Morgan Rose Ford
When his latest release, “Neon,” comes out Friday, Boston-based musician Sam Moss will have released (depending on how you count, and what you include) six full-length records. Over their course, he’s moved from making instrumental fingerstyle guitar records in his apartment bedroom during his college days to more expansive, full-band folk iterations in his recent work (as well as overcoming his doubts about his voice and starting to include his vocal songs). His new album invests that wider sound with a marvelous, resonating, magnetic stillness. Intricate fingerpicking, gorgeous guitar and piano combinations, understated synth lines and gently loping gaits accompany Moss’s introspections, musings and recollections — of connections missed and lost, of road trips and late-night urban wanderings, of 3 a.m. phone calls and morning awakenings. He celebrates “Neon” with a show at the Lizard Lounge on its release day; ahead of that show, we talked to Moss about the new record, and how he got to where he is now.
Q. You moved to the Boston area, left, but then returned.
A. Yes, that’s right. I grew up in Connecticut, in the Hartford area. I started on violin when I was a kid, which I still play, and I ended up at Berklee College for composition and violin. When I graduated, I didn’t want to be in a city any more. I just had trouble being around a city environment. I had a friend who was living in southern Vermont, in a house in Brattleboro, and they had an open room, so I found a life up there. But I guess after a few years it felt small. I had been working full-time in music but then moved away from it. I wanted to get back to it, and that’s how I found my way back to Boston.
Q. You studied violin at Berklee, but outside the classroom, it seems, you were spending a lot of time with your guitar.
A. Yes, I was playing guitar on my own, in a slightly less schooled manner. My early CDs, which were made in my bedroom, recorded on my computer, and burned in the CD drive, were all instrumental fingerstyle guitar. When I was 18, a buddy of mine got me into Leo Kottke’s album “6 and 12 String Guitar.” So I was pretty taken by that, and then eventually I got into Glenn Jones and Jack Rose and John Fahey.
Q. Your sound has changed some since those early albums, particularly with your new release, “Neon,” and its predecessor, “Fable,” to what could be described as a wider folk or Americana sound.
A. Something in that ballpark. A lot of the sound of those two records had to do with some musicians I was playing with. The songs on “Fable” spanned the last years of my time in Vermont plus the first year of my time back in Boston. So that’s a transitional record for me, and when I thought I was ready to make it I wanted to do it with people from my southern Vermont music community. I had a vision for that album of it just being the songs played with this band and no one else, recorded live with no overdubs or anything. As the next songs started to develop, I knew I wanted to make a different-sounding record. I wanted a more expansive sound, more layered, certainly different from what I had done on “Fable.” And I wanted it to reflect the community that I’m in now, the people I play with around here. The players are really responsible for helping me direct the sound; this is a record that I would not have made on my own.
Q. Do you see the new record as in any way having a thematic aspect or coherence of some sort to it?
A. It’s certainly not a concept album, but I do think that the songs fit together thematically more or less just because they were all written by me in a short period of time and I have a tendency to think about the same things over and over again; I guess I get stuck on stuff. There is an element of nostalgia in some of the tunes, an element of looking backwards, acceptance of self or situations at hand.
Q. I hear a certain quality of not so much loneliness as aloneness in the songs.
A. I love that observation. I grow pretty weary of hearing songs labeled as “sad.” I don’t mean just my songs but just songs in general. Sad is certainly a thing, and sadness can be explored in song, but it discounts the other feelings that are often there. And I think aloneness is such an expansive state of being that can involve loneliness but also just gives space to be oneself and to think and access things that you wouldn’t were you stuck with people all the time. I do spend a lot of time alone, but I’ve rarely felt like a lonely person; the reason a lot of my songs have that quality is that those are the times when I have space to think, and those are the times that I feel moved to write something.
At: Lizard Lounge, 1667 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, March 2 at 9 p.m. Tickets: $10 advance, $12 at the door, www.lizardloungeclub.com
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