The Samples to play the Belly Up |

The Samples to play the Belly Up

Joel Stonington

Way back on Easter Sunday 1987, the Samples played their first gig at a bar in Boulder called Tulagi. Their name came from surviving off free food samples at King Soopers, and mostly they played covers. They weren’t exactly a hit from the start. They had a sound, but it wasn’t necessarily new and original. It didn’t take all that long, however, until lead singer and guitar player Sean Kelly started getting into his simple lyrics. People heard it and liked it. Soon enough they were playing Red Rocks, touring with the likes of Sting and rocking around the country. Kelly’s songs aren’t that complicated, but they strike a chord. And Kelly readily says he doesn’t know all that much about the technicalities of music. “I couldn’t read a song to you,” he said. “I haven’t focused on the workings of what it is. Creating out of not knowing is a blessing because you’re forced to come up with your own view.”The band has changed over the years and has gone through countless labels and managers, but really the heart of the band is Kelly. He said he’s happy to be back in home territory.”I’m living in Vermont now, and that’s nice, but I spent 13 of the best years of my life here, so it feels good,” Kelly said by phone from Fort Collins, the stop on the tour before the Belly Up tonight. “Colorado will always have that special feel. It was just so magical when we moved out here and started the band.”Kelly said he remembered playing in Aspen a number of times, at the Double Diamond, the Paradise and at the Snowmass Conference Center with Dave Matthews. “I’m just really happy with how the band is playing,” Kelly said, “and the response to our new CD has been incredible.”The release, “Rehearsing for Life,” is Kelly’s 17th album. He said the songs just keep coming. “I just channel it, I open up, let it all come in,” he said. “It’s a part of your heart that you’re exposing. Then you put chords to it. I do a lot of it alone. The songwriting process is very private and personal. You throw it out and whoever gets it, gets it. We get a cream-of–the-crop audience, a great fan base that gets something from this music.” Kelly said the Samples formed around his songs. “Whoever felt they wanted to be a part of it was part of the band,” he said. “It’s always been that way. I feel I’m drawn to change.”Indeed, this is not the original Samples. “It’s the same foundation, as far as instruments,” Kelly said, “but we switch it up during the night. A lot of people are bringing a lot of different things to the play. This last album we did together was all of us. You can hear how it has jelled.”He said they continue to play older songs as well as stuff off the new album. “It’s neat – our music is like wine,” he said. “It’s fermented. With time it becomes better. It was never hit with the machinations of the business. They’ve become such interesting songs, they’ve gotten better and meant different things.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is

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