Words by: Benji Feldheim
Sam Holt, guitarist/vocalist for Outformation appreciates a wide array of sounds. While he and his band are deeply rooted in guitar-driven southern rock, they mix in heavy doses of revelatory hymns, dirty funk, and emotional, insightful songwriting.
Sam Holt by Bob Bayne
While growing up in and around Chattanooga, Tennessee, Holt began playing music at parties, often with bassist Grady Upchurch. Years later, they came back together as Outformation. But at the time, Holt had an atypical day job.
As guitar tech for Widespread Panic, Holt was living the dream; he had somehow managed to turn his passion into a career. Yet as a musician, the job placed him into a backup role. Working closely with Michael Houser, Holt developed a powerful bond with the guitarist. At one point, impressed by his guitar skills, Houser told Holt to stop teching and play more music. Following Houser's death in 2002, Holt took the words to heart and began to devote his time to Outformation.
After a few years of struggling to find the right pieces, Outformation recently solidified their line up with CR Gruver on keyboards, completing the ranks of Holt, Upchurch, Lee Schwartz on drums and vocals, percussionist Jeff "Birdogg" Lane, and guitarist Clarke Keown. In perhaps the grandest statement of Outformation's potential, Holt will be leaving Panic's staff to dedicate his time and energy solely to Outformation sometime in the near future.
Holt held up finishing Panic's stage set-up to speak with JamBase about life on the road, playing Zeppelin covers, meeting girls, important lessons learned from Houser, and the growing fury that is Outformation.
JamBase: What have you been up to?
Sam Holt: I'm with Panic working as guitar tech for one more tour, and working through the transition, helping out as much as I can during this time. That's what I'm doing right now. So far it's been a good experience; everyone's having a good time.
Sam Holt with Widespread Panic by Jake Krolick
JamBase: What are the plans for Outformation?
Sam Holt: On this tour we're doing a couple shows with Panic and a few after-shows. We're still keeping it going pretty hard core over here. We've got a bunch of new material we're trying to hone down into demos. We'll probably start recording late this year or early next year, and probably get a record out, hopefully by the first half of next year. Other than that, just workin' on dates. Got a few shows in November after the Panic, some in December, and then we'll start booking a February run through Colorado and mountain towns. We're trying to go nationwide – go all the way to the West Coast and then come back. We've been to Colorado and Texas several times now, but we'd like to do some stuff in the Midwest, and maybe some stuff in the Northwest. Also go to Southern California and San Francisco.
JamBase: Tell me about the new Outformation material. Any new approaches?
Sam Holt: We've got about ten or so new tunes since the last record. We just really enjoy playing 'em live and seeing what's gonna happen. Get all the parts worked out. There's one called "Dark Severinsen." That's a tough one. There's one called "Wind," which is more of a ballad. Our bass player Grady wrote the music and I wrote the words and just went back and forth until it grew. We're trying to work all the parts out and whittle it down to the essence of the songs. When we get to the studio, we should have a good idea of what we're going to do. We've got a few covers worked out to spice things up. One is a Shooter Jennings tune; that's a kick-ass tune. There's another one we've talked about but haven't played yet, and that's a cover of "Southern Nights." It's an Allen Toussaint song made famous by Glen Campbell. Just stuff like that, man. Gotta keep it fresh, can't get complacent.
Sam Holt :: Outformation
By Tobin Voggesser
Can you walk me through how Outformation puts new songs together?
Well... it comes in all sorts of ways. Somebody might walk in with a riff. A few times someone's come in with a riff and a chord change. Someone else will go, "How about this for the bridge?" And then maybe I'll go, "You know, I have some words that will fit over that." Once in a while, someone will bring a song in that's almost already done, and we just tweak it and add our own individual input into that. Whatever makes us us. But you know, it comes from all angles. Songs are not the easiest thing to do, at least for me. I'll take it wherever I can get it.
You mentioned "Dark Severinsen" is a hard one. Why is that?
It's real heavy. It's got a lot of distortion guitar, and it's kinda up-tempo, more of a rocker. It's an in-your-face kinda thing. Usually whoever sings the song probably wrote the words. Other than that, it can be a myriad of things as far as how a song comes to us. There are all these little pieces that get brought in, and we all do our thing to it.