I had the opportunity to interview American rock and roll singer and guitarist Samantha Hollins of GhettoSongBird, a three-piece band. Check out the interview.
Billy (AudioInferno): Hi. Since this is the first time we at AudioInferno are talking to you, can you tell us a bit about GhettoSongBird?
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): GhettoSongBird is a rock-n-roll singer/songwriter/guitarist from North Philadelphia in the USA. It was considered very Ghetto. A very tough neighborhood with all the gun-smoke and drug-pushing going on outside my door, I found peace of mind in the arts behind my door’s safe haven.
Billy (AudioInferno): That’s really something. Is that where the inspiration for the name came from?
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): Yes. I am such an introvert. I stayed in my bedroom creating and there used to be songbird chirping outside my window. The beautiful melodic tune coming from nature allowed me to escape mentally. It symbolized that precious things do come out of the ghetto.
Billy (AudioInferno): Oh wow. That’s really inspiring stuff. I’ve been following you for a while on social media and I’ve always wondered, how did a black woman from Philadelphia get interested in Rock Music?
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): My mama had an extensive record collection that I now own (Yay). She hung out with many rock stars back in the 70’s. Bands like P-Funk, Mandrill, The Bar-Kay’s, even Michael Jackson and his brothers. She had stories for days. When she told me about seeing Jimi Hendrix live at Spectrum in Philadelphia, those stories just blew my mind. I started sneaking down the stairs during jam sessions with her friends and I soaked all that music up.
Billy (AudioInferno): That’s…Whoa. You just made me speechless.
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): That’s how I felt back then. *smiles*
Billy (AudioInferno): So it’s safe to say that some of the people you already mentioned are your inspirations and your vibe reminds me of Jimi Hendrix a lot. Do you have any other bands or rock artists that you admire?
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): Yes! From the influence of my Mama’s record collection, I dug deeper and found a love for Black Sabbath, The Doors, Sly & The Family Stone, Prince, Santana and so many more. Living Colour, Fishbone and Bad Brains meant everything to me in the 80’s. Opening up for a band called Free Form Funky Freqs featuring Vernon Reid on guitar and being on the same bill as Angelo Moore (lead singer of Fishbone) was like an outer-body experience I forever treasure. I recently got to open up for the lead singer HR of Bad Brains which was a dream come true.
Billy (AudioInferno): That must have been amazing for you.
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): Yes indeed!
Billy (AudioInferno): I can imagine you must have had some challenges over the years. Doing what you do, what are the major obstacles you’ve had to deal with.
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): The challenges are endless. Being a woman in rock is extremely hard, but being a black woman with an electric guitar has introduced me to every ‘ism’ you can imagine. Although I’ve been doing this for 17 years, I still get treated like I just started and have to continuously fight to be booked for gigs I know I deserve and should be playing at this point in my career. Every day is a battle to present my artistry.
Billy (AudioInferno): That must be quite daunting. Has there been any progress over the years?
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): Very daunting. However, it’s built me into the ‘tough energy’ I am today. My success comes in knowing that I’m doing what I’m passionate about. Slowly but surely, I am carving out a place for my electric guitar in this world. I am finding some new places, as well as legendary rock venues to perform now and connecting with amazing people around the world to elevate my journey.
Billy (AudioInferno): Awesome. I really hope for the best.
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): Thank you.
Billy (AudioInferno): What has your creative process been like over the years?
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): My creative process has many hills and valleys. I write about my environment and inner quest. It’s like a battle between darkness and light which could be as heavy as metal, bluesy, funky, soulful, or anything groove upon the subgenres of rock music. I love it all and I’m evoked by each sound depending on the mood of my experience.
Billy (AudioInferno): Do you play with a band?
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): Over the years, I’ve played with many phenomenal musicians in my hometown Philadelphia that I’ve learnt an abundance of things from. Now, I have a 3-piece band including myself. I call them “The Roxsploitation Band”– Ronin Ali on Drums/Percussion/Supporting Vocals and Chris Nelson on Double Keys/Tambourine/Supporting Vocals. These guys are amazing and they inject a powerful vibration into the sound I created in that room in North Philly.
Billy (AudioInferno): laughs It’s a catchy name. How would you describe your sound?
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): Thank you! My sound is like a stew of all the amazing music I was fed as a child. I call it rock-n-roll because it sums up all the subgenres of Rock that I like to float through. There is always a vintage rock sound present no matter how edgy or how smooth my rock-n-roll gets.
Billy (AudioInferno): Interesting. Are you working on any new projects?
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): The root of my music is rhythm based. It all comes from Africa and this is why it is so important for me to connect with that rich energy.
I am working on two albums at the same time. Although I’ve been performing for 17 years, I only released one EP that my Mentor Rosa Lee Brooks (who wrote and recorded with Jimi Hendrix in the 60’s) helped me record in Los Angeles in 2001. I have always been more of a performance artist, but with the request getting higher it’s time for me to record again.
Billy (AudioInferno): That’s great. I was just about to ask about your affiliation with African Rock and the African Rock Scene. Have you worked with any African Rock bands or acts yet?
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): I had no idea there was a rock scene in Africa. I just learned about your amazing scene last year when I decided to google rock music in Africa. I came across some awesome musicians/artists as well as your site and I just knew I had to connect with it. It’s extremely important to me to merge with the African diaspora all over the world. We are the heartbeat of this potent music we call rock. I hope to travel to Africa and rock with my brothers and sisters someday.
I also hope to be a bridge to get their music heard in the USA. Right now, I’m loving Clay’s music. I checked out her new song and video today at AudioInferno, of course.
Billy (AudioInferno): That’s incredible. It’s nice to know that you check us out from time to time. It encourages us to keep doing what we do.
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): Yes! I love your site.
Billy (AudioInferno): Do you have any advice for any upcoming rock bands or acts in Africa?
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): Create a movement of like-minded individuals and build a legacy that the world cannot deny. You are the rock of the roll. With passion, conviction and truth of self, there are no limits to the sound waves you can create internationally and within your own homeland.
Billy (AudioInferno): That’s great advice. I’d definitely pass it on.
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): Much Respect!
Billy (AudioInferno): Finally, is there anything you would like to learn from Africa that will help with your art?
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): Wow! That’s a great question. I believe the culture is truly important, the sounds and experiences where the string instruments and the drums originally come from, which are the foundation of my music. I feel like that’s what guided me to you and that’s what will enhance my journey as an African-American Artist.
Billy (AudioInferno): That’s beautiful. Simply beautiful. Thanks a lot for your time.
Samantha (GhettoSongBird): You are welcome. Thank you very much.
Well, that’s it. Be sure to check out her music at ReverbNation. Also follow her on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Support your local acts and let’s grow the African scene together. Rock on \m/