Sam Outlaw with "Tenderheart" to NL festivals06-08-2018
Every artist working in the shadow of country music lineage since Willie and Waylon were first branded as "outlaws" has had that designation at their disposal. The same goes for marketing execs and music critics. "Outlaw" is useful shorthand, an expedient way of advertising a performer's resistance to mainstream norms and general aversion to docility. Often, it's paired with a brawny aesthetic.
The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Sam Outlaw strikes a much more artful, low-key oppositional posture. At a moment when blustery machismo rules the White House, he's crafting a consciously softened identity. "I always found more honesty in the tenderness than the toughness," he recently told an interviewer. "I very much intentionally wanted to combat any expectation that I'm trying to be a tough guy country singer." And when he's asked why he chooses to stay in Southern California rather than relocate to Nashville, a scene populated with artful, independent folk-country troubadours like Andrew Combs, Caitlin Rose, Cale Tyson and Kelsey Waldon, he explains that he'd rather stay where he's the odd man out.
“You can’t underestimate the importance of the aesthetic in which I live,” Outlaw tells. “There is something special about Los Angeles, a special sadness. There is a faded beauty that is here, that kind of strange following of dreams while dreams are being crushed in a regular basic. You can sense that. That’s why there’s a unique type of country music that comes out of L.A.”
Though Ry Cooder and his son Joachim Cooder produced Angeleno, Outlaw decided to tackle Tenderheart himself, with the help of engineer Martin Pradler. Maintaining many of the same players from his debut – including fellow Angeleno Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes – and mariachi group Erwin Vasquez and Mariachi Teocuitatlan, Outlaw stayed true to his roots and recorded in the San Fernando Valley, working to “bottle the liveness of music,” he says. “I really love quiet acoustic music and I really love rock and roll. I wanted to capture what it sounds like for a bunch of people to get into a room and just play songs.”
In August Sam Outlaw takes Tenderheart to Amsterdam for an appearance at Once In A Blue Moon Festival: