“I’m still young, but the world doesn’t care about what it shows me,” says Sammy Brue. He’s young, indeed – 14, barely – but he’s already about to release his second EP, I Don’t Want You to Leave, April 27th. Streaming exclusively on Rolling Stone Country, the five songs don’t sound like the thoughts of a child. There’s a youthful vitality; a stripped, naked starkness only someone without years of thickly built insecurities crusted on like a shell could hit, but the maturity is still a little uncanny. It prompts the usual questions reserved for child prodigies like Lorde: What do you know, little one, about life? Brue says it all comes down to just paying attention.
“Stories are all around us, and I listen to people even when they think I’m not,” he tells Rolling Stone Country. “I’ve had relatives go through ugly stuff that I watched unfold. My dad’s life hasn’t been easy either, and we talk a lot about the trials. My parents never try to shelter me from it. When I think of all these things, stories find their way out. If I get to the emotion of it, I can find the words.”
Brue first came on the radar when he appeared on the cover of Justin Townes Earle’s Single Mothers album — with long, wispy-straight hair, wiry glasses and a stern, squinty stare, he looked, intentionally so, like a young Earle. There’s a lot of that tinny, roosty blood in his playing, and, also like Earle, he can fill out a song with just his voice and sparse strums, adding a few tambourine shakes or harmonica pulls here or there. Earle’s become a mentor of sorts, along with the likes of Nashville’s Joe Fletcher, all taking Brue under their wings and providing a window into the songwriter life — he’s spent plenty of time kicking around with them in town, though he still lives with his parents back in Utah, where the other kids listen to Top 40 radio.
“Those guys have been great to me,” Brue says of his long-distance comrades. “I can run any idea past them and get honest feedback. The Americana genre has been like a family to me in a lot of ways. All these artists write songs for themselves and then work so hard every year to get them out there. It shows me what I have to do and what I can expect. I have no desire to try and go on a TV show and shortcut the system.”
On songs like the title track, it’s nearly impossible not to think of a young Bob Dylan discovering Woody Guthrie, cutting his teeth in New York bars — Brue’s already written his own ode to the Dust Bowl Troubadour — but he’s a student of East Nashville, not Greenwich Village, budding from this new folk resurgence in fascinating ways. He knows it’s hard work, and he also knows it might mean he’ll be more popular at Americana Fest than his own prom.
“It feels like Woody was for the little guy that had nothing,” says Brue. “And, sometimes, I feel like that is me.”