Once berated as a bedroom Bob Dylan, the career of Sam Beam aka Iron and Wine has maintained an upward trajectory as his songs have been presented in ever more ambitious sound settings that add to their undoubted cinematic quality. Little wonder that the former film graduate has become a regular choice for soundtrack and advertising work. He was born today in 1974.
Singer/songwriter Sam Beam was born in Columbia, South Carolina, USA and after what he describes as an unremarkable suburban childhood, enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
Attracted by their fine art course and with notions of becoming a painter, Beam progressed via photography into completing a degree in Film – doing little more than “dabbling” in music and jamming with friends.
Relocating to Miami and teaching cinematography, he however did acquire a four track recorder and begin recording his own compositions – although for no other purpose than self-gratification and exchanging with acquaintances.
Donating an early track, “Dead Man’s Will” to a compilation CD attached to a friend’s fanzine brought Sam to the attention of Seattle label Sub Pop and they cajoled an initially reluctant musician into releasing an album – something of a departure from the usual artist/label dynamic.
The result was 2002′s debut “The Creek Drank the Cradle” – an album whittled down from a rake of sparse, self-recorded songs. Released as Iron and Wine, Beam’s DIY lo-fi ethic quickly found favour with a diverse section of music fans and critics.
A second full studio long player with various guest musicians (“Our Endless Numbered Days”) in 2004. Meanwhile, a clutch of his songs also appeared on the soundtrack of Sundance Film Festival favourite, “Garden State”, which further upped Beam’s hipness factor.
The following year proved to be pivotal for Sam as he succumbed to the lure of a full-time musical career, quit teaching and moved with his family from Florida to Texas.
On record also there were signs of a new confidence: electric guitars surfacing on the Woman King EP and a collaboration with ‘desert noir’ combo Calexico on another short set, “In The Reins”.
Home for the Beams (now consisting of Sam, midwife Kim and five daughters) became Dripping Springs on the outskirts of Austin, complete with a built-in studio.
Album number three then arrived in 2007; “The Shepherd’s Dog” including “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” which would become something of a cult classic following its appropriation for the soundtrack of trendy vampire flick “Twilight” the following year.
Rounding off his association with Sub Pop with 2009′s “Around the Well” – a double rarities set of home recordings and more polished studio productions and signed to Warners, releasing “Kiss Each Other Clean” in 2011 with full eight piece band backing.
Tracks like the epic “Your Fake Name is Good Enough For Me” differ radically in their presentation from that bedroom debut, but the. Ironically though, “Kiss Each Other…” was denied a surprise top spot in the Billboard album chart by Amos Lee’s release – another singer/songwriter record with input from Calexico.
Asked in an interview about his Iron and Wine non-de-plume, Beam replied that, “I was working on a movie at FSU (Florida State University) at this country store and ran across a protein supplement called “Beef, Iron, and Wine.” Seemed like an interesting grouping of words without the “Beef” part.” Well, it’s better than Sanatogen anyway.
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And here’s some footage of Samuel in action: