Grey matters to me

Sam Carter
Sam Carter

Sam Carter loves to linger in life’s ambiguities.

His folk music - which has been the subject of mass critical acclaim in recent months and endorsements from the likes of Richard Thompson - is not about right or wrong, rather it’s about the murky uncertainties of everyday life.

His songs aren’t politically vocal, but that’s not to say the folk star’s music ignores politics, as he explains.

“My music’s about being aware of what is happening around us and Dreams are Made of Money reflects what was going on at that time, which was the credit crunch. I was seeing it going on around me and witnessing how people were losing their jobs but at the same time how student fees were going up.”

Dozens, if not hundreds of artists have written about the financial crisis of 2008 and its economic legacy. But few remain on the fence like Carter.

“I didn’t want to be pro or anti, it’s not even ‘this is how I think it is’ because I don’t have a complete grasp on the economic system in the way that an eminent economist would. But when the crisis started to interact with people that’s when it made sense to reflect what was going on.”

It’s the lack of clarity about life that appeals to Carter, a philosophy graduate.

“I definitely write about life’s grey areas. Songs are a great way to get a handle on something that isn’t too clear-cut. I deliberately write songs that are open-ended and often that means they are unresolved or uncertain.”

This, Carter believes, is a personality trait as much as an approach to songwriting.

“Some people don’t like to linger in that ambiguity that comes with life. They go with one or the other. But for me the process is about not knowing.

“I like to push myself into writing when I don’t know what’s going to come out. That’s something you have to be quite comfortable with, the not knowing.”

But it’s a process that’s paid off.

In 2010 Carter won Best Newcomer at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. he’s performed at the Royal Festival Hall for Richard Thompson’s Meltdown festival and has shared the stage with Nic Jones alongside Chris Wood, Sheffield folk maestro Martin Simpson and Bellowhead’s Jon Boden at Sidmouth Folk Week.

Carter made his debut with Keepsakes in 2009 and last year released the No Testament.

In 2010 and 2011 Sam supported Sheffield-based folk outfit Bellowhead on their UK tour, with participation in the British Council’s Shifting Sands’ project, a cross-cultural collaboration between English and Middle Eastern traditional musicians led by Bellowhead trumpeter Andy Mellon.

And the folk baton can be heard in his music. Carter sings in a strong English accent and his music is laden with traditional folk accents.

“I became absorbed in listening to people singing in an English accent. I used to sing with a hint of American but now I sing as closely to the way I speak as possible.”

And with his soft West Midlands accent that makes for very honest-sounding music.

Carter is, after all, a straight-up man reflecting a nuanced world.

He plays at the Greystones on Friday.