A humdrum routine is something found terrifying by many artistic types. While we never walk the same path twice, some find their path becomes cyclical simply by exercising resistance to exactly that. Songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Sam Kempe would likely lament to you that he has wasted valuable time throughout his 28-year life, and done so in quite extensive periods. A quick evaluation of his story would reveal that to be an exaggeration, though his insecurity exercises the same persistance, and should simply be left to wreak the havoc upon his mind that it will. These feelings are, at his current age, facts of life that Kempe is now quite keen to. For Sam, songwriting is a long and delicate process that has required him to walk many different paths.
After seven years spent running around in the Athens, GA, music scene, Sam moved home to Atlanta in 2018 to start anew. His previous musical endeavors primarily included filling the role of bass player for various indie bands and closely learning audio production while recording and mixing his bands' records. Looking back through his 20s, it was quite apparent that he had abandoned any desire to write his own music. Following the loss of a longtime musical influence, he began to catch up on years of songwriting ideas and emotions that had been held back for far too long.
Pinewood is the culmination of Sam's musical being to date. Raised on the creations of folk-rock songwriters and bluegrass music, he had a predetermined sound created for the songs in his head. Simple kick-snare beats are accented by thunderous toms and tight, dynamic bass lines. Atop this foundation lie smooth acoustic strumming textures and "string" sections made up of banjo and mandolin, plucking simple-yet-articulate rhythmic patterns. Arpeggiated synths and atmospheric pads occupy the rest of the spectrum supporting the songs about Sam's life experience to date. Additionally, all instrumentation and vocals are written and recorded by Kempe, what he claims to be one of his biggest challenges to date. He sings of prolonged periods of darkness, times in which he continues searching until he discovers the light to guide him to where he needs to be. His music's primary directive is learning oneself better during times of depression and finding the deeper parts of one's mind, so that this knowledge and understanding of self can stand guard against the inevitable return of dark feelings.
The project debuted in early 2020 with the release of two singles, "In Our Residency" and "Rose Gold."
The Southern Sounding: "Track Premiere: Pinewood - 'Riverbank'"
"Driven by a need to know both the dark and light sides of life, he has used his work as a way to better explain and explore the recesses of his own past. And by not shying away from these shadows but embracing them as useful tools for internal reflection, his music contains an emotional clarity that’s hard to shake and seeps down into the deeper parts of your subconscious. Kempe will self-release his debut EP, “All Things With Symmetry,” on May 1.
On new single, “Riverbank,” he crafts an atmospheric folk landscape covered in spectral voices, plucked strings and a sense of rhythmic mystery. There’s a folksiness to the proceedings, though it’s not developed in a way that recalls any sense of rote familiarity. The acoustic arrangements seem to linger, jubilant ghosts on the edge of your periphery while the drums shuffle and dance in the flickering light of a nearby fire. Kempe has built a doorway, a mist-covered entrance spilling over with capricious musical movements which resemble sounds you think you’ve heard before but, upon closer inspection, is absolutely unique in its approach and aesthetic. But there is a lightness here as well, a counter balance to his acceptance of life’s darker instincts, and it’s here in that cloaked emotional environment where the music stirs the soul and bruises the heart."
Ear To The Ground Music: Eight New Folk and Singer-Songwriter Tunes
The blend of good sound engineering and brilliant songwriting have created one of the best folk tunes I’ve heard in 2020. Pinewood have a sound that I rarely hear; it’s atmospheric and transcendent while feeling rooted. I always think of banjos as being “of the earth,” but the reverb (I think?) that makes me feel like I’m hearing this in a big ampitheater makes for a perfect combination. The earthy, literary lyricism reminds me of college lit classes. It’s a blend of influences that makes for a beautiful alchemy.
Americana UK - "Pinewood 'All Things with Symmetry'
‘Riverbank’ starts with looping strings to which Kempe adds light rhythm. This flow gathers momentum around his haunting vocals that thunder into a series of glorious synthesised crescendos.
From flowing water Kempe turns his gaze and reflection upwards. As its title suggests ‘Constellations’ is the sonic equivalent of looking at distant specks of light. The banjo line keeps the feet on the ground while his voice echoes into space. More dramatic synthesised ebbs and flows appear a characteristic of Kempe as well as a reminder of his originality.
Perhaps these first two meditations explain the confident cascade of ‘Onward’, a multi-dimensional soundscape. A line from the title track “let my mind run free with existential dread” reveals that despite finding light Kempe knows he could plunge back into darkness anytime. The spectral voice and almost halting feel magnify that fragility.
‘All Things with Symmetry’ is a beautiful creation, the musical equivalent of a deep meditative practice. May more be forthcoming very soon.
The Revue: "The Matinee '20 April 15"
“Onward” is more than a dream-folk song; it’s a calming respite from the outside world. The instrumentation alone is enough to reset your stress levels. The soft banjo evokes springtime vitality and complements the lyrical reference of changing seasons. But the vocals here are the real standout, full of sun-kissed warmth. Fans of Bon Iver, Lord Huron, and Kishi Bashi will likely fall hard for Pinewood. His music shares their artistic complexity while also nourishing all who listen.