It’s been a little while since New Jersey-based gravelly-souled singer/songwriter Sammy Kay hit the road for a tour of any substantial length; 2017’s opening slot on The Creepshow’s run, to be precise. Kay spent the better part of the last year back in Jersey evaluating next steps. It’s an all-too common theme among artists who’ve made their way in the DIY art community to periodically take stock of how long you want to try to keep the train chugging down the track. “I had to figure me out and make sure I was alright, you know?” Kay explains. “I spent the last year figuring out what I wanted to do, whether it was keep playing and keep going, or I started working with a young man with special needs while I’m home…and you never know when’s the right time to “grow up,” per se.”
Growing up, as it turns out, can wait. Kay recently went into the studio with old pal Pete Steinkopf and laid down a new album that’s slated for release later this year (stay tuned for more on that one in the coming months). “We made this record and it’s like “okay…let’s give this one more shot. One more honest fucking try.” So that’s this year, man. We’re gonna go out a lot, play some new songs.“
Right about when this story is slated for publication, Kay will be headed to Vancouver to kick off a three week run with the fine Canadian gentleman Seth Anderson (One Week Records) that’ll take them throughout the western part of the US. It’ll be Kay’s first solo acoustic run since before his last album, 2017’s Untitled, hit the streets. “I hope it’s like riding a bike!” Kay laughs. “Three weeks is like my happy tour. You don’t get sick of it. You don’t get too homesick, you’re not away for too long. As a sober dude, I’m always preparing. Every show, I just have to. I’m a little nervous. I haven’t been out by myself in two years. OnceUntitled came out, we kinda just went with the band. The two or three years prior to that I was just chugging along by myself, so I think I’m more nervous to be out there without Mitch and Will and Sean or Brandon or Fernando or any of the guys that were playing, you know? But I also get to play whatever the fuck I want now!“
The solo nature of these shows gave Kay a chance to dust off some songs from his catalog that haven’t been given a proper live treatment in the past. “The chords are the same,” he explains, “but some of those songs on Untitled…there’s four or five guitars playing on one part. Like, we never played “Better Days,” because it never sounded great with just two guitars. “I Believe” was just me and a guitar so we never played that. I spent the last week trying to figure out if I could play (2015’s) Fourth Street (Singers) front to back by myself, and I think I’m there. I forgot about songs completely. I guess there’s like 40 songs that have been recorded and released, and then there’s another twenty that either never got released or haven’t been released yet. I’ve been sitting in my kitchen every day just teaching myself songs that had just slipped, you know?”
When it came time to team up with a touring companion for the first run of solo shows he’s done in years, Kay feels he couldn’t have done much better than the great Seth Anderson. “I’m really grateful to spend the first run back out with Seth. I don’t know if you’ve met Seth, but he is like the sweetest person you’d ever meet,” Kay explains. “One of the reasons I genuinely love Seth, and I don’t know if he knows this, but Seth is like a husky. Huskies are always smiling, they’re just handsome puppies. Seth is a handsome puppy that’s always smiling!”
The duo don’t necessarily have a plan for what order they’ll play in, and their meeting up with a bunch of seriously talented musicians along the way, so every night has the potential to become pretty memorable, and Kay’s excitement about what’s in store over the next three weeks is genuine and palpable. “I’m grateful just to play my guitar,” Kay states. “My new thing about touring is, whether you’re going out by yourself or with a band, you might as well hang out with people who’s songs you want to hear. Like we met up with Ricky and the Western Settings guys two years ago at Pouzza and I listen to them all the time. I’m stoked to play with Ricky, and Brian Wahlstrom. Nick from Stay Wild – who are this really great, positive, political hardcore, kind of like nobody has really done great and well since Strike Anywhere – is doing a bunch of California shows. JD Wright came up on my Instagram feed, and man, I don’t know why that dude’s now a household name. Nowhere Bound in Texas are another killer band I’ve never gotten to see. I’m just trying to play with bands that I like and love and the cooler the lineup, the cooler the memory. It’s a little bit of a pain in the butt, but some of those shows, like Chicago with JD and 6’10”…I ain’t forgetting that one for a while! I just saw Bryan McPherson got added to the Phoenix show. We’re playing Kevin Seconds’s venue in Sacramento. Jesse up in Vancouver and Aaron Rev in Seattle, and then we go to Portland and it’s Sean Taylor from Angry Lisas. It just goes. Every day there’s a cool band that I love or somebody from a band that I’ve been wanting to see but have never been able too.”
This run of shows also includes a handful of stops Kay has not played before, which is somewhat rare given the amount of time he’s spent on the road, adding to the “every day is something different” vibe. “I haven’t played Hesperia (editor’s note: I had never even heard of Hesperia prior to this tour announcement). I haven’t played Bakersfield. I don’t think I’ve played El Paso in four or five years. I don’t think I’ve ever played Oklahoma City. I know that every time we try to play Tulsa, it’s been cancelled! Bakersfield is going to be a cool, proper house show…like the grown up style, not the punk rock style. Reno is going to be a fucking blast; last time I played Reno I won $400 off of $40 on blackjack, and then the stupid bar we were sitting at had the stupid touch screens on the bar…lost it all! Lost every dime!”
Kay and Anderson’s tour run kicks off Tuesday in Vancouver and runs through February 24th in Appleton, Wisconsin. Head below for the full rundown, including where you’ll find them alongside a number of special guests.
Kay’s untitled last album was released back in 2017 on Stomp Records. He’s got a new one on deck that is killer, we promise. Anderson’s One Week Records debut came out back in 2016.