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Samantha Parton - The Triste Interview

Sam Parton The Be Good Tanyas are an all girl trio based in Vancouver consisting of Samantha Parton, Frazey Ford and Trish Klein. All three members sing and play a variety of acoustic instruments (banjo, mandolin, slide guitar). Their blend of old-time string band classics and quirky originals, often rendered with evocative vocal harmonies, made their debut album "Blue Horse" a surprise success in the Spring of 2002. Triste caught up with the band, and Sam Parton in particular, after a sell-out performance at Matt and Phreds, Manchester.

Triste: The Be Good Tanyas comes from a song (inside the CD cover). Why did you choose this as a name for your band and who is the person who wrote it?

Sam Parton: The song was written by a friend named Obo Martin [McCrory]. He lives in Galway, Ireland, right now, and used to live in San Francisco. We just rocked out all weekend with him at Glastonbury. The song "Be Good Tanya" is a rebel anthem. It's about not doin' what 'they' want you to do, basically. We like that sort of thing. Obo is about the best songwriter around.

Triste: I assume Blue Horse is your first record, so, what were you doing before this?

Sam Parton: Wasting away at crap jobs, bumming around America, plunking along on guitars and mandolins and banjos singing folk songs. Attempting bands of sorts...

Triste: Blue Horse is a mix of trad/originals. How did you go about choosing which trad songs were to be chosen?

Sam Parton: Well, they were really just what we happened to be playing at the time, whatever got in our head and stuck there...there was no process of selection involved.

Triste: Were the original songs written to fit in with this style of music? I mean you might have had a great guitar rocker, or piano-based torch ballad, which you felt wouldn't fit in with the trad songs and so left it off the album.

Sam Parton: Oh, whatever we feel like playing, we play, we don't really consider our music as any 'type' of music or anything, it all fits, its what you yourself bring to the music that counts, what's in your soul and all. I decided the other day that I am not going to put labels on music any more, as it's not fair to the music, really.

Triste: How do you go about choosing the original songs? Do you each put your new songs forward to the group for consideration and then work together on them - polishing the arrangements or working on instrumentation etc? Or do you say, "I'd like to do this song, this one and this one" and present them fully formed to the band?

Sam Parton: Oh, it's different every time. I guess it's sort of whatever sticks around. We bring songs in to the band, and sort of slowly work them up. Sometimes it takes a while, sometimes it's pretty instant, sometimes they're pretty arranged and all, sometimes they're just skeletons.

Triste: There are some Syd Barrett quotes flying around. Where does he fit into the Be Good Tanya cosmos? Who else is influential to you?

Sam Parton: Well, Syd Barrett, we haven't met him, of course, but somehow a bit from "Jugband Blues" ended up at the end of "The Littlest Birds". That bit once used to be accompanied by a bit of a Hank Williams song ("Lost Highway"), a bit of a Townes Van Zandt song, and a bit of another bird song of mine. The Syd bit stuck, thanks to Jolie [Holland - former band member]. We got in a bit of trouble with that whole thing cos we never bothered to check to see if it was cool; we just recorded it that way...then the phone started ringing...Oops!!

Triste: Death seems to be a common theme in your live shows. Where has that come from? Is that purely the "old time" vibe coming through or is it a subject you feel is important to sing about?

Sam Parton: I don't know where that comes from, really. It's true, we sing a few songs about death. We've all had to deal with it in our lives, of course. I think that really there's such an incredible amount of emotion you experience when you get close to death, and when you stare into that space and that deepness, you get close to the place where things begin, and that's a healthy place to be, I think, especially when it comes to writing songs and singing and such. We three all have a healthy respect for death I suppose.

Triste: I've recently promoted Fred Eaglesmith and Oh Susanna in the UK which suggests that the Canadian music scene is alive and well, or, do I believe Fred's comment that you're all just grateful for the gig! What d'ya think?

Sam Parton: Oh, I'd agree with Fred a little bit. He signed the back of the jacket I'm wearing right now! There's a lot of talent in Canada. There aren't a ton of places to play. We're grateful for the gig!

Triste: Where do you go from here? Blue Horse was recorded quite a while ago and is only considered "new" here in the UK. Have you already recorded the next album? Will the next album be more of the same? A refined version? Or something completely different?

Sam Parton: We are about halfway through recording album number two. I think it's gonna be in the same vein as "Blue Horse", but it might have a bit of piano on it... maybe some musical saw.

(Thanks for Steve Henderson for assistance with the interview)



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