“Sex & Whiskey”: Sam Varga

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Sam, can you share a brief overview of your career to date?

I started playing guitar around 10, and started a band called Scarlet Smile in high school with my best friend and ended up having some local success and recorded a few albums. When I was in college in Austin I started writing songs again, eventually I was writing a song almost every day.

After my band at the time broke up, I was living back in Louisville taking a lunch break at the grocery store I was working at, when I got an email from a publisher in Nashville I had sent a couple songs to. They recommended I move to Nashville and I moved seven days later.

Since moving to Nashville writing has been the priority, playing shows is just a way to get the songs heard and have a bit of fun. My first release is “Sex & Whiskey and is performing real well right now and I hope to have a few cuts this year.

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Scarlet Smile

What music and artists influenced you as you grew up in Kentucky?

I was really influenced by the songwriters my mom and dad played for us growing up. In the car it was always George Jones, John Prine, Jackson Browne, The Beatles…when I got into my guitar I was obsessed with AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses, just the dynamic riffs really got to me, then my sister got me into the emo/punk scene, and that had my full attention through high school until I got back into the songwriters in college.

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What is it about an acoustic guitar that brings out the most honest lyrics?

You’re just more vulnerable. You can’t hide between any production or get away with bullshit. If it’s just you and a guitar then it has to be great, and if it’s great there, then it won’t matter what you do with it, it’ll still be good.

Jackson Browne, Ruston Kelly, Bright Eyes, The 1975 — what stands out about each of their music for you?

Jackson Browne is a rock star poet, he could capture the beauty in the ordain better than anyone. He could be both amazingly poetic or profoundly simple. Ruston Kelly was shown to me by my producer Will, the way he bridged his punk/hardcore influences with the old school songwriters like Steven Van Zandt instantly had me hooked. I think they both just make honest, authentic, and interesting music that only they could make…and that should be the goal for any artist.

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“Sex & Whiskey” what was the inspiration for the song?

Me and the co-writer Kacey Velazquez were having tacos at Taco Mamacita in Nash, I was painfully hungover at the time. She said something making fun of me and I said something to the extent of “Yeah, that me. Sex and Whiskey.” Then…light bulbs. Don’t remember the exacts that day was a little fuzzy.

What’s on your “Sex & Whiskey” road trip playlist?

It’s an ongoing endeavor. Mostly Americana vibes, some classics. Right now I think it’s Allman Brothers Band, Jason Isbell, Keith Urban, The Band, The Eagles, The Marshall Tucker Band

You mentioned your grandpa told you “it’s all about the people.” How has this influenced the music you write?

All of my country influences come from my mom’s side of the family. They’re from a small town in Missouri off I-70 called Higginsville. That where I learned about country livin’, the values, the love. And my grandpa is the king of one liner wisdom. I’ve snuck his lines into more than a few songs.

You studied at the University of Texas at Austin. What did you take away from the Texas music scene?

Austin is a blast, it’s a little faster pace than Nash. I took a lot away from Austin. Mostly an extreme appreciation for the blues and a strong liver…both have served me well in Nash.

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Favorite venues to date?

Headliners Music Hall, The Basement East, Bogarts

Where is your dream venue?

The Ryman is the greatest music venue of all time and the best place to hear music.

What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

You hear it everywhere, but no one is going to do it for you, and very few will help you. Create your own moments, your own success, and educate yourself. Know the business, know your instrument, don’t quit practicing.

What is the weirdest or funniest question you’ve ever been asked in an interview?

“What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?” haha many better pairs of feet to follow ;)

What do you feel is the best song you’ve recorded to date and why?

“No Good Reason.” I wrote it with Lauren Weintraub and William Stone, who are just the two best writers you could ever hope to be in a room with. I came to the write with the title in mind after getting out of a relationship, but throughout the write it turned into something much bigger, the song’s got a little bit of all of us in it now. It’s the type of song I’ve always wanted to write and want to keep writing.

Which musician would you like to collaborate with next?

I’ll write with anyone!

If you can have your fans remember one thing about you, what would it be?

That I wrote songs that made people happy to be where they are….and had a really really really fun time doing it.

If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing right now?

Making bourbon, blowing all my money on guitars and guns.

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