by Derek Halsey
Gritz Magazine caught up with Sam Bush at Merlefest 2004, back in April. He took a minute to talk about his first studio album in six years that is out now called King Of My World.
It has been six years since your last studio album, Sam. Why so long?
I’ve been busy, and time flies. The Telluride record, even though it was live, it took six months to decide what to do with it, to mix it, and get that all of that going. But basically, I’ve been a part of a couple of records that took a lot of work. David Grisman and I put our duet record out, Hold On, We’re Strummin,’ and being part of Edgar Meyer’s Short Trip Home record took a while, too. I have been going around playing these songs for a while. And, there is probably a whole other album of songs that we didn’t record that we have been playing during this time also, that we could have drawn on.
The last song on the album is a baseball-themed tune. Tell me about “The Wizard Of Oz.”
That song was originally recorded for an all-baseball song CD called Diamond Cuts by an organization out of DC called Hungry For Music. Jon Pennell and I wrote that. Jon used to be in Union Station, Alison’s band. He’s a great songwriter. I had some ideas, but I couldn’t get it going. So, I called my favorite St. Louis Cardinal fan, as in Jon. We just sat down with a stat sheet, old videos that I have, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had writing a song. Writing is not always easy for me, not as easy as playing, anyway.
Other than a few guests on the album, you have the same musicians on most the cuts. It seems like a real group effort.
Last year we got home off of a western tour and we knew that Jon Randall was leaving, and we had such a great groove going with him that we decided to go for it. We actually cut the record before we knew what label it was going to be on. We knew it would end up somewhere. So we recorded seven tunes with Jon while we were together. We had such a good groove going on that if we had waited and came back two months later we wouldn’t have had the same groove. We had really gotten tight on this long road trip. And, he and Brad Davis, who is also on the album, are old friends from Texas so they play good together.
“Spirit Is The Journey” has an interesting world beat sound to it. Where did you find that song?
Johnny Clegg wrote that. He is a South African guy who was in the band Juluka. But even before that he was in a band called Savuka. This song was off a record that Savuka did called Scatterlings Of Africa. I have never seen the record. A guy gave me a tape of it back in the '80s, and I freaked out. I’ve always loved that song, but until I got to play it with this particular bunch of guys, I never had the right combination. When we got Chris Brown on drums, it was like, “Ok, yeah!” And it has Byron House on bass, and Reece Wynans plays organ on it. Reece played for 10 years with Stevie Ray Vaughan, and he is a real sweet guy, very versatile, and he can play all kinds of different stuff. So, I wanted an instrument that would really sustain part of the song, and heck, I wanted the Savuka sound with the organ. The little lead part that I play on the mandolin was originally done on a sax. Once all of those guys came onboard, it was like, “Cool, now we’ve got the deal.”
You seem to enjoy playing at Merlefest.
Yes. Here at Merlefest, there are going to be combos formed. For instance, I’m going to be playing with Pete Rowan, Bela Fleck, and Jerry Douglas after a while, and it’s where we all see each other again. I mean, the first thing I do when we get out of our ride and arrive here this morning is I go into the hotel and there is Bela and Edgar. All of a sudden Pete Wernick walks up, and Larry Atumanuik’s on our bus and he hadn’t played with us in years. It was like I died and woke up and Larry was in the band again, like Groundhog Day. But, knowing that we are playing here with a new record out is cool, too.