The most satisfying part of creating a piece of art is when it’s done. This is especially true when the artist is also dealing with multiple diseases during the process of making it. Swansea native and stellar singer-songwriter Jodie Treloar Sampson had to deal with this while writing the music for her latest record, I Thought I Was Dead, But I Was Really Alive. The record was released via the Warren based label 75orLess Records on January 21 and since its release she’s been looking on to the next step. She’s also been managing her time between running her own business and pursuing another creative outlet.
We recently had a conversation about the music she grew up with, having a bunch of people being involved in the making of the album, a commercial she’s recently been a part of, wanting to do a lot of things and being reinvigorated.
Rob Duguay: How would you describe your upbringing with music? Did your parents play records for you when you were a kid or did you get into it on your own?
Jodie Treloar Sampson: It was definitely both. I’m 40, which is not that old but my family did have a record player in the living room when I was growing up. This was before we had CDs or a CD player and my parents had a lot of records, I used to listen to a lot of folk. Stuff like Simon & Garfunkel and Joni Mitchell but I also listened to their rock records, I remember when they had The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers on vinyl and I’d look at the zipper on the cover and it was crazy. My parents were kind of easy with that stuff, we’d watch bad shit on HBO and do things that we probably shouldn’t have.
We had Led Zeppelin and The Who, I remember really being into The Who’s A Quick One because it had “Boris The Spider” on it. The Beatles were also a big part of me growing up, I remember being really young around six or seven years old when I started with music and I think it was because I’m the baby of the family. My brother and sister are about five years older and they’re only a year apart but I was way younger while always trying to catch up with them and do everything they were doing that I thought was cool. I listened to everything they were listening to with my parents, my sister was obsessed with The Beatles and I’m not even trying to brag but I think I can play every single Beatles song. My brother brought a lot to the table too musically as well and I grew up playing piano probably at age six.
My mom got us all piano lessons, I was always more rebellious though. My siblings were really disciplined and better students, my brother got his master’s in music and he’s actually the band director at B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River. He’s a very accomplished musician, when he was in college he was a big brass player but he also played guitar and he’s just phenomenal. His kids are awesome too. My sister stopped after high school but I started playing guitar when I was 20, it was really because I wanted to sing.
I can play piano really well without singing but sometimes it’s not easy for me to play and sing that way so I wanted something that made it easier to do that. To be honest with you, all I ever really wanted to do was sing even as a kid. I think that’s why I’m so adept at harmonies because I was alwaying singing with The Beatles when I was young. I don’t know whether I just have a natural ability for it and it was encouraged by what I was listening to or it was something else. I also love Neil Young and Crosby, Stills & Nash, I like ‘60s and ‘70s folk and rock music.
RD: Those harmonies that you mention are very apparent in your latest album, I Thought I Was Dead, But I Was Really Alive. It’s a mix of folk, dream pop and alternative rock and you also say in the liner notes that it was born of confusion, illness and healing. Do you consider the making of the album to be a very cathartic experience for you?
JTS: Oh my God yeah. It was even more cathartic getting it out because honestly when I was writing some of the songs I was really ill with lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. I was finishing grad school and I was just really tired and ill. Writing the songs wasn’t even the hard part, it was cathartic but I think the most cathartic part was getting everything recorded. I just didn’t have the energy and that’s what I named the record what it is, I really felt that way.
I thought I was dying, both physically and mentally. I didn’t have the same “umph” anymore and I didn’t have the same life force anymore, so now that it’s out I’m much more thrilled. I feel like now I have the space and the freedom to get to work on my next project, which I’m excited about.
RD: Did you make the record before COVID-19 hit and you were just waiting to put it out? Did the pandemic get in the way of everything at all?
JTS: It didn’t get in the way, it was actually good because it gave me some time to try and get my shit together, get the artwork done and do everything that I had to do for it. The pandemic was kind of a relief in a way because I was running around way less. It’s nice because I had a little bit of time to think about what I really wanted to do with it and it didn’t feel rushed. While COVID-19 completely sucks in every possible way it did allow for some more time. I will tell you that I really wasn’t creative during the height of the pandemic, I’ve written a couple of songs and one of those I really like but maybe two, maybe two. It’s been a weird time.
RD: It definitely has been.
JTS: Creatively I don’t feel in touch like I did but to your point, the catharsis of putting the new album out has released me and unburdened me in a big way so that chunk of me is now done and I can move on to the next chapter.
RD: That’s great to hear. You had a lot of people involved in the making of the album including Stephen Demers, your husband Eric Sampson, Tom Chase, Kraig Jordan, Rachel Blumberg and Scott Janovitz on various songs. How were you able to get everyone together? Was it pretty much you emailing everybody and that’s how it came about or did they reach out to you?
JTS: I have a really wonderful relationship with Kraig, he’s my producer, sound engineer and creative partner all rolled up into one person. He runs a recording studio in Providence called Plan Of A Boy and we started working together a long time ago. The first thing I recorded with him was when I was doing backing vocals for a song by Six Star General and that was in 2010. He’s the best, we both have such similar tastes in so many ways and he’s just so open-minded, so enthusiastic and he’s always excited about working. Talk about a prolific musician, he’s put out so much music that it’s unbelievable.
He also has so many people that he loves to work with that he’ll have them jump in on a recording, like how he got Scott to jump in on piano for a few of my songs. I knew I wanted to ask Rachel to do the drums because she’s just so good and I got lucky that she had the time and she could do it. She recorded the drums in 2016 so it was a while ago. I’ve worked with Tom on numerous things over the years and Kraig is really the catalyst for all of these people coming together on the record. He just has all of these different connections and good relationships with different musicians of such high quality and talent.
Tom and I did a commercial together for Bob’s Discount Furniture, the one for the Bob-O-Pedic mattress. It’s on TV right now with me singing “Bob’s Bob-O-Pedic”.
RD: Wow, that’s you? I had no idea.
JTS: Yeah, that’s me and Tom is the gummy bear character. The guy who directed the commercial is connected to Kraig and honest to God, Kraig is the keystone in the bridge of getting all of these people together. I could not be more grateful for him, truly. Of course, Stephen Demers is my guitar player and I’ve worked with him for years. My husband Eric is super easy, I just ask him to play on something and he’ll do it. This record is so special to me, I’m so happy I did it.
RD: I can see why, you had a lot of great people involved and I enjoyed listening to it.
RD: No problem. You alluded to how after the release of this record you feel motivated to start the next chapter of your music career, so what is it? What do you have in mind so far? Are you still putting things together for your next release? I know a lot of artists are putting out singles on a monthly basis, so perhaps it’s something like that?
JTS: I like what you just said about releasing singles because I’ve never really done that and I think that’s going to be the next little project I’m going to take on. I am putting out a little companion to the new record for all of the people who participated and donated to the GoFundMe for the album, which will have a b-side on it. That’s in the works right now and then I plan on doing at least one single as soon as I can. 75orLess has another compilation they’re putting out and my husband, Kraig and I did a cover of an Aimee Mann song titled “Save Me” which is her really big hit from the film Magnolia. The reason I bring that up is because Eric and I recorded it at our house and we sent the files to Kraig, he just mixes and adds his magic to it.
I’ve been doing voiceover work for the last year too and I’ve learned how to do my own recording at my house so I think my recording will be a lot more accessible to me now. I live on Martha’s Vineyard so I’d have to ferry off the island and drive all the way to Providence. This is definitely an easier way to do it so the next step for me is to definitely get more voiceover work whenever that can happen. There’s so many things that I want to do and I have a full-time acupuncture practice that I run out of my home. I’m actually kind of happy that I took a break from dealing with the pressure of playing live and now I’m longing to get back on stage.
When the pandemic is over that’ll be a really good next step and I might even put together a tiny mini tour of the East Coast. Nothing major but I like to keep it small but also quality so it’s well curated the best I can.