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Exclusive Interview with local musician Sammy B

We interviewed Sammy Blanchette, local musician who will be kicking off the 2024 Jackson Gore Summer Music Series on Friday, June 21. He will also be performing on Friday, August 23 as part of "The What Knots" band.


Can you tell us about your musical background and what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

I first picked up an electric guitar when I was 10 years old, began taking lessons at 13 and actually started performing live in bars and clubs the same age, under the supervision of my parents of course. I'm a former Southern Connecticut resident having grown up in Naugatuck and Shelton in the southwest corner of the state, not that far from I-95 and about an hour plus from NYC. There is no shortage of music venues to perform down there! When I was in high school, I would play electric and acoustic guitar in various Band Ensembles, as well as Church Choir groups for weekly masses. Not only did I begin to sight read music and guitar tabs on paper, but I gained young experience jamming and performing with fellow musicians live, which was fun and important. Besides my own experience performing, I used to listen for hours on end to all the music my parents grew up listening to, and would sit at home just fiddling around on the guitar or a bass guitar playing random chords, improvisational solos...just training my listening skills and approach to the instrument. One of my all time favorite musical groups, whom I saw with my dad a dozen times or so primarily at The Beacon Theatre in NYC, was the Allman Brothers Band. Amazing group whose career spanned 45 years with endless classics everyone knows, and created a sound so unique and inspirational. Seeing live two world famous guitarists, and my personal favorites, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, gave me incredible inspiration because they are so talented and have amazing 'on stage presence' that would lead me to think, "Man, this would truly be fun to make a career out of!" In college, I studied and graduated with TWO Bachelor Degrees in Music Performance Jazz Guitar Studies and Small Business Management @ Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, CT. While studying at school, I balanced a full time job working for my family's sporting goods business in Shelton, Blanchette Sporting Goods (still in business 56 years and counting and works with various accounts in Vermont) and a part time music performance schedule with solo acoustic shows and various bands. You can say to some "degree", I'm putting both of my majors to good use! It's hard to believe I've been a performing musician for 20+ years already, as it really does seem like it all started yesterday. Between my time in Connecticut and now Ludlow, VT full time going on 6 years, I'm incredibly blessed to be as busy as I am with my solo acoustic career and band shows as well, thanks to the support of my family, fans and the businesses and restaurants that give me the opportunities. It's very humbling to say the least. 


How would you describe your style of music?

The best answer I give people to this question is that I'm a 'covers and originals artist' who blends rock, blues, reggae, country and jam band styles all together in one show. A mixed back if you will. I use a sound effects board on stage that includes a recording pedal (a loop pedal) as the key component to my shows. I can lay down multiple tracks in the recording pedal, and then play a solo over it to give the impression a band is with me, but it's only me. I approach playing with a spontaneous and an emotional feeling. Keeps the music fresh. I embrace playing songs with an "in the moment" feeling in which when it comes time to take a guitar solo, I don't know what I'm going to play and just go for it, which is a fun challenge to me. 


What can the audience expect from your performance(s) at the Summer Music Series?

Oh man, the Music Series shows at Jackson Gore are always a blast and it's an honor to be there TWICE this summer! June 21st will be myself solo and then August 23rd is my band The What Knots, featuring my good friends King Arthur Junior on bass and Ty Mccarthy on drums. Lately, I have been playing a bunch of my own songs at solo acoustic shows as well as What Knot shows, so you can expect a bunch of those in the rotation. Folks can familiarize themselves with my work by going to various streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple and iTunes and look up my work under 'Sammy Blanchette'. I have 15 originals to date on streaming platforms, all recorded at The Underground Recording Studio in Randolph, VT dating back to 2021. The What Knots is a project that began in late 2020 during COVID with legendary Upper Valley musician, Jim Yeager as our original drummer. The name comes from one of my best friends, Neal Baron, owner of the former Neal's Restaurant in Proctorsville. It's a play on words with everyday 'life-adulting humor' in which we catch ourselves running around like crazy and we have to get to doing 'Things, stuff, what knots....'. When Jim retired from drumming in early 2022, the band welcomed Ty Mccarthy soon after. Ty is an incredible drummer and super hard worker who owns his own booking agency out of New Hampshire, The Wheelers VT Productions. He has been an amazing and critical helper to so many artists throughout Vermont and New Hampshire. King Arthur Junior has been a staple in the Rutland and Killington area for years as a solo artist, and we have been sharing the stage together since I moved to Vermont full time in 2018. We have a lot of fun as a power trio, even if we only play a couple times a year.


How do you typically prepare for a live performance, and do you have any pre-show rituals?

That's a great question because based on my recent experience, the prepwork for shows has changed primarily due to the continuing advancements in modern technology. For years, I would practice at home or at school for hours on end to prepare for a show. Because so much of what I do now with playing live is in my current version of 'practicing', preparing for live shows is mainly spending hours on my laptop and phone creating individual, weekly or monthly flyers for my shows to share via my website (sammybmusic.com), Personal and Business Facebook accounts and groups, Instagram and TikTok. In a lot of ways, technology is a blessing and curse because on the one hand, when used accordingly, it's incredible for business promotion and growth, but it can also be sometimes divisive and extremely time consuming because there is so much information to learn and absorb at a time. But, I enjoy it a lot because you can be so creative with your marketing and branding and people are always connected. Otherwise, I enjoy exercising at the gym, being outside with my dog, hiking, and skiing so I try to stay active as much as I can. It's super important the older you get and helpful to stay in shape when you're on the road all the time. These are everyday habits, not necessarily pre-show rituals.


What has been your favorite venue to perform at so far?

I honestly don't think I can give a straight answer to that only because in my 20 years of performing so far, I have played at venues where there were only 3 people listening, and I have played some venues in front of 8,000 people at one time. Any venue that wants your services and appreciates what you do as an artist is a favorite venue to me. Times can be crazy and wild and I believe music is more important than ever for people to have access to and experience live. Very thankful for all venues who support live music. But, I will say a place in Ludlow that holds a special place in my heart after all these years is The Killarney Irish Pub because it's where I started the Vermont version of my career back in 2008 with my friends Chris and Caitlin Kalafus (father and daughter) in which then years later, we formed the band CK3 at Killarney's and hosted many shows there every winter for 5 years or so. Okemo has also been extremely helpful in building my career up here over the years as an employee for the company, an independent contractor musician, and as a resident. 


Are there any new projects or collaborations on the horizon?

Yes. I'm working on launching a weekly podcast with Okemo Valley TV later this summer. Name and details of the podcast still in the works. I'm also planning on going in the studio again with a brand new electric band featuring some of Southern Vermont's finest local artists. This project too is also in the early stages of planning, but we are expected to go in the studio later this year.


What advise would you give to aspiring musicians looking to pursue a career in the music industry?

The reason I got into playing music in the first place is because it's fun. Yes, it is a business like any other industry and can be very challenging and competitive, but the end results are rewarding. My career so far has gratefully brought a lot of joy to so many people and it has led me to paths and avenues I never would have imagined if I didn't pick up a guitar back in the day.  There is so much good music out there and every artist has a different approach to the instrument and the music itself. I think any upcoming musician should remember to have fun and be confident in their ability and skill set. Sure, it's very important to 'know your audience' when it comes to venues, fans and communicating with clients getting work. But anyone playing music should always remember to have fun first and foremost. When you're having fun and enjoying what you are doing, people feed off that positive energy. Kind of like a dog feeding off its owner's energy. Treat music shows and the prepwork work like a business and be professional, but always keep smiling and enjoy the ride. Lastly, stay hungry, humble and consistent. If you are trying to build a successful career, especially in the music industry, keep striving for positive results. You're in it for the long haul with all the sacrifices that come with it, and you're never too old to keep learning. 



We can't wait to see Sammy live at the FREE Jackson Gore Summer Music Series on Friday, June 21 and again on Friday, August 23 as part of "The What Knots". Thank you Sammy for your thoughtful answers!