Red Sky are the atmospheric mellow blend of Paul Russam’s sensitive and crafty guitar playing and Samantha Briggs’ beautiful vocals. Their music is like a call of nature, taking you back in its different incarnations to what is simple and peaceful. Based in East Yorkshire, UK, the duo began writing songs together in 2014. Their music incorporates elements of folk and rock to create their own unique sound. Comparisons have been made to the likes of Enya, All About Eve and Mazzy Star. 1InMusic met with half of the duo, Samantha Briggs for a candid tête-à-tête.
1inMusic: Hi Samantha, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I am intrigued by your band’s name. Where does it come from?
Red Sky’s Samantha Briggs [RS]: When we first started the duo, I was still playing Roller Derby using the skate name Red Mist. Since everyone knew me as ‘Red’, Paul decided that as I was the lyricist and singer of the band, our name had to feature the word Red. I suggested Red Sky as I love nature and a lot of our songs are influenced by nature, weather and the outdoors so that fitted well and felt right for us.
1inMusic: How did Red Sky happen?
RS: Paul and I first met in March 2013. He was the lead guitarist in a local rock covers band and I saw them play numerous times. At our first meeting, we started chatting about music and it was very apparent that we were both very passionate about music and both had a great depth of knowledge of all different kinds of music. A few months later, I asked Paul if he’d written any songs of his own and he told me about his first band from when he was in his 20s. He’d written lots of original songs but none for 20 years. I told him I used to write poetry and some song lyrics; I too hadn’t done any writing for 20 years! He then asked if I would mind sharing some of my writing with him so he could read it. After I sent a small collection of poems and one song lyric, he asked if he could write some music to go with the song lyric I had written when I was 18. I agreed. Just a few weeks later, he sent me a recording he had made on GarageBand: It was the music he had come up with for my lyrics. I was utterly blown away. I couldn’t believe how good it was! I loved it. He then said that as it was my song, I would have to sing it!! I was 43 at the time and had never sung in front of anyone before (apart from family in the house), so I was incredibly nervous. But I knew I could sing in tune so I agreed to do it! And so Red Sky was born. Too much for love is that first song we recorded in Feb 2014. https://youtu.be/llbWGUEdYZI
1InMusic: So when did you bring your sound to live audiences and how did it feel?
RS: We first played live together in the summer of 2014 when I was 44. It was incredibly nerve-wracking but I absolutely loved it and it went really well. We played at an outdoor music afternoon event at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield and had a great reaction from the audience and fellow performers. Since then, we’ve continued to write and record songs together and have also become a couple in the last few years (!), which is wonderful!
1 In Music: How do you prepare for your performances?
We both believe in plenty of practice and rehearsal which I find very helpful as I’m still learning the art of singing and how to use my voice and my breathing. Paul tends to focus on the technical aspects of a gig as much as the rehearsing and he will only relax once it’s gone well at the end of a gig! I like to look forward to a performance and get quite excited about it. I don’t tend to feel nervous any more but practice certainly helps dispel any fears and I try and go into it believing I can do it and that I am good enough! (Early gigs were full of self doubt and nerves)!
1InMusic: Who shaped your love of music and your music?
RS: Paul’s biggest influence is David Gilmour and mine is Joni Mitchell. Paul has a long history of playing in rock and blues bands and has been a lead guitarist most of his adult life. I only started singing in 2014 and sang in front of an audience for the first time that year at the age of 44. Our tastes in music are very similar for the most part. As we like the same sounds and artists, creating our own blend of these influences has been very easy and comfortable to us. I am also a big Pink Floyd fan so we find it easy to draw inspiration from them. But I’m also a huge fan of Joni Mitchell and it would be my ultimate goal to write a song as good as hers. Her lyrics are equally as incredible as her music and as lyrics were how I started, this is a big thing for me.
1 In Music: Apart from those influential artists in your life, what type of music do you listen to?
We listen to all sorts and everything. Paul has widened his musical spectrum since we got together but mine has always encompassed a very wide variety of artists and genres. I love everything from Rammstein to Joni Mitchell, and Pink Floyd to the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets! We have seen Scott Matthews many times and both love his sound. I’m also a big fan of Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright. I will occasionally stray into hip hop and rap territory as well but Paul doesn’t join me in listening to that! Folk acts like Fairport Convention and Edgelarks have also featured heavily in our gig calendars but we’ve also seen many rock acts such as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Iron Maiden. So we’re pretty eclectic in our listening.
1 In Music: Who, to you, is the most undervalued music artist?
I think both Paul and I have a great respect and love for Scott Matthews and have seen him many times. He has a wonderful voice and is an amazing guitarist who writes incredible songs and deserves to be widely known. We also love Jesca Hoop and both believe she has the most amazing voice and writes really quirky and interesting songs that are utterly unique. She’s a real gem.
1InMusic: We all know how hard the music world is and how much support is appreciated. Any shoutouts?
We are supported by family and my sons in particular. My eldest son attends a lot of our gigs and my youngest son made our first video for the song Spring Wood. We also played at my brother’s wedding at Cropredy Festival! We have picked up a small fan base from people who have seen us live and enjoyed our set and we plan to build on this in the coming years.
In Music: When did you realise you were going to make music professionally?
We wanted a different way of life and to follow our dream and our passion and we knew that we could be good enough if we put in the practice and worked at it and we have improved a lot in the few short years we’ve been playing live together. We have a body of songs now which we are very happy with and are looking forward to creating more. Paul is still working the day job but we hope to be able to pursue music full time together in the near future.
1 In Music: What do you do when you don’t do music (creative or otherwise) and that you are passionate
I am a keen crafter and very much enjoy making things in crochet. I’ve only just learnt how to crochet in the last year but I really love it. So I have quite a stock of items now which I’m hoping to sell at some point. I also love writing and this has always been my favourite thing to do so writing poems and song lyrics is something I’ll always do. Paul is very much all about his guitars. They are his life and one true passion so when he has spare time, he will always reach for a guitar.
1 In Music: Success to you is…?
Creating songs together which we can be proud of and that leave a legacy of who we are and what we are about. We’d love to be doing this full time and making a living out of gigging and recording so ultimately that would be a personal success but just to have these and more songs written and recorded is a success in itself.
1 In Music: What do you wish you were told when you started out and that you think would help anyone who starts out?
That there is very little money in music and that it is highly undervalued as an art these days. Everywhere wants you to play for free and people, especially younger people, expect to download it for free as well. Artists who write their own material and who don’t pick out well known covers to add to their live sets also don’t tend to get bookings as easily. The money in live music all goes to the karaoke style covers singers and cover bands/tribute acts etc. There is very little money to be had in original music and very few venues to play in. We believe that if we want to stick to what we do and what we believe in, in terms of playing our own songs and the more obscure covers which people are not familiar with, then we have to be really really good at what we do and really sell it to an audience and keep believing and striving to get where we want with it. We don’t want to sell out and start playing popular songs which we don’t really enjoy just to get a paid gig so I would say, stick to what you believe in and what’s true to you and make it work for you but be prepared to find it hard going.
1 In Music: Wow, ok! Any upcoming projects?
We are very much hoping to start writing more and getting our first album recorded soon. Paul has an idea he’s been working on for some time which we would also really love to get moving forward. It’s an ambitious project based on a concept style album of atmospheric, layered guitars and keyboards with haunting songs and lots of instrumental sections.
1 In Music: Thank you so much for answering our questions. Where do we find you music and music projects?
We currently have our EP on Red Sky’s Soundcloud and all our demos and some live recordings on our Red Sky’s Youtube channel. We are on Facebook We are also on BandsInTown where we announce all our live dates.