Sam Brenner, John Carroll University Class of 2009 alumnus, performed at SUPB’s Kindergarten Night on March 28, 2015 in the D.J. Lombardo Student Center. The Carroll News interviewed the Buffalo native, who performed a medley of original songs and covers to entertain students throughout the night.
CN: How did you get started in your music career?
Sam Brenner: My parents gave me a guitar when I was 12. At the time, I was really into Dave Matthews, John Mayer, and Jason Mraz. That was a big time for male singer/songwriters and I thought “I want to do that.” So, I would play their songs a lot and then in high school, I finally got enough courage to play at a talent show.
When I came to JCU, it was great because it’s such a small enough community that if you want to have a concert anywhere on campus, SUPB sets it up. I used to bug my SUPB staff like crazy with, “I’ve got a hundred friends. Can we do a show in Kulas?”
In my sophomore year, the band Lifehouse came to campus and I won a contest to open for them. That was in front of 1,000 people, so that was a big moment for me.
Once I had done that, I really thought to myself, “This is something I really want to do.”
CN: How has John Carroll University been an inspiration to you and your music?
SB: I think that you will always find community at John Carroll. I know that word gets thrown around a lot and it can mean different things to people, but for me, it was people who didn’t mind hearing a guy play on an acoustic guitar for an hour. We created the community – it wasn’t like we needed a coffee shop or anything. You just had to get your friends together and be like, “Hey, wanna hear me play for a half hour?” Then, other people say they heard this guy perform and from there, it just keeps growing. I think you create your own community, just like you would a fan base, and I think John Carroll really allows that to happen here.
CN: What type of guitars and/or equipment do you use?
SB: My electric guitar is a Mexican Stratocaster and the acoustic one is a Taylor 114.
I use a BOSS loop system, too. I know this may sound hard to understand, but I have everything trailing down. In the middle are six built-in peddles, like a peddle board, and I just pre-program sounds so I can click to reverb, overdrive, and whatever else I want to do, and the loop will record everything vocally or on the guitar and it goes through one system.
You have to spend the time to really master it. I started using it about two years ago because whenever people see a guy or girl with a guitar, they immediately assume they know what your performance is going to be like. For guys like Ed Sheeran, the looper adds a whole new dynamic to their shows and, to me, it was another iteration of what I was already playing.
CN: To a beginning musician, or one that is interested in learning how to use a looper, what advice would you give them to get started?
SB: If you can, save up your money and get a guitar cord, a looper, and an amp and really spend hours and hours practicing. It’s just like learning any instrument. It took me about six to nine months to feel like I really had it learned and you’ll still even hear me mess up now, but it’s genuine and different every time. My advice would be to just spend the time doing it. You really have to put in the time.
CN: What is your favorite song to cover?
SB: Right now I cover MGMT’s “Electric Feel.” Paul Simon’s “Graceland” is really cool, too.
CN: What is your favorite original song?
SB: Going back to high school, I wrote a song called “Fly Away” when I was about fifteen or sixteen and I think I play it in just about every show I do. It’s still an okay song to me. Probably 90 percent of the songs I wrote at that age were absolute garbage, but that song, for some reason, has almost been like a security blanket since it’s been with me so long.
CN: What would you say is your greatest inspiration?
SB: In life and music, my inspiration is my family and friends. I’m definitely a people person and people inspire me, even strangers that I just happen to meet. When I shake hands with someone or when I hear somebody tell their story, those things really inspire me.
CN: What plans do you have in the future for your music?
SB: The last record I put out was in 2014 and I have been slacking on writing again, so it’d be nice to write and get back into that creative space.