Big Sam of Big Sam's Funky Nation
Big Sam's Funky Nation is a driving force of urban funk. Ryan White, of the Oregonian, says the band is "tight enough (and hot enough) to turn coal into a diamond!" The band is led by trombone powerhouse, Big Sam Williams, formerly the trombonist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, who the San Fransisco Chronicle calls "the top man on the slide trombone in the birthplace of jazz." Big Sam refuses to let the audience sit still. Between the band's solos, Big Sam's signature dance moves and his distinctive trombone riffs, the energy level is high voltage when this band takes the stage!"
How Music has Impacted Sam's Life
Describe your music in three words.
High energy. Funky. Good time. [Laughing] That's more than 3 words. I like to call it “Noladelic.”
What song reminds you of home? Where is home?
Oh man, When the Saints Go Marching In, Second Line, Smokey Johnson “Ain’t My Fault,” [starts singing] Don’t Mess With My Toot Toot. NOLA is home always, born and raised.
Who are some of your musical influences?
As far as NOLA goes, Dirty Dozen, The Meters, Dr. John, all those cats. I do love Prince, groups like P Funk, Morris Day, Kool & the Gang. I also have a rock side and listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, “Bulls on Parade” [starts singing] who sings that….Rage, yesss Rage Against the Machine, that’s it.
What is your artistic creative process like?
There’s no real structure, ya know. Something will come to me while I’m makin’ groceries. A drum beat or a base line. I just put it in my phone then when I get home I put it into the computer. It just comes to me.
Why do you think music is so important to the people and culture of New Orleans?
Music is New Orleans. All the way back to Louis Armstrong. Musicians and politicians go hand in hand. The politicians hang around musicians. After Katrina, we even took part in “Musicians for Mitch.” There is just nothing like New Orleans music elsewhere in the world. I mean c’mon The Meters, dat funk!
What is the greatest music moment you ever had that made you feel alive?
Ohhh man, P Funk at Voodoo Fest. Also, first time ever seeing Prince at Voodoo. He is my favorite artist of all time. Seeing Charlie Wilson, “Uncle Charlie” too because he can put on one hell of a show. He just killed it. “Crack some heads” is how he described it. Woaahh, best show I’ve ever seen.
Allen Toussaint once stated, “Music is everything to me short of breathing. Music also has a role to lift you up-not to be escapist but to take you out of misery.”...With that being said, how has music gotten you through sorrowful/hard/low moments in your life?
Easy. I am always the one to handle funerals well, the strong one, I try and be there to support the rest of my family and be the shoulder for them to lean on. My mom passed away right after Katrina; I played at her funeral. All my sadness and emotions, it all came out through my playing, through my music. I again tried to be the strong one when my grandfather passed away in 2011 and played at his funeral as well. Those were two of the most powerful moments ever for me. Playing next to their caskets was healing for me; it was a channel of everything that I was feeling. When my 21 year old cousin was killed a few years ago, I played at his funeral too. He was so nice, sweet, and talked a lot [laughing] like a lot, he wasn’t involved in anything bad but somehow was at the wrong place wrong time and was shot 6x. He managed to drive himself to the hospital but he passed away. That funeral was different, I started crying and had to walk out. He was so young. Someone that young isn’t supposed to die and that way especially. Music helped see me through that time.
Do you have a favorite musical quote of all time?
“Turn Up!” Yep, that’s it. I got so excited at my wedding, I must have said it 37,000 times. Just turn up y’all!
Pick Your Poison: CDs, Vinyls, MP3s, or Online Streaming Services?
Well online streaming services are the devil for musicians, but I guess you can’t live without them. I love vinyls and tapes so much, but MP3s are just so convenient and can be played anywhere. I don’t have to be like hey y’all, come check out this song let me play it for you at my house. I can put it on my ipod or computer and have it right there.
If you had to get up and sing karaoke for us, what would be the song of choice?
“I’m sexy and I know it” I just love that song. Right when it comes on, I’m just like yeah uh uh [starts pumping].