The Samples keep the love of music alive |

The Samples keep the love of music alive

April E. Clark
Arts and entertainment contributor

CARBONDALE — In the summer of 2012, Samples front man Sean Kelly expected to celebrate the nation’s birth playing music in a friend’s backyard. Then he posted an update on Facebook.

And a musician’s dream became reality.

“Facebook, it’s changed my whole life. … It was the Fourth of July, and I put a post up saying I just wanted to play that day, even if it was in someone’s backyard,” he said. “A fan responded saying, ‘How would you like to play a stadium?’”

That stadium was Invesco Field — home of the Denver Broncos — a dream venue for the self-taught singer-songwriter from the backwoods of Vermont.

“That summer there was a ban on fireworks, and the only place to see them was Invesco Field. I was the entertainment right before the fireworks,” he said. “It was just me and a chair, playing a song about Colorado in a big huge place. That was a life-changing moment for me.”

Kelly said the popularity of social networks has been a driving force in the band’s longevity and continued presence on the Colorado live music scene.

“A band like The Samples needs that kind of social presence. We could never get the attention from record companies, but we get noticed online,” he said. “It’s whatever you want it to be, and the social stuff certainly gives us the opportunity to be on people’s menus. It’s not where we started but where it can begin for me.”

For more than a quarter of a century, Kelly and The Samples have garnered a dedicated fan base in Colorado; the band was founded in Boulder in 1987. The five-piece group brings its distinctive brand of mountain rock from Denver to Carbondale’s PAC3, 520 S. Third St., at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17.

“For me, music always came as an effect, not just a cause — the kind that made people want to sit on the porch and play a banjo,” he said. “I’m all about songwriting. Music is a true outlet for me that I really need.”

Since his early start as a teenage musician, Kelly has been committed to writing and performing original music that speaks directly to fans. He believes such originality has helped The Samples remain a Colorado mainstay and sell more than 1 million CDs.

“I just keep on writing, and that’s why 98 percent of all The Samples tunes are originals,” he said. “I knew when I was 15 I wanted to play music, and I try to keep that alive. I’ve always kept the music very real and current. I’ve kept the band’s soul and not sold out. I think that comes through in the music.”

One way Kelly keeps his sound fresh and relationship with fans strong is through the more than 300 unreleased recordings he shares by email for free. He has a home studio where he records songs and polishes his craft on a daily basis.

“I have a recording set-up at my house, and I’m addicted to it,” he said. “It’s a cool thing. It keeps me recording every day.”

Through sharing his music digitally, Kelly has seen classic Samples songs make a comeback in a new age of music production. The Samples song “Could It Be Another Change,” which Kelly wrote when he was just 17, is featured in the movie soundtrack of the 2012 release “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower.”

“We have 20-something well-protected albums that haven’t been overexposed by commercial radio. We are underrated and under-promoted,” he said. “But we now have a song that was in “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower” with more than a million hits on YouTube. It’s one little thing like that can open up Pandora’s Box. I’m still valid, and I still put my heart and soul into it.”

Kelly has remained the constant frontman in The Samples roster, with bandmates changing over the 27 years. He likened the format of the band to a long-running live comedy production.

“I’ve looked at it kind of like ‘Saturday Night Live,’” he said. “There’s a cast that changes each season, but there’s always a magician behind the magic, and there’s the same essence of the machine that keeps it going. It can also be unpredictable. Like anything, things change.”

Friday’s PAC3 performance serves as a Carbondale CD release party for Kelly and The Samples’ newest 14-track album release, “America.”

“You never know what can happen when producing an album, and this came together very subconsciously for me,” Kelly said. “The cover is a flag, and there’s definitely a lot of topics. One of the songs is titled, ‘Wall Street Blues.’”

Tickets are $17 for general admission and $23 at the door, available at

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