Take the unique vocal talent of Tom Waits, toss in some classic Freddie King blues guitar riffs, and the hard rock attitude of a band like Clutch… and you might end up with something close to Sam Pace and the Gilded Grit.
A relatively young blues musician with a crazy deep singing voice, Sam Pace, has been taking the Austin music scene by storm. His booming baritone and effortless shredding have even placed him among the Top 10 at the Austin Music Awards for the past three years.
Salute Magazine recently caught up with Pace, who was chilling with a beer in hand, to discuss his musical influence, life in Austin, Texas, and his latest single, “Punch ‘Em In The Ear,” off his forthcoming EP, Judgment Eve Pt. I, coming September 1st.
SALUTE: So, how did you get your start in music?
Sam Pace: I started playing guitar when I was 15, and then when I was 20, is when I kind of got the “tunnel vision” that this is what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.
So, from 20 on was when I started working on my guitar playing and also my singing, relentlessly. And from there I played in a band for four years in Madison, Wisc. and Chicago, Ill. I moved in 2011 and have been in Austin, Texas since then, so I have been plugging away and working the scene and touring… for about 13 years is about how long I’ve been doing it from what I would call, a “professional mindset.”
You said that you were born and raised in Wisconsin and later in life moved to Texas… I wanted to know in what ways has your hometown influenced your music? And how has the Austin music scene had an influence on your career?
I don’t know if my hometown influenced me that much. I’m kind of an old school guy. All my influence comes from old Blues records, old Rock’n’Roll records, and reggae records and all that stuff. So that’s really where I get my influence from, recorded music and live performance. So, I didn’t find much influence in my hometown or really any town I’ve lived in.
Austin, there’s certainly an influence there. If you want to there’s just so much music there, so many artists trying to do their thing that the influence if you want to rise up within the surplus of talent and surplus of music than you’re going to have to work your ass off. The influence I found in Austin is just a good energy, support of music, and an openness to any sort of weird vibes. Anything you want to put out there as long as it’s well conceived and well worked on, you can find the audience you’re looking for.
Austin has just been fantastic in terms of the opportunities it has given me to develop my craft and develop my skills and meet a lot of really, really cool people in really good positions. So, Austin has been a great spot to take further steps in your development.
But I wouldn’t say Wisconsin or even Chicago, where I lived for four years, had much influence me on as a musician. It was just kind of a place I was growing up. Living. Enjoying music. Playing music. But not a huge influence from the location itself.
Who are some artists you look up to for inspiration?
There’s really a ton of them. A lot of the old Blues. A lot of the go to rock n’ rollers. [Jimi] Hendrix and [Pink] Floyd and all those guys. The [Rolling] Stones. The Doors. And all the best Blues guys too… like John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters.
I think probably my biggest influences are Jimi Hendrix and a guy named Peter Green.
Peter Green was the founder of Fleetwood Mac. And actually, the Fleetwood Mac that most people know, with Stevie Nicks, was not the original Fleetwood Mac. The original Fleetwood Mac was basically a blue-eyed blues band that was incredibly good. And Peter Green has been a huge influence on me. His career was kind of over by 24 because he kind of went mad from some acid, kind of in the Syd Barrett way, but before that he was known as one of the greats. Right up there with Clapton.
And Clapton is another influence on me. Cream and Zeppelin and all those guys. I got a lot of influence from a lot of people. Reggae guys like Peter Tosh and Toots Hibbert. A lot of it comes from Black music, soul music. Anything in that vein. If it’s got soul, and it’s the real deal odds are it probably had some sort of influence on me.
Tell me more about, “Punch ‘Em In The Ear,” the second single from your new EP, Judgment Eve Pt. I.
Everyone’s got a different writing process. I never really have a thematic idea or a lyrical idea to start with, That’s not really the way I work. The way I work it starts with a groove, or it starts with a riff, it starts with kind of a feel and from there you craft some sort of melody from that, some sort of lyrical sound that will make sense and from there the lyrics start to come together.
“Punch ‘Em In The Ear,” really started as that simple opening riff. It’s super simple but there’s some kind of heavy, hypnotic sound about it. From there… I don’t even remember how I started writing lyrics for that song. But it came about as the idea of knocking somebody on their ass with sound. Knocking them out of their current consciousness or their current going through the motions way of whatever and just kind of knocking them out, but it being a good kind of thing. A knockout that feels great. The rest of it is just kind of having fun with that idea. Being knocked out in a good way.
Where did the name, The Gilded Grit, originate?
Band names can be a tricky science. That one we were really happy with how that came together. I always wanted to have the idea of being a gritty band. A band that’s in the dirt. That has a certain amount of character, but also toughness to it.
Our bass player, now our former bass player, when we were coming up with the name six years ago, he was listening to a Dr. John song, “I Walk on Gilded Splinters.”
We had set a deadline. We need this band name, by this date and that’s it We have to move forward, we have things we need to do. He had heard it on the way to that meeting or practice and said, “what if we called it the Gilded Grit?” I kind of sat with for a few minutes and was like, that sounded pretty damn good to me. And it worked. It just always worked.
I didn’t even know what gilded meant at the time. I guess there are two [ways of spelling] “gilded”… one has like a “u” in it and is some sort of organization of some kind. Sometimes people misspell our name and put the “u” in there. But gilded is kind of the idea of “covered in gold” or gold dust. You put the “gold” on the “grit,” it’s just a really cool embodiment of what I wanted. It’s really gritty. Really truthful. But it’s got a certain sophistication to it.
You add a little bit of rock n’ roll glitter to it or whatever you want to call it. It’s not overly conceptualized but it just kind of sounded good and it fit good, so we went with it.
How long did it take you to put together your new EP? What can we expect to hear?
The new EP is actually half of a full LP. What we’re doing is releasing a four song EP, called Judgement Eve, Pt. 1, because we’re releasing the full 11-song album, next spring. So, it’s kind of like Kill Bill I and II. We tour and develop songs along the way. We developed those four songs for like a year and recorded them last winter.
We recorded five songs and we’re putting four on the EP. We recorded in about five-or-six days I think and it was mastered in another day. And then we just finished the second half just this summer. So the full album is now complete and we’re releasing it in spring.
That’s what is really exciting to us. The first-half is four songs and the second-half is seven. We give them a real good tasty little meal and then we give them this full course thing next spring.
We developed the songs over maybe a year. Kind of played with them on the road and then recorded them. Once we hit the groove and had our confidence for the feel of the studio we were using in Austin and the feel for the album itself, we were able to knock out the other seven songs after five-or-six days in the studio. So we’re all ready to go.
What’s next for Sam Pace? Tour??
We’re going on 45-city, coast-to-coast tour this fall to promote the new EP. We’re releasing the EP September 1st. We’re doing 20 shows in September and that’s East Coast and Midwest. And then mid-October to mid-November we’re doing the Mountains and the West Coast, another 20 or so shows there.
And then we’re going to come back to Austin and play a bunch of shows in Austin and probably around Texas for the winter and gear up for our full album release in the spring. We’re likely going to do another coast-to-coast tour at that point as well.
Beyond that, we’ll see what kind of momentum builds from the new music and touring. We’ve done a lot of touring of the U.S. We’ve gone coast-to-coast for the last two summers. We’d really like to get to Europe soon and anywhere else in the world. That’s kind of on tap, cover the U.S. a bunch and to promote new music through touring and social media and see what kind of opportunities pop up from that.
The music is the statement. I just want people to listen to the music and beyond that if they have questions to ask me I am happy to answer them. We’re just hungry, looking for good opportunities, and to try to take it to the next level. We kind of like to “walk-the-walk,” rather than “talk-the-talk.”
To hear more from Judgement Eve, Pt. 1, the new EP coming September 1st, head over to sampacemusic.com, for music merchandise and more. And be sure to check out Sam Pace and the Gilded Grit, coming soon to a city near you:
September 1, 2017
Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
8:00 p.m. w/ special guests The Watters
September 7, 2017
Forth Worth, TX @ Magnolia Motor Lounge
September 8, 2017
Norman, OK @ Red Brick Bar
September 9, 2017
Tulsa, OK @ Mercury Lounge
September 10, 2017
Memphis, TN @ Huey’s Midtown
September 13, 2017
Home Team BBQ-Downtown
September 14, 2017
Knoxville, TN @ Preservation Pub
September 15, 2017
Washington, D.C. @ Madam’s Organ
September 16, 2017
Newark, DE @ Home Grown Cafe
September 18, 2017
New Haven, CT @ Stella Blues
September 19, 2017
September 20, 2017
Manchester, NH @ Jewel
September 21, 2017
Cambridge, MA @ Plough and Stars
September 22, 2017
Newburyport, MA @ Newburyport Brewing Company
September 23, 2017
Lancaster, PA @ Tellus 360
September 25, 2017
Asbury Park, NJ @ Wonder Bar
September 27, 2017
Columbus, OH @ Notes
September 28, 2017
Cincinnati, OH @ MOTR Pub
September 29, 2017
Chicago, IL @ Emporium
September 30, 2017
Milwaukee, WI @ Milwaukee Ale House
October 1, 2017
Nashville, TN @ ACME Feed and Seed
October 18, 2017
Fort Collins, CO @ Odell Brewing
October 20, 2017
Evergreen, CO @ Little Bear Saloon
October 21, 2017
Murray, UT @ Ice Haus
October 22, 2017
Boise, ID @ Tom Grainey’s
October 23, 2017
Vancouver, BC @ Guilt and Company
October 24, 2017
Seattle, WA @ High Dive
October 26, 2017
Eugene, OR @ Sam Bonds
October 27, 2017
Sacramento, CA @ Torch Club
October 28, 2017
San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
October 31, 2017
San Luis Obispo @ Frog and Peach Pub
November 1, 2017
San Diego, CA @ 710 Beach Club
November 3, 2017
Ramona, CA @ Way Point Saloon
November 11, 2017
Jerome, AZ @ Spirit Room
November 12, 2017
Jerome, AZ @ Spirit Room