We are all searching for home - a conversation with Sam Getz of Welshly Arms
When Sam Getz sings “What we’re doing here ain’t just scary, its about to be legendary” you can feel the swagger pulse through the cadence and pronunciation.
The booming howl of the guitar follows as if he allows it to be the call to his answer (or vice versa) to serve up a second boastful blast in case the first was overlooked. There are no apologies, there are no missteps, just slick, polished, catchy hooks.
Formed in 2013 at a backyard party in Cleveland, the Ohio natives have canvased the globe playing everything from Lollapalooza to opening for 30 Seconds to Mars.
The live shows have garnished a 'must be seen to be believed’ reputation and their music has gained additional attention through advertising campaigns and movie trailers. The ‘Legendary’ single has now crossed the 15 million streaming mark and been certified gold in both Germany and Switzerland.
With healthy nods to the music that influenced them, they have put a soulful almost gospel twist on a garage blues format that feels as comfortable as that favorite old band shirt stolen from a sibling’s drawer.
Sam took a break from the band’s current tour schedule to chat with us:
GPBH: There is a uniquely guitar driven quality to the soaring and triumphant chants of some of the tracks on the new record. Is there a consistent underlying theme in their construction?
Sam: A lot of them were written on a guitar first, and I like to keep it simple and strong while writing the more anthemic tunes. Guitar is also usually one of the last tracks we lay down when recording, so we use it to drive the energy home if we need a little kick after some of the more melodic pieces are in place.
GPBH: What excites you the most about your current guitar tone, and what do you look for when selecting your performance instrument? Who are your biggest influences as a player?
Sam: Vibe is what I look for most. I record and play live with a lot of old 50’s/60’s Danolectro, Silvertone, & Harmony guitars that aren’t the easiest players but give you vibe and tone for days! I like a guitar that talks and fights back a little. I find that it inspires me to play more passionately and stay connected to what I’m doing on the fretboard. Jimi Hendrix is my first and foremost guitar hero and there are many others who have inspired me since, but too many to name.
GPBH: ‘Legendary’ has certainly been an international door opener for you guys, what do you think is the biggest difference in the music culture of Europe vs the United States? Has that across the pond success effected your desire to reach more people?
Sam: The European audience seems to appreciate authentic, emotionally connecting songs, and I think “Legendary” happened to come around at the right time. I’ve also noticed when we tour in Europe the enthusiasm of the fans is overwhelming! They are so appreciative of an American band bringing their music abroad. It does light a fire and keep us going strong to get that kind of energy from over there. It also helps to know that our songs can appeal to a radio audience, and when the timing is right over here and we’re given that opportunity, it’s a reminder that we don’t have to change who we are or how we play to get a song to heard.
GPBH: There are 5 vocalists in the band, which is certainly a rare tool to have in your arsenal. Instead of having the choral effect of every person singing each line (via Fleet Foxes, Beach Boys, etc) you have allowed the voices to have the moments to shine and support when needed. Is this a conscious decision when writing the melodies? Are there any crutches or predictabilities in harmonies that you are trying to avoid?
Sam: Yes, having five vocalists is a huge factor in our sound and arrangements! We are probably most influenced vocally by Motown and gospel, where individual voices and harmonies pop out and have their own personalities. When the band first started and there were only three singers we would record in layers and sing multiple parts each, as well as stack to get a choir sound on a lot of the songs. We still use that technique a lot but it’s even more full and authentic to our sound to have those five separate voices in the mix! I absolutely love the sound of the two references in your question, and listen to both bands a hell of a lot, but it’s just not the way we hear ourselves sounding most the time.
GPBH: To you, what is the most important function of a song?
Sam: I guess it depends on the song, but overall it’s about getting the listener to feel something. That’s why it’s important to be connected to what you’re singing/playing because if the artist doesn’t believe it or know what they’re singing for, how will someone hearing it feel a connection?
GPBH: Finally, what are three albums by other artists someone who is just learning about you should listen to in order to have a better understanding of your material, and why?
Led Zeppelin ‘I’
Stevie Wonder ‘Innervisions’
Joe Cocker ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’
Each of the four members of Led Zeppelin bring such a unique style and swagger to the bands sound, and this record is raw and highlights their combined genius!
The way Stevie crafts melodies and plays from the heart is a huge inspiration!
We’ve always loved the way Cocker reimagines great songs! The soul from his vocal and the background vocals is something that we channel.