Gordie Sampson has been busy writing for other musicians the past few years, but with his second solo album, Sunburn, and first for MapleMusic Recordings, the Cape Breton native has returned to the spotlight with hooked-laden songs he just couldn't resist recording.
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"I have been ignoring my identity as a solo artist for a couple of years, my focus has been on songwriting," Gordie says of finally following up his 1998 Juno-nominated debut, Stones, whose single, "Sorry," won three East Coast Music Awards (ECMAs).
Since then, the accomplished songwriter (Ashley MacIsaac's "Sleepy Maggie," Crush's "King For A Day") and producer (Damhnait Doyle's Davnet, Natalie MacMaster's In My Hands) has been spending considerable time in Nashville, pitching his songs to pop and country acts. What prompted Gordie to return to the studio was a successful writing partnership with Troy Verges and Blair Daly, two Louisiana natives now based in Nashville. "They were really into what I was doing and we ended up writing most of the record together," says Gordie.
The trio didn't stay strictly in North America to get inspiration. They went on a writing mission to London, England, where they came up with the poppier "Your Place In This World," the superb "You (Or Somebody Like You)" and the first single "Sunburn," inspired by a break up. They then took the train to Paris, which yielded a couple more songs. The aptly titled "Paris," may be disguised as a love song, but it's actually about the three of them getting jumped and hospitalized on Bastille Day. "There's couple of lines in that --'American blood in the streets of Saint Germaine' -- which is what happened," says Gordie. "We loosely based the song on what it's like to be an American in Paris." A live orchestra was brought in for the recording.
"Hanging By A Wire," is a fun song about the public's obsession with the Mona Lisa. It was written after they were jumped. The two are not connected, Gordie jokes. "We didn't try to steal the Mona Lisa in Paris!"
While the bulk of the record is written in partnership with Verges and Blair, some of the material comes from an earlier writing period. Songs like the bluesy "Don't Shoot The Messenger," is a track no one within his circle would let Gordie leave off the album. "People like it, but it sounds like Eric Clapton or something to me, something I don't want to be," he admits.
Another early track, immensely personal to Gordie, is "All I Know." He co-wrote it a couple of years ago with close friends from Sydney, Cape Breton, one of whom passed away in November, 2003. "It's an important song for me," he says. "One of my best friends growing up wrote this poem called "All I know." The poem was four lines. 'All I know/All I Know is/All I Know is that/ All I Know is that is all I know.' I loved it and I turned it into a song."
On Sunburn, Gordie's way with words is enviable. His rootsy pop songs are filled with I-wish-I'd-thought-of-that lines. For example, in the first single, "Sunburn," he sings, "I trip and I stumble like a scratched 45." That, in reference to a relationship. And in "You (Or Somebody Like You)," he paints a vivid analogy of an ex who vanishes like a ghost: "Call the inspector, the cops and the CIA/they drew major chalk circles around the place where they used to lay."
"I try not to let the song be a story as much as they are images and thoughts," Gordie says. "I changed the way I wrote lyrics along the way because growing up in Cape Breton, there's a tremendous folk song culture there, which is mostly story-telling. Your first lyric starts the story and your story happens throughout the tune. The last couple of years I've been trying to get away from that. It's all about the colour and the characters."
Gordie self-produced Sunburn over the past couple of years both in Toronto studios and at home in his Cape Breton studio. He played the majority of the main instruments (guitars, bass, piano) except drums, and brought in horns and strings. As the producer, Gordie had a vision for Sunburn, which is heard on the 13 tracks, a collection that inspires and moves with its words and arrangements. Since releasing Stones, and producing albums for Damhnait and Natalie, he has become much more adept in the studio.
"It made me a better producer for my own records, but more than that I think producing my own records makes me a better producer for other people's records," says Gordie. "You learn what it's like to be questioning everything, to be that naive soul, putting everything on the line, for a bunch of songs, for a record company. As a producer you can grow insensitive to that, but when you are the producer and the artist, you realize again how an artist feels."
While Gordie's publishing deal still requires him to generate a certain output of songs each year, he is willing to put his time into promoting and touring behind Sunburn. "I'd love for it to do as well as it can," he says of the album. "The most important thing for me is to have people feel really connected and moved by the songs in some way. Being a rock star was not really what I wanted or what I was in this for. I've met so many people who are in the star system, it's like, 'I don't want that. No way. John Hiatt and Daniel Lanois, their star status is based on their integrity."
So is Gordie Sampson's.
2004 MIANS AWARD Album of the Year Male Artist of the Year Pop/ Rock Artist of the Year SOCAN Songwriter of the Year 2004 ECMA AWARD Songwriter of the Year(King for a Day/CRUSH) 2003 MIANS AWARD Producer of the Year 2002 SOCAN AWARD Most Country Airplay(Followed Her Around /Jimmy Rankin)CO-WRITER 2002 ECMA Award SOCAN Songwriter of the Year(Followed Her Around/Jimmy Rankin)CO-WRITER 2001 ECMA Award SOCAN Songwriter of the Year(Get Me Through December/MacMaster & Krauss)CO-WRITER/PRODUCER 2000 ECMA Awards Single of the Year (Sorry) Video of the Year (Sorry) Songwriter of the Year (Sorry) 2000 MIANS Awards Male Artist of the Year (Stones) Songwriter of the Year (Stones) 2000 Canadian Radio Music Awards Nomination Pop Adult Best Solo Artist (Sorry) 2000 John Lennon Songwriting Contest Pop Category Finalist (Sorry) 2000 CCMA Award Vocal/Instrumental Collaboration(Get Me Through December/MacMaster & Kruass)CO-WRITER/PRODUCER 2000 JUNO Award Best Instrumental Alum (In My Hands/Natalie MacMaster)CO-WRITER/PRODUCER 1999 ECMA Award New Artist of the Year (Stones) 1999 MIANS Award Producer of the Year (In My Hands/Natalie MacMaster) 1999 JUNO Nomination Roots/Traditional Solo Recording (Stones)
Songwriter Hits/Significant Covers My Name - George Canyon Paris - Faith Hill The Hard Way - Keith Urban You (or Somebody Like You) - Keith Urban King For A Day - Crush How the West Was Won - Shaye Followed Her Around - Jimmy Rankin Maybe You're Right - The Rankins Get Me Through December - Natalie MacMaster Sleepy Maggie, MacDougall's Pride - Ashley MacIsaac We All Need, Angels, Throwin' It All Away - Realworld Another California Song - Damhnait Doyle
Film Placements: One Last Goodbye - Richie Sambora, The Banger Sisters
Producer damhnait doyle, davnet Natalie MacMaster, In My Hands Cuillin, Cool-in Bruce Guthro & Raylene Rankin, Four Strong Winds Buddy MacMaster Bruce Guthro, The First Noel
Musical Director Celtic Electric (TV) The Rankins Christmas Special (TV) Cape Breton Summertime Revue
Guest Artist/Instrumentalist The Rankins Ashley MacIsaac Bruce Guthro Rita MacNeil Natalie MacMaster Barra MacNeils John Allan Cameron
" heralded by a number of people in the industry and in the music press as this region's next major star. The long- awaited second album called Sunburn, from start to finish is a remarkable piece of work, a skillfully crafted collection of material ripe with potential singles." The Guardian
" Sunburn" has an infectious rhythm and killer changes ... Vancouver Province
" gordie sampson...already a classic ...just waiting to age....the secret is out " 98.9 XFM
" This guy could be the next breakout talent from the Maritimes." Toronto Sun
"Sunburn is living proof the singer-songwriter craft is still going strong. Edmonton Sun
". . . Paris. She (Faith Hill) says it's one of her favorite songs she's ever heard." CMT interview with Faith Hill
"The cleverly paced 14-track disc includes broadly accessible pop tunes, upbeat rockers, guitar instrumentals and inventive pieces like The Blood Is Strong." The Record
"Studded with radio friendly tunes…extraordinary musicianship…an invigorating and intense album…uses a mix of acoustic and electric instruments to build a rich, pop sound…vocals that betray an irresistible enthusiasm…" The Daily News
"Sampson's short set before the Rankins took the stage spotlighted a new voice that's ready to break wide open, a Canadian who sings with the emotion of Van Morrison." The Ottawa Sun
"Sampson's fresh, raw talent was charming as he performed four songs from his upcoming album. This talented guitarist, who reminds one of Bruce Cockburn, may not have a familiar face, but his songwriting credits are recognizable…" The Calgary Sun
"Sampson delivered a powerful performance with strong material and an expert band." The Chronicle Herald
"Gordie's mainstage showcase performance blew everyone away and earned him the media award for Best Showcase Artist." What's Goin On
"Sampson is a soulful singer with major star charisma." The Daily News
"…played a cool selection of urban folk tunes…he did exactly what opening acts are meant to do: open up the ears of the crowd…his energy was felt as he later joined the Rankins…" The Edmonton Sun
"The charismatic Gordie Sampson, as music director, has put his stamp on the revue. The sound is a propulsive contemporary Celtic pop, a jamming together of traditional and rock-pop that is exhilarating. Sampson's final arrangement of Purple Heather is passionate." The Mail Star
"A memorable and delicate guitar solo from Sampson who also pulled out a hot electric lead solo." The Edmonton Journal
"Opener Gordie Sampson proved he knows his way around an acoustic guitar, too…a lesson in great fretwork." Calgary Herald
"Cape Breton native Gordie Sampson rocked the crowd with a selection of original material. Opening with his next single 'Sorry' he owned the audience right up to his finale with 'Still Workin' on a Dream' and was sent off with a standing ovation." ECMA '99 Music Notes
"Producer Gordie Sampson's arrangements are fresh, and the few trips into the slightly experimental are thrilling." (In My Hands - Natalie MacMaster) Boston Herald
"The second star of the game is producer, songwriter, guitarist Gordie Sampson." (In My Hands - Natalie MacMaster) Telegraph Journal
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