Sammy Ray talks tour, trees and confidence before Boston show

Brooklyn-based musician Sammy Rae, frontman of her band Sammy Rae & The Friends, is no stranger to Boston. Last October, the high-energy jazz-pop band sold out Roadrunner even though they only had a few EPs and singles under their belt. Now, the band returns to the venue on September 21 for another headline show on their “CAMP” tour. Before the show, Ray made time to chat with GBH News about Boston, touring and more.

Below are excerpts from the interview, and you can listen to the entire interview above.

Molly McCall: So you have a tour starting soon – how do you feel about that?

Sammy Ray: We’ve been off the road for the last few months to work on an album, and this is the first time we’ve been off the road for such a long time. We haven’t really done back-to-back touring shows one after the other in nine months, which is crazy. So it’s special. We are definitely ready to get back on the road.

eaten: And I just announced a brand new leg of the tour today.

opinion: Yes, the entire southeastern spring stalk. It’s cool because the tour after this (the “CAMP” tour), wherever that is, is the album tour, to promote the album. And this “CAMP” tour doesn’t really promote anything. It’s just a world that we get to build and live in for a few months, which we’re excited about, because it’s a concept world that we feel really good about.

When we get to album land, whatever that tour looks and feels like, it’s 11 brand new songs. So we’ll start taking some old favorites out of the rotation. We don’t have a lot of new stuff we’re trying to promote (right now), so we can really expand on some things we’ve been playing for a while, which is exciting musically.

eaten: Tell me more about this world you’ve built for this tour. What was it like, building this world? What do you hope to get out of it?

opinion: Every tour, my house is always full of stuff. For the “Follow Me Like The Moon” tour (our last tour), the set was some pampas grass and artificial feathers in the colors of the single cover.

(On this tour,) we don’t have one art to build on. We’re just making this whole thing up from scratch, just trying to bring the outdoors in and create a cool little campsite on the stage. In my living room (at the moment), there is a four-foot, five-foot, and six-foot faux spruce. It feels like the outdoors is taking over my home right now, and it is, and we’re excited to take over these spaces with the same design.

eaten: What does camp as a concept mean to you?

opinion: I think what’s great about camp as a cultural, artistic and fashion statement is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is the name of the game in this band. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and we try not to take anything too seriously. It’s a lot about embracing our inner child.

We recently released a song called “Cold-Hearted Man,” which is a political statement that “down with the patriarchy” in a very hardcore, kind of, but silly way. And that’s something we’re passionate about standing in – being fully present to who we are.

Something we’ve been thinking about a lot lately as well, is that we’re not 21 years old on tour anymore. We are thirty years old. I think the audience has grown with us and we definitely trust them. They trust us. It gives us so much permission to be who we’ve always been, but in this new light.

eaten: I went on tour for the album earlier this summer. Do you think this influenced your style of touring or songwriting?

opinion: We’ve always gone to writing retreats. It’s very loud in New York City, and it’s very loud on the road, and it’s really hard to arrange. When it’s time to make new music, we’ll go back to the woods and get a house. We’ve done this twice over the past year. We recorded the album retreat style over eleven days in Woodstock, New York. It’s been a short moment to live in community again, which is a great reminder of what that means.

eaten: So you’re playing Roadrunner in Boston this week. You guys played this place last fall too. How do you feel about returning to that space, especially since you last sold out and recorded songs for your live album there?

opinion: Roadrunner is one of the most amazing venues we’ve ever played, and it was an honor to play it to a sold out event the last time we were here, especially with its opening so close (in March 2022). It was one of those ‘Oh my God, this is the league we’re in’ moments because it’s such a legendary place. We’re so excited to be back, especially now that we know what happened, and it’s always a pleasure to revisit a place again. He’s the landmark of the tour, by far.

eaten: What can fans who attended the show last October expect to be different this time?

opinion: We’re rearranging some of the tunes that everyone knows and loves sonically, in a campfire-like way (individually), which we’re excited about. I won’t bring up any of that, but there are some favorite songs that people are used to hearing in a big, full-band arrangement, that have been played now for about six years. So we’re excited to breathe this new life into them.

eaten: What are you looking forward to in Boston or the tour as a whole?

opinion: It’s hard to explain, but there’s a feeling of getting back to work. There is a sense of schedule. I have my day planned out and I know exactly what to do, and when to do it. It’s fun, it’s special, it’s an adventure. But more than anything, it’s work. So being at home for almost a year, setting my own schedule every day, was kind of stressful. I’m very excited to be back in the area.

We are amazed. Boston is awesome. It was one of the first cities we were able to play outside of New York, because we couldn’t travel farther, so it always felt like a home away from home.

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