Over the last three years of shooting portraits, one thing has become clear to me; everyone has a story. Conversations with strangers don’t come easy but when my camera is in my hand, it seems to come naturally. Being in front of a camera can be a challenge for most people so I tend to ask a bunch of questions while shooting, partly because it helps the person on the other side of my lens relax but mostly because I genuinely love to learn about people. The creative community in Philly is unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of and since a lot of people I shoot with tend to be artists themselves, I’m constantly inspired by each person I meet. While recently shooting with the talented Samantha Rise, it hit me that I often share just the photos taken during each shoot but I rarely get the opportunity to share the stories of those I shoot with. That changes now. Get to know the artists who live and create in Philly.
Meet Samantha Rise in her own words.
If you only had a few moments to explain what you do as an artist to a stranger, what would you say?
“I would say I’m a songcatcher - that I listen deeply to the moments in everyday life that want to be melodies, and try to frame them with music. I collect moments and sounds and puzzle them into songs with some of my best friends, and I love it. I’d also probably say something super awkward and weird, because, hey, story of my life.”
What’s your earliest memory of music?
”I come from lineage of singers, so music has always been a huge part of my life.
My earliest memory of music is probably singing the raffi song ‘down by the bay’ with my mom as a teeny tiny human outside on our sidewalk in California (we lived in the Bay Area for a minute when I was in preschool). She’s a beautiful singer and always my sisters and I laugh so much!
I remember that, every Christmas, my family would sing karaoke at my grandfather’s house...and I would run out o the room with my hands on my ears .. screaming, ha.”
What’s your favorite thing about the music/creative scene in philly?
“I love that Philly is really good at cross-pollinating… I can’t remember who came up with the language first, but I’m all about it. Where so many other cities have very specific, very isolated scenes/genres, Philly has a beautiful way of bringing together lots of different influences and scenes; not to mention lots of different mediums and performances styles. I feel like my music doesn’t sound like any one thing, and. I love that I never have to apologize for exploring and incorporating my influences. So many brilliant Philly Artists represent that pollinator vibe, and I love it! It’s definitely a philly jawn.”
Do you feel like your passion for music was something you’ve always had or was it something you grew into?
“I have always had a passion for music- I’m always singing and writing little melodies, recording wild sounds on the street, dabbling in new instruments, studying different records. I can’t imagine living without music, so I aspire to build my life in a way that I never have to. What I’ve had to grow into is developing a kind of structure for making music - especially practicing, revising (the first try is the rarely the final draft), and figuring out the logistics of playing out. It takes me so much effort to focus and work on booking and seeing things through. I have to remind myself that I love and trust the work enough to finish it, and get it out into the world. I think I’m in a new phase of growing up as a songwriter and performer, in that I’m learning how to take on more responsibility- learning to trust myself more to stay organized, and to ask for support.”
As a creative person, do you ever feel a struggle to balance personal & professional work?
“Ugh. This is the biggest challenge of my life! Shameless plug: I’m still in search of a booking unicorn human who can help me respond to all the emails, keeping or dropping the follow-up ball, and get to one. Meeting. Or. Rehearsal. On. Time.
This question had really changed as I’ve work in different spaces and places. My job right now is absolutely amazing: as the Program Director at Girls Rock Philly, I’m grateful to work in a organization that believes that our creative work nourishes our professional work, so there’s lots of flexibility in terms of honor my responsibilities and making my music. I do my own booking/pr/etc, which is the hard part- Emails are the vampire of my life energy, and it’s tricky to be persistent and follow through.”
When you get a creative block, what are some ways you overcome those?
“I think my creative appreciates when I say “I’m not gonna rush you or force you, I’ll just come back and check in.” Finding a balance between committing to finish what I start, and to let whatever will Be take its time, by all skillful means.
I try to get a sense of how urgent a song or vision or idea is- this is always changing. sometimes an idea will come back after 5 years, sometimes it shows up and needs to be added in the last 5 minutes of studio time (both of these things happened working on our most recent release. I think trying to be patient with myself and the idea is the hardest part.
I love taking a break and coming back to music- taking a walk, reading a book, calling my grandparents- trying to be grateful and sneak a little bliss helps me gain perspective on an idea that feels a little stuck.”
What’s next for you? What are you working on at the moment?
“Getting excited to play at the Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia museum of Art and a bunch of other dreamy venues in Philly soon!
I’m releasing my debut album, Brighter Days, in a series of 4 EPs over the next year. Each one will be released on the Solstice or Equinox, and celebrating the seasons as they change with gifts and rituals. I just released the first installment, Summer’s End, celebrates and mourns the summer season. Autumn’s End will be released on the Winter solstice, December 21. The second installment might be my favorite of the whole record, so I’m excited!
I’ll also be traveling to L.A. next week - my band won the grand prize of the coffee music project in New York, so we’ll perform at the Coffee Music Festival in LA, perform as guest artists at the LA competition and record our winning song.
Things are really rosy musically at the moment, and I’m really excited to see where we’re headed!”