Samuel Herb is an aspiring country music writer, with an affinity for bow ties, who also happens to be a senior studying journalism. His budding country music career will get a kickstart on Saturday, Aug. 27 in the Student Union Amphitheater, where Herb will be the opening act for Rodney Adkins, the headliner for the Welcome to the Nest Festival.
With a new single called “Last Call” on iTunes, (“and pretty much everywhere,” Herb said), another song with over 800 views on YouTube, and the opening act at OP’s upcoming concert, things are going pretty well for Herb right now.
Spinnaker sat down with him to talk about country music, moving to Nashville and advice for students with a dream.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Spinnaker: So how did you land this gig?
Samuel Herb: I have no idea, to be honest… I was scheduled to play at Starbucks on campus, and I ended up not getting off work to do it and somehow [Ashley Ashe, OP External Assistant Director] randomly thought of me because they needed someone to open for Rodney Atkins. And I got a phone call and she was like, ‘Hey I need someone to open for Rodney Atkins, will you do it?’ And I was like, ‘yes.’ And she was like ‘But we can’t pay you.’ And I was like ‘yes.’ And she’s like ‘Are you sure, you can’t get paid?’ And I was like ‘yes!’ So it was a really random act of just her thinking of me for some reason.
S: Were you a Rodney Atkins fan before this?
SH: Oh yeah, I’m a big Rodney Atkins fan. I mean, I’m not like gonna fangirl or anything about it. It’s cool that three years ago I was in South Florida at Rib Round Up and he was the second headliner, and now I’m opening for him. And it’s like, ‘Oh, okay, that’s weird,’ but I mean it’s still cool at the same time. They tell the rookies in the NFL when they score their first touchdown not to do a dance or anything, just act like they’ve been there, and that’s pretty much what I’m going to do: act like I’ve been there.
S: Is this going to be one of the biggest shows you’ve played?
SH: Definitely the most people I’ve played for. To me, in terms of what I’m doing, my biggest show was my first time in Nashville. That was probably my biggest show. I only played one song in a writer’s round, and — have you heard Basic White Girl? I wrote a song called Basic White Girl and that was the song that I played. And to have people that weren’t my friends to actually laugh at it was fantastic, and just to have people come up to you and [say], ‘Dude that Basic White Girl song was so funny!’ and yeah. It was cool to know that I’m somewhere in the realm of things that isn’t in my head, which was nice.
S: How did you get involved in country music?
SH: I’ve been writing songs [lyrics] since I was 16, then at 17 I picked up the ukulele, then the guitar. And I’ve always liked country music — my first concert was like Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley, like it was a big country concert, but… I don’t know. Country music tells a story, and I’m a journalism major, so they kind of go hand in hand, and unfortunately my journalism has taken my country music toward very literal stories, but it’s helped me to tell a story, and that’s kind of, you know. It’s fun.
S: How have you been balancing school and pursuing a music career? I heard that you’re planning to move to Nashville after you’ve graduated?
SH: Yeah, not even when I graduate. We’re moving up there in September or Oct. 1 — there’s a window between Sept. 15 and Oct. 1 that we’re moving. I’m done with the major, so just online classes left, and I’m gonna be a Nashvillian soon. But yeah, balancing being a musician and school is like, I mean I’m a full time student with a full time job so I play when I can. Music is like a full-time-but-not-full-time thing I guess you could say. Everyone talks about the struggle of being a musician, but it’s like, how is it a struggle if you’re having fun? I don’t understand that.
S: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
SH: In ten years?
S: Or five years.
SH: Five years. Well, to be honest I don’t really want to be like a famous country singer. Doing the meet and greets and telling someone their shirt’s nice and that changes their life for the next six months is not a power that I want to have. But I do want to be a writer. I really enjoy songwriting — it’s cool. So in the next five years? I mean I’d like to have at least a cut. That’d be nice. If it doesn’t pan out, I’m not going to complain. Everyone asks me, ‘You’re moving to Nashville. You gonna try to be famous?’ It’s like no, I’m just — I’m 23. People keep telling me I gotta do it while I’m young, so I’m going to do it while I’m young and whatever pans out pans out. I definitely plan on having a second dog by then. Golden retriever.
S: You said that you write your own songs. Who are your influences?
SH: I really like Chris Young. He’s probably like my top influence, in terms of like my sound and even the way I write. But I listen to a lot of Brett Eldredge, and even like early Luke Bryan is kind of really awesome, which, most people would probably be like ‘Ew, Luke Bryan!’ but you know. His old stuff’s good. Well, all of his stuff’s good… whatever.
S: How would you describe your music to people who have never heard it?
SH: It’s a lot of taking the country cliche and making it into something different. I just like to have fun I guess — to me it sounds fun. I don’t know if I have that, like, it’s-all-in-my-head thing, but most people seem to enjoy it, so I don’t know. It’s country music. It’s fun. It’s three chords and the truth. When you’re happy you feel the song, when you’re sad you understand the lyrics. That’s country music. Those aren’t my quotes. That’s George Jones and Hank Williams. Just a heads up.
S: Do you have any advice for students who might have a dream they’re not pursuing?
SH: Why aren’t you pursuing it? I don’t know. Like I said earlier, the do it while you’re young. I don’t know why that’s not a thing. I’ve always been the kind of person that’s had a backup plan in case I need it but, you know, the way my life’s been going, if I just roll with it, it seems like it’s going alright. I got a random phone call to open for Rodney Atkins, so, if that can happen to me it can literally happen to anyone. So do your thing.
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