JPR Live Session: Sammy Brue

May 25, 2018

Realism and storytelling are qualities that are prominent on I Am Nice, the 17-year-old Utah singer-songwriter's New West debut. The 12-song album—produced by Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes and John Paul White of the Civil Wars—shows the young troubadour to be a timeless talent whose catchy compositions embody the sort of wisdom, empathy and insight that's usually associated with more experienced songwriters.

On such distinctive originals as "I Know," "Was I the Only One," "I Never Said" and "Control Freak," Sammy Brue demonstrates a rare knack for placing himself in the shoes of others, real or fictionalized, and writing melodically inventive, emotionally resonant stories about them. No wonder he's been hailed as an "Americana prodigy" by Rolling Stone and as a "wunderkind" by American Songwriter, as well as receiving early attention from The Wall Street Journal and The Fader, and from his local ABC TV station.

Sammy Brue has been writing songs since the age of 10. After receiving an acoustic guitar from his father for Christmas, he quickly embraced the instrument and began learning the songs of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. Within two months, he'd written his first original, pointedly titled "The Woody Guthrie Song."

Demonstrating an impressive level of drive and dedication, Sammy busked at the Sundance film festival when was just 11 years old, performed at the Newport Folk Festival, and opened shows for the likes of Hayes Carll, Lydia Loveless, John Moreland, Lukas Nelson, Lucinda Williams and Asleep at the Wheel. He also released a trio of homespun but remarkably accomplished EPs—The Ghost of Woody Guthrie, The Bootleg Sessions and I Don't Want You to Leave - which helped to spread word of Brue's talent beyond his home state.

Among the first to champion Sammy's talents was fellow artist Justin Townes Earle, who invited him to open for him after meeting Sammy and his dad on a tour stop, and later featured him on the cover of his 2014 album Single Mothers. The growing buzz helped Brue to win a recording deal with New West, home of such Americana icons as Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle and John Hiatt.