Iron & Wines’ Sam Beam – Interviews with TNL

taken by Craig Kief
taken by Craig Kief

Indie/folk artist Sam Beam, better known by his stage name Iron & Wine, is a father of five who went to college for painting and pursued film for his masters. He went from being a film producer to a professor. From there Beam was offered the opportunity to record for Sub Pop Records and hasn’t looked back since, launching himself fully into creating and recording music as well as touring and growing out his beard.

Beam most recently worked with Nonesuch Records and came out with his fifth album, “Ghost on Ghost.”

UAA Concert Board is bringing Iron & Wine to the Egan Center to perform. It will be the second time Concert Board has brought Beam to Alaska. The first time was in 2009. In a phone interview Beam answered the following questions:


TNL: What’s it like going on tour?

Beam: “It’s a lot of fun. You get to do what you enjoy for a living. It’s a lot of work to be done too, though. Lots of pluses and minuses.”


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Is it hard being away from your family when you go on tour?

“It definitely is hard being away from the family, for sure, but I don’t go for very long. I go out for maybe a week and a half or so sometimes, so it’s not too bad.”


What instruments do you play?

“Mostly guitar, but I dabble with the keyboard and drums. All kinds of stuff. I like to dabble with lots of things. I don’t feel like I ever master anything, but it sure is fun to play around on them.”


How did you learn to play them?

“I never took lessons, just enjoy fooling around with the instruments. (I) just spent a lot of my free time doing it so eventually, hopefully I figure something out.”


You went to Virginia Commonwealth University and concentrated in painting, right?

“Yeah, it’s a really good art school. It was the farthest school I applied to from home, so it made me want to go there. It was a good school. I started out as a painter and sort of got swept up into photography then film/cinematography from there.”


And you were a film professor at some point, correct?

“I was, yeah. I went to graduate school at a film school and was working in production, and when the kids came along I started teaching so I could spend more time with them. … You think touring is a hard job, production you just work all the time. Film was an interesting thing to be doing. I was teaching for awhile, mostly cinematography, but some history, some screen writing and stuff like that.”


How did you make the switch from film to music?

“I was always doing music in my spare time as a hobby and then a label in Seattle called Sub Pop got a hold of some of the stuff that I was doing from a friend of mine and they called me. It seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up.”


What got you interested in music in the first place?

“Some people just gravitate towards it. The arts are funny that way. It doesn’t really make sense. You just sort of feed your spirit in a certain way. I’ve always liked music. I also like making things. I like drawing and making things and making films and stuff like that. So when I started recording it became that kind of a thing for me, not just a listener, but a creator. “


When did you start doing stuff for music?

“I got a guitar when I was 14 or 15, something like that. I would play with friends of mine. There were bands that we liked and we played like they did, but I was always doing other things and just kept my guitar with me to play in spare time. I started playing more in college.”


What musicians or artists inspired your music or inspired you to do music?

“It’s a long list. It’s a lot of people. As far as writers go, I like the wordy fun guys like (Bob) Dylan and Paul Simon and those people. I think I get more inspiration from, well, poets. There’s also a lot of different music that you draw inspiration from — lots of different types of music. I grew up with punk rock music and whatever was on the radio and country music. There’s all kinds of stuff to draw inspiration from.”


How did you start recording music? How did you shift from it being a hobby?

“A friend of mine had a four-track recorder, and I borrowed it for awhile. That was kind of all it took, really. Like I mentioned before, I like making things and all of a sudden it became crafting this recording instead of just making a song, and it really sparked my interest.”


Your stage name is from the supplement “Beef, Iron and Wine.” What exactly made you choose that?

“I just saw that when we were shooting a movie at this country store in Georgia and I saw it on the shelf and it just struck me as a funny combination of words. I didn’t put beef in it. … (there) didn’t seem to be a part of the permanent ring to it, so I dropped it.”


What have you learned from having children?

“Well you could write a book about that. You learn a lot. You learn to be more sympathetic and empathetic with people because you go from being young and worrying about yourself to worrying about others and then you start to be interested in other people’s perspectives. It teaches you a lot about yourself, to be honest. You learn more about yourself than anything.”


What advice would you give to students to be successful?

To be successful, find something you love to do and enjoy being in school, because it doesn’t last forever. Find what you enjoy doing in life and pursue it.”


Why did you grow out your beard?

“Because I’m a lazy bum. I just don’t like shaving. I finally got a gig where I didn’t have to shave and I never did again.”

taken by Craig Kief
taken by Craig Kief

Iron and Wine will perform at 7:30 p.m. March 28 at the Egan Center. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door for UAA students. For general public, tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. Tickets may be purchased at Student prices available at the Student Union Information Desk. Limit two tickets per student.

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