Bellingham guitarist and songwriter Sam Chue, 21, is in his third year attending Fairhaven College at Western Washington University, where he has designed his own concentration, "Ethnomusicology through Audio Engineering and New Media."
On Saturday, March 2, he will perform at Kulshan Brewing Co. on James Street that will be recorded live and is part of a Bellinghamwide concert series to celebrate of What's Up! Magazine's 15th birthday. If you want to get your voice on the recording, Sam says, be at Kulshan Brewery at 4 p.m.
Question: Who are some of your musical influences?
Answer: I initially learned how to play by ear; my earliest memory is listening to commercial jingles and plucking out the notes as best as I could, but my dad, George Chue, was my first teacher. He played a big part in showing me the basics of guitar-picking and making chords.
As I started to immerse myself deeper in playing guitar I became interested in jazz and classical music. My first guitar instructor, Bob Macdonald, turned me on to guitarists such as Andrés Segovia, Django Reinhardt and Wes Montgomery, still some of my favorite guitarists today.
After I stopped taking lessons I played in various jazz groups at Fairhaven Middle School and Sehome High School, which gave me a lot of time to practice, but through this time I noticed that my musical taste started to change. I wasn't a fan of musical competition, and in school, jazz and classical started to represent that to me to some degree.
After getting the boot from a jazz band I was in, I became more interested in writing music. I started making instrumentals on my Pro Tools 7 recording setup and I was instantly hooked. I loved the freedom of writing my own music.
Q: What's the Sam Chue Music Project all about?
A: The Sam Chue Music Project is a collection of original songs that I have written and recorded over the last few years. My latest release of songs came out last winter on an exclusive online release that is available for free at samchue.bandcamp.com. I engineered this CD on my own at the Fairhaven College recording studio with artwork done by my friend and collaborator, Thayne Yazzie.
I continue working as an audio engineer at the new North Shore Studio near Lake Whatcom, which offers full lodging to musicians and a professional recording studio experience with reasonable rates. At the studio I am in charge of running all Pro Tools sessions and basically making life easy for the clients. Coffee refills and beer runs are on me!
Q: What's special about the show March 2?
A: For the first time I will be performing my original songs with accompaniment. Josh Spiegel will be playing the piano and accordion, Lyman Lipke will be playing the bass, John Dennis on electric guitar, Andy Siebert on violin and Eli Savage on percussion. I will also be recording the set live with a 16-track digital Pro Tools audio interface.
Q: Any memorable moments as a performer?
A: My favorite gig moment would have to be all the way back in high school when Thayne and I wrote and performed our first song together at a memorial assembly for a friend who lost a brother in the war in Iraq.
Q: Why do you enjoy playing music?
A: Playing and writing music is something that I cannot stop myself from doing. Often times I will put music in front of school, work, or getting out. In other words, music is my lovely detrimental quality. Music leads the way; I just follow.
I enjoy playing music for the obvious reasons, too. The freedom of expression is empowering. With music I can turn introspective perceptions into a physical energy. The best part is feeling the energy come back from the audience. Really, this is what I play for. It is the phenomena of musical interaction that always floors me.
I love it when someone comes up to me and tells me what one of my songs means to them. Never is it the same from person to person, but there is always truth.
Most recently I've been learning how to play the Puerto Rican cuatro, a 10-string lute that is unique to the island and originated over 400 years ago. Other than that, I play the drums, electric bass, and other stringed instruments.
I also sing. I initially planned on being a vocal performance major at WWU, but quickly decided that audio engineering is my passion. That, and I still can't wrap my head around reading music.
Q: Where can people see you perform?
A: In Bellingham I play at The Old Town Cafe, The Underground Coffee House at Western Washington University, the sidewalk of Railroad Avenue, open mics at The Honeymoon, The Green Frog and Poppe's.
I also play around Seattle and Bellingham in the band The Vonvettas with Thayne Yazzie and Eli Savage. We've had some great shows in this band. From opening for Marcy Playground, to lighting speakers on fire, we always find a way to make the night memorable.
Q: What else do you enjoy?
A: I like throwing the discus. When I have the time between work and music I compete on the WWU track-and-field team. I also enjoy going on adventures and exploring. Dinosaurs have always fascinated me. I also like jamming with other musicians!