Carter Sampson and Jared Tyler in concert
Two Oklahoma songwriters will share their stories on the Woody Guthrie Center Theater stage this winter. Carter Sampson and Jared Tyler are set to perform at 7 p.m. Feb. 23. Tickets are $15, available by calling the Center at 918-574-2710.
Carter Sampson is an Okie-born singer/songwriter with a big voice.
The Oklahoma City-based artist is blessed by a musical family legacy that includes talents like Roy Orbison.
Her journey as a naturally independent, free-spirited musician has seemed almost predestined at times. At age 15 she began experimenting with sound as a way to pass the time; now her creativity has matured into the dedicated and passionate performance that makes her a favorite female vocalist.
“I’m pretty much the same me working on the same goals … maybe a little more grown up. I think I am more confident than I was when I first started playing. I’ve always been brave, but I’m more sure of myself now,” Sampson exuded.
As a relatable artist, her empowering music appeals to a wide range of folks, who are incredibly and admirably loyal to her and her work. She’s the founder and director of Oklahoma City’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, which always partners with nonprofit organizations that empower girls and women through music education.
The inspiring artist also averages about 220 shows annually – in areas like Oklahoma and Arkansas, as well as Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. But as the self-penned ‘Queen of Oklahoma,’ Sampson’s red boots are happiest when they’re on her home turf.
“I am proud to be from Oklahoma and really proud of the music that is coming out of the state right now. I wish we were more progressive in a lot of areas, but it feels like slowly change is happening.”
Though she travels for the love of making music, she’s no stranger to awards. She was named a Top 12 Finalist in the 2012 Mountain Stage NewSong Contest and performed at Lincoln Center in New York. This year, she won first place in the general category of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, N.C. – with her song “Wild Bird”, which was additionally released by Pinecastle Records.
She also won fourth place in the Colorado-based Telluride Troubadour Contest at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and was a Top 10 Finalist in the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival’s Songwriters Showcase in Lyons, Colo.
Her third album, Good for the Meantime, was released in 2008. Then in 2011, she launched a Kickstarter project for Mockingbird Sing, in which she gave supporters rewards to help secure adequate funds within 30 days. After that huge success, she recorded a five-track acoustic EP, Thirty Three, at Treelady Studios in Pittsburgh/Turtle Creek, Penn.
“I feel like I am right where I am supposed to be doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing,” Sampson said, reflecting on the long road that led to right now.
Her fourth full-length studio album, Wilder Side, was released on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Like Good for the Meantime it features the heady handywork of producer/multi-instrumentalist Travis Linville, who, like Sampson, has a unique sound all his own.
“I loved working with Linville on Good for the Meantime; he was so laid back, encouraging and fun to be around. I’d been thinking about asking him to engineer my new project, and when I heard his last EP (Sun and Moon) I knew I wanted him to help me with it (Wilder Side). I love the dreamy feel that EP has and there’s a lot of that on Wilder Side,” Sampson said.
At a fevered time roiled by anxiety and hatred, what more healing antidote is there than love? Tulsa native and respected multi-instrumentalist Jared Tyler’s third album, Dirt on Your Hands, celebrates romance, to be sure, but also the grounded, loyal love of family, friends, and characters who illuminate one’s life with lightning-bolt intensity.
Thematically, it builds on 2010’s Here With You, which was informed by Tyler’s mounting dismay over the country’s direction. “I felt like, ‘Hey, y’all, wake up, it’s all about love,’” he recalls. Dirt on Your Hands is a rootsier, more compositionally focused Americana set bookended by paeans of devotion to his partner, and livened by sparkling romps (“Lucky I Am,” the pedal steel-washed “Fort Gibson Lake,” the Dobro-grooving title track) that dispense homegrown wisdom passed down by Tyler’s grandparents. At times he sounds like Darrell Scott’s kid brother, vividly evoking cherished people (“Gwendolyn”) and places (the beautifully melodic “Norway”) with his soulful tenor and nimble fretwork on guitar, Dobro, mandolin and ukulele. The longtime Malcolm Holcombe sideman also warmly interprets two of his boss’ songs, with gravelly harmonies from Holcombe himself.
Tyler has recorded eight albums with the “super inspiring” Holcombe (two of which he produced) and toured with him throughout North America and Europe, opening for the likes of Billy Bragg, Merle Haggard, Shelby Lynne and Wilco. On his own, Tyler has opened for Karl Denson and Nickel Creek, and relished performing onstage alongside heroes Emmylou Harris and Buddy Miller after Harris sang on his 2005 album Blue Alleluia.
Those enlightening experiences burnished Tyler’s artistry, and readied him for a broader stage on which to share his openhearted stories. Dirt on Your Hands is his most relaxed, truly realized album, recorded live in the studio with guitarist Kenny Vaughn, bassist Dave Roe and drummer Dave Dunseath, with additional contributions from virtuosic fiddler Casey Driessen, harmonica player Jellyroll Johnson, songwriter/pianist John Fullbright, clarinetist Mike Cameron, slide guitarist Seth Lee Jones and pedal steel player Roger Ray. Elements of bluegrass, country, gospel, pop, swing and Hawaiian music joyfully color images from Tyler’s past, and suggest a vision for his musical path forward.
Although the affable Tyler twice lived in Nashville, he’s now happily rooted with his partner in the supportive Tulsa community where he grew up singing in church, and where his grandfather taught him to play mandolin. It was there, too, that he developed his songwriting craft and performance chops alongside peers like Fullbright, Parker Milsap, Stoney LaRue and John Moreland (who invited Tyler to play on his last two records). He says Tulsa’s “humble nature” is what separates it from other music enclaves: “We’re all in it together. There’s gentle competition for gig slots and all that, but we’re all friends.”
That generosity of spirit infuses Dirt on Your Hands. Any childhood misfit can relate to the hard-won triumph of “A Little Tonight”: “I did my best to fit right in/ It was hard it got old and painful/ And it damn sure made no sense/ Love does not just happen/ Life don’t make it right/ You can live right through what kills you/ Guess I’ll live a little tonight.” “I wrote that song and honestly, I didn’t even know if it made sense,” Tyler says with a laugh, adding that songwriter friends urged him to record it. “It gets down to the heart of what I’ve been through.” The galloping “Heart Wide Open” offers an antidote to the reckless incivility of today’s political climate, and to people of all religions ranting about end times: “What’s with all this talk about the end/ The trees and the flowers don’t worry with the wind/ Part of a circle that comes around and back again…/ Every day we’re livin’ in the light/ Flowin’ like a river through the darkness of the night.” The life-affirming hope it expresses is intentional.
“I like to juxtapose the super sad with the hopeful. A lot of my colleagues made millions off beer-drinking party songs, and there’s nothing wrong with that; we need those. But I’m not the person to write them. If I’m going to spend my time writing a song and sharing it, I’d like it to be something people can relate to that’s going to leave them a little better.”