Interview by New City Arts 2015 Summer Intern, Aly Hancock: Sam Bush is the Music Minister at Christ Episcopal Church and is also the co-founder and Director of The Garage, an art space and music venue in downtown Charlottesville. In his spare time, he writes songs and then (in his own words) “asks his more talented friends to make them sound good” for the band The Hill and Wood. I am excited to introduce him as the seventh and final participant in our 7x7x7 Series.
Name one of your favorite Charlottesville places to take an out-of-town visitor.
Sorry to start things off with a biased and self-promoting answer, but the place I most enjoy bringing out-of-towners is The Garage. I think it does a great job of embodying what I like about Charlottesville – small, but spirited; intimate, but inviting. A lot of visitors don’t expect to find such a vibrant and cultural city in the middle of what they may have supposed was only farmland and historic landscape. In a similar way, no one expects to find exceptional art hung or a world class string-band playing inside a tiny little Garage. I think the venue is as delightfully surprising as the city.
Who is one living human who inspires your practice?
David Baker Benson, a former Charlottesville resident now living in Ulm, Germany and the one fixture in the band D.B.B. Plays Cups. David’s played The Garage a lot over the years, each show a completely different experience from the last because almost everything is subject to change – the band lineup, the tempo and length of the songs. A lot of times, his band members are on a completely different page which sounds disastrous, except that it only adds to a compelling and bewildering element of surprise. That’s why each show is so much fun. David doesn’t worry about the overall picture being painted; he builds on his own personal experience, shares it with anyone who’s interested and let’s it go from there.
Explain your artistic work in seven words.
Keep it honest, then let it go.
What role, if any, have mentors played in your artistic practice?
None of me is self-taught. Everything I’ve learned should be credited to mentors. And I’m not only speaking about any technical work that I’ve learned as a musician or as a curator, but of the inspiration and drive that come long before anything gets made. Through The Garage, I’ve been lucky to know so many people who are exceptional at what they do and have been willing to share their practice with me. Anything I’ve done as an artist has only been done in response to them.
Describe your ideal environment for creative work.
My friend Guion Pratt and I will occasionally set aside a day for songwriting. We’ll spend an hour alone, then meet back up to share our ideas, then get back to work – some time apart, some time together, sharing and critiquing and encouraging. It’s good for me to be in conversation while I work. It’s hard to feel motivated to write a song if I can’t share it with someone and it’s helpful to have a friend there to call me out if I’m phoning it in.
How has your practice changed over time?
I’m still thinking about the last question – how, even in my ideal environment for creative work, there’s still no guarantee I’ll actually write a song. If I end up writing a song by staying up all night, it doesn’t mean that process will work the next night. That said, I’ve learned that the one requirement I have when writing is to be still. I need to sit and let the voices in my head calm down before I’m able to write from an honest place. But those opportunities arise differently each time and are almost never replicated.
What would you like to see more of in Charlottesville to support artists in our community?
I’d like to see people buy more art which is, admittedly, something I never considered before curating The Garage gallery. Before The Garage ever happened, I was too intimidated by the art world to even consider making a purchase at an art opening, even if the work was affordable. But now, having been given the opportunity to meet a lot of artists and to spend time around art, I’m comfortable saying, “Wow. I like that. I’m going to buy it!” And I think I’m better off for that. So I’d like more people to feel the same, to trust their gut when a piece of art speaks to them and to consider bringing it home.
The opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the artist and do not necessarily represent the policies or positions of NCAI.
Sam Bush has lived in Charlottesville for ten years. He is the Music Minister at Christ Episcopal Church, the frontman of The Hill and Wood and Director and Co-founder of The Garage, a downtown art space and music venue.