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Songwriters & Tour Riders, Episode 10: Samantha Crain

Samantha Crain
Samantha Crain

This is Songwriters & Tour Riders, a production of KOSU and Oklahoma State University and hosted by Matthew Viriyapah. On this episode is Oklahoma indie rock singer-songwriter, Samantha Crain.

A winner of two Native American music awards and a familiar name in the Oklahoma music scene, Samantha Crain just put out her new album. It's an album she didn’t think she would ever going to make.

Following three car accidents in 2017, Crain was left with debilitating injuries to her hands. She had to cancel her entire U.S. tour and suffered from depression and anxiety as a result. That period is reflected in the album's title, A Small Death.

Crain talks about what it was like going through that period, the eventual making of this album, and her continued efforts to write music in the Choctaw language.

Listen to Songwriters & Tour Riders above (or subscribe on Apple PodcastsStitcher and Spotify) and read some highlights below.

On A Small Death

I really thought I was going to die. I don’t say that with any jest or any nuance. I think when you’re a young person and your body starts to shut down, the first place that you go is ‘oh I’m going to die.’

I really did view it like that, but I also think that there’s like the really cliche thing of when you have like a near-death experience, you sort of see the world in a new way. After I had written these songs, and I was thinking about what to call the record, I wanted to encompass that feeling of like a new chapter after this really dark time.


It wasn't completely different than what's going on now. Sort of 'The Great Pause,' that is caused by the coronavirus.

You’re sort of forced to sit with yourself and your thoughts and figure out why you’re uncomfortable about things. 

You start to search for and learn about who you are outside of the things that you do every day— for me, outside of my appointment and identification as the musician Samantha Crain, which is something I haven’t had to do in my adult life because I’ve been doing this since I was 19.

But once you start peeling off this costume that you’ve been put in or put yourself in, for the first time you sort of feel like you can fully lean into your own curiosities and sensitivities.

On writing in the Choctaw language

I’m kind of slow getting into this because I’m basically learning a language from scratch… So just over the past few years, it’s become something really important to me writing in the Choctaw language. I believe in the survival of Indigenous languages is the most important foothold in the survival of Indigenous cultures and tribes.

I wanted to write a Choctaw version of like "We Shall Overcome."

Something we could sing through our hardships and into our victories and survival as a lasting tribe of people.

I talked about this a bit to my friend, Tommy Orange, who wrote this amazing book calledThere There. What you have are kids that are my age or younger, who are, although they are still Indigenous, they are butting heads with this lack of confidence in their own identity, because they were raised by people that ere told to be ashamed of themselves and to assimilate.

They run into this lack of self-confidence about not being Indian enough.

But I think me writing in the Choctaw language is a way for me to sort of hammer home this idea… I think getting out of this mindset that something has to look like the traditions of our ancestors in order for it to be called Choctaw or Cherokee or Kiowa. For the survival of our tribes, we have to start seeing the things we make and the way we decide to live our lives as being sort of like new traditions— the addition to that.

You only have the confidence to reinsert yourself to learn those traditions if you have the confidence to reclaim what you’re doing as new traditions I think. 

Music featured in this episode:

  1. Samantha Crain - An Echo
  2. Samantha Crain - Joey
  3. Samantha Crain - Pastime
  4. Samantha Crain - High Horse
  5. Samantha Crain - Little Bits
  6. Samantha Crain - Constructive Eviction
  7. The Blue Nile - Easter Parade
  8. Me You and Everyone We Know (Soundtrack) - I'm Not Following You
  9. Samantha Crain - Holding To The Edge of Night
  10. Samantha Crain - Garden Dove
  11. Marcy Playground - Sex And Candy
  12. Samantha Crain - Reunion
  13. Samantha Crain - When We Remain
  14. Samantha Crain - Tough For You
Matthew Viriyapah is KOSU's production assistant and host of the music podcast Songwriters & Tour Riders.
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