Sam Beam, of Iron & Wine.
Iron & Wine evolves to keep songs alive
Published on September 23rd, 2013 | by Joe Lawler
Sam Beam got his start as Iron & Wine making lo-fi music with just himself and a guitar. But over the last decade, the one-man band has changed and grown. Touring in support of his latest album, “Ghost on Ghost,” Beam is currently playing with a 12-piece band that includes three horns.
“It’s crazy. I decided not to make any money this year,” Beam joked during a phone interview. “Actually, I decided to do it because the possibilities are endless. I felt like my last few albums had been pretty grand-scale record making, but not this large. At one point I thought ‘This is not going to work,’ but at a certain point you just throw your hands up in the air and say ‘This is going to be really fun.’ Whatever large arrangements I’ve dreamed up, I can do, or I can stop and do solo things.”
Not that it’s an either/or thing for Beam. He has toyed with playing songs off the more intimate “The Creek Drank the Cradle” in the large style, or stripping down songs from “Ghost on Ghost” to just him and a guitar.
Nothing is sacred to Beam, and he thinks the songs should be able to stand on their own legs without horns and strings.
“It’s definitely a lot of fun for me, and it’s new for most of the audience because they’ll have no idea what the song is supposed to be. A lot of times I’m excited when I see a band and I don’t recognize a song until they start singing the lyrics, because it’s presented in a different way. It’s the only way you can keep the songs alive, otherwise a song is dead as soon as you record it. My interest is in keeping my songs alive.”
Beam is also trying to keep his shows alive. Horns mean dancing, but most of the venues on this tour have built-in seats that prevent much movement. Beam said there’s a lot of “chair dancing,” with audience members wiggling in their seats.
After incorporating more jazz and R&B elements into his style, he isn’t entirely sure where he might go next. He could experiment with growing his sound or strip things back to the essentials.
He’s started working on new material but said it’s so “embryonic” that it’s tough to talk about.
“I’m really enjoying the strings, but at the same time I also enjoy more simplicity. It’s hard to say,” he said.
“When I pack my bags for a journey, I don’t always know where I’m going, so I just hope I packed the right thing. At the same time I find life kind of works in circles. I’m sure I’ll get back to the place I started from at one point.”
Iron & Wine
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Hoyt Sherman Place, 1501 Woodland Ave.
Info: Ticketmaster or hoytsherman.org