Whether playing solo or with her quintet, guitarist Sam Wilson has recently been making her mark on the Canadian jazz scene with a sound described as laid back and melodic, in the tradition of homegrown legends such as Lenny Breau and Ed Bickert. It’s captured beautifully on her debut full-length album Groundless Apprehensions, containing nine original compositions and featuring Canadian jazz veterans Paul Tynan on trumpet, Tom Roach on drums, Andrew Jackson on trombone and Matt MacLennan on bass.
Originally from Windsor, Ontario and now based in Halifax, Wilson crafted Groundless Apprehensions as a “sonic memoir,” reflecting on the past through music. Overall, it’s a moving representation of her old soul attitude, and introspective writing style, incorporating elements of folk and progressive rock along with her jazz chops.
After earning a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies from St. Francis Xavier University, Wilson recorded an experimental electric guitar EP, Into A Heart, and has gone on to become a fixture on the Halifax live music scene. This fall she will be travelling to the Banff Centre to work on her next project, but before that, she can be seen in Ottawa on Aug. 29 at Art House Café, and on Sept. 26 and 28 at the Deep Roots Festival in Wolfville NS. For more info, go to samwilsonmusiq.com
What was the process like making Groundless Apprehensions?
When I started making it, I didn’t have a process. I set some deadlines, and then the process created itself as I went along. The key for me was keeping a compositional journal to remember ideas and directions from previous writing sessions. Somedays I was really into it and others I had to force it or I would end up sitting there doing nothing, which can be beneficial in a way. But generally, it was fun. I learned a lot and discovered I like the arranging aspect. If I reflect on the compositional part, one tool I developed for myself was to set some kind of limitation to base an improvisation on in hopes that it would lead to a melody or vamp that can be worked into a tune.
What songs on the record are you most proud of and why?
Hard to say, but I think I’d go with Riverside Waves because it was the one I was most surprised by. This tune was the last one written, and the band played it for the first time during our lone rehearsal before the recording session. The result reflected an idea I had based on a recurring dream where I am in a boat going down a choppy river feeling tension, anxiety, relief, tension, anxiety, and, ultimately, relief. The title is a dedication to the Detroit River, which is near where I was born in Windsor.
How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?
It is a convoluted exploration. I have moved around between writing for solo guitar and writing for a small ensemble. Each project leads to new ideas, so, hopefully, I will keep evolving and learning.
What's been the biggest change in your life over the past year?
I’d say it’s been internal. I am becoming more open to feeling my experience. I also recently left my job and packed up my apartment, so there are a lot of transitions happening at the moment. I think it would be safe to say I am in the middle of significant change right now.
What's your best touring story?
These shows I’m doing now are my first mini-tour! Someone hacked my credit card number and made mysterious purchases on the first day, but despite that, it’s been a fun time. I participated in the 21st Century Guitar Conference in Ottawa, which involved a solo set and playing lot of interesting compositions as part of a double guitar orchestra. I just played my first show in Toronto and will be going back to Ottawa before heading home, so I might have some stories for the next time.