Samantha Harlow's is the quintessential Nashville story. Upon graduating from college in her native Minnesota, the singer-songwriter set her sights on Music City, eager to assimilate into the country music community.
Her first stop: the iconic honky-tonk Robert's Western World on Lower Broadway. Harlow made the bastion of authentic country music her haunt, but eventually decided it'd be better if she were making money at the bar than spending it — she took a job as a bartender, which she still holds today.
"That's where I consider my legitimate education to have begun. I worked there every day and would come into contact with all the singers, songwriters and musicians who came there. They taught me everything I know about country music," says Harlow, a dyed-in-the-wool Aerosmith fan who was quickly drawn to the more personal topics of country.
"I knew I wanted to participate in country music. My style and voice was leaning there," she says, citing four songwriters who have informed her own folksy style: Patsy Cline, Townes Van Zandt, Gillian Welch and Kris Kristofferson.
Yet there are also hints of Don Williams in her music, especially in her new song "Once More," for which she filmed a video in, yep, Robert's. "I went home, took a nap and came back to work at night," she laughs. (Watch the video above.)
"Once More" addresses the loneliness Harlow felt on the road as a struggling musician, but also the loneliness that can come even when home. "Tequila to kill a memory/wine to wash it down," she sings in the opening verse.
"I know about being alone, and making my own way alone, and sometimes you need a little comfort, wherever that may come from. It may not be right, but it's right now," she admits. "The song comes from a general feeling of detachment."
A staple of the tightknit East Nashville music scene, Harlow is grateful for the camaraderie — it helps with that ever-present loneliness — but says you have to remember how small of a town it really is.
"Everyone is so tight, and everyone is so supportive," she says, "but you can't get too drunk."