Every summer, Gordie Sampson comes home. It’s a Cape Breton vacation spent with family and friends to be sure, but like every day for the Nashville-based Grammy winning songwriter there’s no downtime where his life’s work is concerned.
On the day we connected he was en route to Lakewind Sound Studios in Point Aconi – the multi award-winning studio he’s co-owned for nearly 20 years. He was in the midst of a songwriting weekend with the band Port Cities whose album he’s producing. Naturally his annual return is flush with sold-out gigs around the Maritimes and for the 6th season, he played host to aspiring Nova Scotia songwriters at the Gordie Sampson Song Camp.
Sampson (44) slips seamlessly between music city and the homeland which as it turns out isn’t all that different.
“Nashville has the same rural mentality … work hard, play hard, strong love for music, the way we interact with people, the way we treat each other, the way we respect each other, the way we hold doors open for each other – it’s all very similar.”
While Gordie did admit his heart rate slows down when he’s home there’s no denying his creative pace keeps time with the Nashville beat.
After co-writing hits for everyone from Keith Urban to Faith Hill, Dierks Bentley to Carrie Underwood (including her smash Jesus Take the Wheel), Sampson has secured himself a coveted place in the Nashville Network. A position he’s determined to keep.
That means a consistently full calendar. Sampson’s currently booking into December. A typical workday includes at least one four hour session with one to three other songwriters/artists resulting in a song – which is then pitched by a publisher and cut or held by an artist or “…lost forever. The shelf life of song is very short – you learn to let them go fast.”
Music City itself has been learning too: how to adjust to the ever shrinking industry and CD extinction, while the writers returns have been limited to radio play. Sampson reports “none of us could exist on the streaming royalties now. I’d have to get another job – and by the time they figure a solution for streaming that keeps the writers happy, there’ll be a whole new technology.”
Yet Sampson remains optimistic where Nashville’s concerned “There are less writers, less publishers and maybe the record companies make a little less – what you’re left with is the people in the industry who really love it. It kind of weeded out everyone else.”
A numbers game…
ONE best piece of life advice? From the great Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
TWO for the road: who’d be the perfect co-pilot? John Allan Cameron
THREE for the show: your choice triple bill – what’s playing? Oliver Stone’s JFK, Memento and The Prestige.
FOUR seasons: which one is your favourite? Summer because I get to be back in Cape Breton and look at the ocean. The rest of the year I don’t see it enough.
FIVE-alarm fire: things you would take? If my family and my dog are outside, there’s nothing else I could think of but guitars. I’ve got a trunk full of sheet music that I’d probably try to get out of there, pictures on the wall, maybe some photographs, my Xring and my cowboy boots. I’d leave my computer. I’d actually watch it burn.
Gordie Sampson hails from Big Pond, Cape Breton. He has received many awards and accolades, including a Grammy, a Juno, two ASCAPs, 14 East Coast Music Awards, and honorary degrees from Cape Breton University and St. Francis Xavier. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Helen Musial, and their daughter Amelie. For more, visit www.gordiesampson.com and follow on Twitter @Gordie_Sampson