“My first album was made up stories about things,” Carter Sampson said. “As I’m getting older I’m starting to be able to pull from life experiences.”
The Oklahoma City native is performing those newer autobiographical compositions in the listening room of the Midway Concert Series May 17.
Based in Fayetteville, Ark., for the past few years, Sampson is gravitating back toward central Oklahoma as a home base but now with enhanced capability to be a touring musician.
“I travel a lot and just recently drove down to Texas and bought a 23-foot RV,” she said. “I’m going to be living in it. On the road I got tired of never sleeping in my own bed and not having the things I need so now I’ll take my bed with me.”
If required, the vehicle is big enough to accommodate additional musicians and their gear. For the Midway show it will be Sampson solo with her guitar.
“I learned a lot from the music community in Fayetteville but every time I’d come back to Oklahoma City it felt like home,” she said. “This is where my true friends and family are.”
Sampson is gigging at the busy rate of 250 shows a year now. It’s her full-time occupation which includes booking, publicity and all the attendant minutia involved with being a professional performer.
“It’s my job now and something I’ve always wanted and what I’ve been working towards for the past 10 years,” she said. “I was able to quit waiting tables and bar tending on the nights I wasn’t playing about a year ago.”
Mastering the business side has been a challenge, but Sampson’s been fearless about taking on all the tasks necessary to pursue the work she loves.
“I’m constantly making notes to myself and setting alarms so I’ll be on time for things like this interview,” she said.
Sampson’s latest album “Mockingbird Sing” vividly illustrates how the work part is paying off on the art side. It has an attractive maturity and genuine character in the lyrics and music. Sampson sounds like a woman coming into her own as a superlative writer, singer and player. She possesses an irresistible red dirt accent that gives instant credibility to her song “Queen of Oklahoma.” If Sampson was sovereign of the Sooner State she’d “…Have the tribes on my side,” would be “…Friends with Wanda and Woody” and “…Keep a couple tornados locked up tight just in case I have to put up a fight.” Songwriting has been her focus and it shows. Listening to others and attending writing workshops have benefited the early thirty-something.
“It’s opened my eyes to the fact that I don’t know everything,” she said. “I can learn from people who have been doing it longer and are better at it.”
Sampson started playing for audiences around a decade ago. Her talent was recognized early by people such as Greg Johnson, the roots music radio show host and proprietor of Americana genre shrine the Blue Door in Oklahoma City. Sampson got a plum break opening for Texas singer/ songwriter Susan Gibson who wrote “Wide Open Spaces” that became the title track for the Dixie Chicks’ double Grammy winning album.
“Back then when I didn’t have the skills and confidence that I have now, and people such as them were so encouraging,” she said. “Greg told me to just come to Blue Door shows and listen and he wouldn’t charge me admission. That’s really helpful to a young musician because most of us are poor and can’t afford to go to shows.”
Sampson took advantage of the generous offer and believes the exposure to the many good artists who tour through that room has been beneficial. One aspect of performance that Sampson didn’t have to study was stage presence. She’s a natural.
“I’ve always been comfortable and never get stage fright,” Sampson said. “Unless it’s something huge like when I played at the Lincoln Center in New York City last October.”
She was a finalist in the 11th annual Mountain Stage New Song contest. “I was horribly nervous for that,” Sampson said. “But for most shows I’m able to concentrate on my singing, guitar playing and interacting with the audience.”
If You Go
What: Singer/songwriter Carter Sampson in concert.
Where: Midway Concert Series, 601 W. Eufaula.
When: Doors open 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m. May 17
Cost: $10 general admission.