much easier for me to talk to anybody in that bar,” he said.
Scott Samuels: Sunday, July 15 at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, 2051 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. 7 p.m. All ages. www.MFpresents.com