The Queen of Oklahoma: Carter Sampson
The red boot wearing Queen of Oklahoma, Carter Sampson certainly stays busy, she is a mover and a shaker. I caught up with Sampson and talked to her about the many things going on in her life these days.
“The new album is doing great, better than I imagined it would,” said Sampson about her 4th album, Wilder Side which was released in January and keeps steadily gaining momentum. The album features 10 songs and includes musical help from some of Oklahoma’s finest talent including John Moreland, Ali Harter, Gabriel Mor and Joe Mack just to name a few. The album is full of emotionally driven songs that pull you in and hold you captive. But a widely successful new album isn’t the only exciting thing going on for this talented singer/songwriter these days.
“I went to Folk Alliance International, several weeks ago in Kansas City. The George Kaiser Foundation, Horton Records and the Woody Guthrie Center sent 20 Oklahoma artists to the music conference,” she explained. “My album got picked up by a European distribution company while there, and it’s number 10 on the European Americana charts right now, which is crazy because it hasn’t even been released in Europe yet.”
Being picked up by the distribution company is certainly exciting and will definitely open new doors and opportunities for Sampson.
“Through that I will be touring in Europe next February for sure, but it may happen before then. It’s with a company called Continental Record Services. They are out of the Netherlands, and they have worked with a bunch of great artists. More recently they have been working with some Tulsa people through Horton records and that’s kind of how I was introduced to them,” she said. “Come to find out they really love Americana music over there, but specifically they love music coming out of Oklahoma which I think is really cool. They are even talking about making some kind of logo to put on records over there that say made in Oklahoma or something like that, which is neat. With this deal they will release the record in Europe, I think the official release date is May 6th but I’m not quite certain. They are already doing the PR behind it which is really great. I’m already getting a lot of great reviews back from the record. They’ll do booking as well, like I said next February, John Calvin Abney and I will be touring over there, and possibly before then, I’ve got a few holds on dates that may or may not happen.”
In addition to the new album, the new distribution deal and her regular touring schedule, Sampson also will be busy gearing up for the 2nd year of her Rock-n-Roll Camp for Girls which takes place in July. The camp is a week long, for girls ages 8-17. It offers classes on guitar, bass, drums, vocals, songwriting and band management. The girls form bands during the week and play a showcase at the end of the week. The showcase is treated like a real band gig; they book a venue and sell tickets.
“We’re kind of making a few changes and it’s all for the greater good, it’s just us growing up a little. We’re getting our own 501C3 right now. The application is being filled out right now. And then we have our first fundraiser April 16th at the Blue Note. It’s our second annual Lady Arm Wrestling Competition and then we’ll have bands play all night,” said Sampson. “It’ll be a really fun night. In addition to that we are going to buy all of the gear we need for camp this year, which will be a game changer for us. That will allow us to possibly have a week-long session in Tulsa next year as well as Oklahoma City. Last year we had a very generous man who rented all the gear we needed, and it was incredible. We had to go down to Austin with this trailer and pick up this huge amount of gear, that was all very professional and all going to Lollapalooza afterwards. It was really great and incredible gear, but a lot of it was gigantic and full sized drum kits and full sized amps and it was hard to move around. There’s a lot of moving the week of camp just because we change rooms from morning to afternoon. I think having our own gear and having some PA systems that are manageable for an 8 year old is really going to be awesome for us.”
There are a few more things Sampson has to get lined up and ready for the new year of camp.
“We just need to find a place to store the gear, that’s one thing we’re working on. If we can find someone who would donate a storage unit or someone who has a warehouse that we can keep the gear in when we aren’t using it, that’s our only kind of thing that’s holding us back right now. I think if worse comes to worse we can rent a storage unit. We did really well last year with fundraisers and tuition and I think this year is going to be even better,” she said.
The camp has had some help getting funded and being able to offer scholarships through a few different fundraisers.
“S&B Burgers are going to have Pay It Forward day, all day long 10% of sales get donated to rock camp. I don’t know the dates just yet. Also another fundraiser taking place in Norman in April, it’s called Jamming for Jack. It’s a really sweet family from Norman that had some health issues with their son, they did some fundraisers for him, and now that they are stable again they are still doing the fundraisers but they are donating. I think half of it goes to Make a Wish and half of it goes to Rock Camp. It’s an awesome line up; it’s the Damn Quails and Patron Aints, the Tequila Songbirds and more, at the Deli in Norman.,” said Sampson.
I asked Sampson what got her involved into starting a Rock-n-Roll Girls camp to begin with.
“In 2006 I found out about the original Rock n Roll Camp for girls in Portland, through a girl who was at the time in high school here in Oklahoma City. They did a documentary maybe in 2004-2005 about the original camp in Portland, it’s called girls rock, and it just kind of follows 3 or 4 girls in their week of camp and their experiences. I think I read in the gazette about the movie before I saw it, and just really related to this girl because she was from Oklahoma and she was really into metal music and she just really felt like she didn’t fit in. Then I ended up running into this girl one morning at Bellini’s, she was hosting there and I was meeting some friends and I ended up talking to her about it,” Sampson explained. “I went to Portland that summer and volunteered and I remember thinking at the time that this is the most awesome thing. I wish that we would have had this when I was 10 or 15 or whatever, but I also remember thinking that back then nothing like that would have happened in Oklahoma City, or at least at that time, it just wouldn’t have.”
But that didn’t stop Sampson from being interested in the idea that maybe it could work here at some point.
“So at that camp in Portland I met some girls in a band called Raining Jane, they are from Los Angeles and they started a camp in LA. So I went out for 2 weeks a couple of summers ago, and just being there 2 weeks in a row, and really realizing how much Oklahoma City was changing, I just felt like that we might be able to pull it off finally. So I got some friends together that were on board with it, and it took us 2 years to get it started. We wanted this to be our 3rd year but it’s a lot. It’s a lot of stuff that I don’t know about. So I’m learning all of these things, like working with kids and non profit and all of that stuff,” she said.
Sampson is definitely getting it all figured out though, last year’s Rock n Roll Camp was a huge success and this year is already lining up to be bigger and better.
“We pulled off the first summer camp last year with 37 campers, it was amazing. It went better than I could ever have dreamed of, we’re still talking about it. For our first year that was pretty smooth, we had a few little snags, but all of the important parts, like having 30 women and 40 girls in a room for a week where nobody fights is success like we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Sampson. “We’re at 50 campers this year, and we have a wait list just in case someone can’t come. We’re really excited. There’s about 55 camps around the world that are a member of this Girls Rock Alliance that basically says that we’re all on the same page. We’re working to become a member of that. They do things like a spring fundraiser called Ladies rock camp, which is basically the same thing that we do with the kids but we do it over Thursday, Friday and Saturday and showcase on Sunday with grownups. I hear it all the time people saying ‘oh man I wish there was a camp like that for me’ so that would be one thing that we would really love to do.”
I’m thoroughly excited about the Rock Camp this year. I followed it closely last year and it looked like an amazing time. This year my daughter is enrolled and I’m looking forward to her getting to be a part of it. Empowering girls through musical expression is an awesome thing, and I’m glad Sampson did the leg work to get this camp to come alive in Oklahoma City.
Here are just a few of Sampson’s upcoming shows as well:
Friday March 25th at Noir on Film Row in Oklahoma City, 9p-12a.
Sunday April 17th At Guthrie Green in Tulsa with her Band of Hunks and The Damn Quails, 2:30p-6;30p
Thursday May 26th at Willie’s Saloon in Stillwater with Erik the Viking, 10pm
Friday May 27th at The Mayors Red Dirt Ball at Medicine Park with her Bank of Hunks.
You can find a list of all of her shows as well as more information at www.cartersampson.net, or check her out on her various social media sites.