Sam Ness is a singer-songwriter whose sound is rooted in Americana and folk. He’s currently based in the Baraboo area, although he’s traveled all over the world busking and couch-surfing. His most recent album “The Cabin” came out this past summer.
ME: My first question is, how did you get involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures?
SAM: I think some friends of mine in Green Bay, 7000apart, had been involved. We’d occasionally call each other and share opportunities or contacts, and they were really excited when they called me about Wisconsin Music Ventures. I checked it out, chatted with team, and here we are!
ME: Awesome; I love 7000apart. I actually just booked them for a show down here in Milwaukee a few weeks ago. They had just got off a plane from Sweden and it was like 5AM their time.
SAM: That is the rockstar life (laughs).
ME: So you said you’re based in Baraboo; tell me about the town. I know there’s a couple cool tourist attractions in that area.
SAM: Yeah, there’s a whole bunch of stuff here. I’m actually originally from Sauk City just south of here, home of the original Culver’s – that’s our claim to fame. Baraboo I’ve been in for a couple years now, since around when the pandemic hit. My favorite thing about Baraboo is their dedication to live music; the venue-to-population ratio here compared to other small towns is just fantastic. There’s a handful of fantastic wineries, a couple breweries that are doing live music, some cafes…they really support their local artists and people are really good about buying merch. That’s what’s important to me as a musician but from a normal person standpoint, the hiking here’s great. There’s so much natural beauty; Devil’s Lake, Parfrey’s Glen, and also Pewitt’s Nest which is one people often don’t hear about – it’s amazing. I connect the natural beauty and my music so much when I write, so it’s a good area for me.
ME: Nice, that sounds right up my alley. Pewitt’s Nest has been on my list; maybe my partner and I will make it out there this coming year.
SAM: Definitely check it out.
ME: So what are your Christmas plans?
SAM: Actually, right after this interview I’m going to be heading to play a Christmas show for the elementary school I went to. There’s going to be 120 children that I’m going to try to chorale, so that’s kind of the height of my Christmas spirit. Then I’ll be spending some time with my girlfriend and her family; nothing too crazy. How about you?
ME: My partner and I are going to be looking at Christmas lights tonight, and then on Thursday I’m going down to Chicago to spend some time with my extended family and then I’ll be in Michigan with my folks for a week and spend the New Year there. I’m really looking forward to it.
SAM: I think 2020 and the COVID years have taught us a lot about going back and forth with socializing. Quality over quantity is really important.
ME: Tell me about your most recent album “The Cabin.”
SAM: So I had been on the road for six straight years, not staying in one place for longer than a month, so it was lots of shows and road time. I decided with COVID and everything that happened in 2020 that I was going to take a little break. It didn’t make sense for me to tour through the winter with inside venues not sure what would stay open and what wouldn’t, and I didn’t really want to go south. So I went on Facebook and asked if anybody had a cabin I could use for a bit, and somebody hit me up and I was able to stay at theirs for about four months up in the north woods of Wisconsin outside Rhinelander. I worked on this record and it was about the road, and it was more introspective and quieter but with some heavy topics on there. When I left I toured hard with “The Cabin” and this January I’m actually heading back up to this cabin to work on another record that we just put out a Kickstarter for; it’s called “City Lights and Smoke.” It’s going to be a much bigger and grittier full band sound with electric guitars, so the “other” side of the road (laughs).
ME: Well, that was what my last question was going to be. Do you have any shows coming up?
SAM: I have just a couple. I’ve got a New Year’s Eve show up near Eau Claire at the Enchanted Barn – amazing venue. We’re going to have a big blowout party up there, and that’ll be show number 163 of the year for me, so I’ll be taking it back a little bit and see my family and friends to find that quality time. Through the winter time I’m going to be doing a couple shows through some of the ski resorts up north; I’ll have maybe ten shows until spring. Then I’ve got a big run that I’m going to be posting shortly where I’ll be doing a lot of theaters and performing arts centers – some through Wisconsin Music Ventures – so I’m really excited about those. In May I’ll be doing a run through Nashville, the Carolinas, and Georgia and then back up. Lots of things on the horizon.