Samia the Entertainer
Indie rocker pumps passion, maturity into songwriting and stage presence
Eccentricity and Samia are one and the same.
Her carefree dancing and presence on stage can lead to acrobatic moves hard to top by an Olympian.
She can take a classic song and mold it into her own, whether it’s Kelis’ “Milkshake” or a darker version of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
She doesn’t shy away from her quirkiness, either, even with her childhood role in a Shrek musical rendition (she can’t seem to find the Youtube password to delete it).
Samia Finnerty, who fronts her self-named indie band, is a natural performer, singer-songwriter and rocker. The artist is typically introspective through themes of age, loss, self-image, and identity through seas of guitars and drums. Samia’s thoughtful lyrics and amusing nature on the stage have been seen throughout the country and recently on tour with indie band Hippo Campus.
Samia said she tries “constantly” to be “fully aware of herself” as an artist.
“I try to constantly be aware of where I’m complicit with my role and emotional journey and so, it’s a way to try to keep it honest,” Samia said.
“Especially my songwriting, because it’s so easy to make songs about how people have wronged you or to make yourself the victim in songwriting. That’s my biggest fear.”
Samia grew up “surrounded” by Lebanese influence on her mother’s side of the family, as she shares the Arabic name of her grandmother Samia. She grew up in a world encompassed by the arts, receiving acting training in her youth along with the love of her parents, actress/activist Kathy Najimy and multi-faceted artist Dan Finnerty.
Her parents have left an impact on pop culture of the ‘90s and ‘00s, whether it be Finnerty’s comedic cameos as an actor and singer or Najimy’s countless roles in Hollywood, like as Peggy Hill in “King of the Hill.”
The attention and fame, Samia said, is something she’s glad to have gotten an “honest understanding” of.
“My parents have been a huge influence and steered me in the opposite direction of fame, that’s probably a big reason why I didn’t wind up going down that path,” Samia said.
“I learned so much for being thrown into certain situations and grew up around fame, I have that understanding which I’m grateful for now because I know how destructive it is and what it does. I think the best thing it did for me was teaching me not to yearn for it and to just have fun, to make the things that I like.”
Places like New York have helped add to Samia’s creative depot, as the artist learned at the Professional Children’s School under the direction of instructors such as Vincent Sagona.
“When I went there because I’d be around other kids who understand my interests. They supported me so much and I learned so much from them,” Samia said.
“I was in Sagona’s program which was like a political theater program, so we studied Strausberg and plays based on our experiences and performed them. We collaborated on them, for plays that were based on what we were going through in our lives and the political climate. When I think about my training as an artist, I look back at those experiences.”
Her work as an actress, too, has led her to Obie Awards for her role in “The Wolves,” a play which nearly earned a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2017. It’s something which Samia credits as aiding her music and her lively, on-stage persona.
“I started to use that acting training toward songwriting, to put into my music so, ultimately, that leads me to perform the way I do,” Samia said.
“I just like it, I like watching shows that are energetic so I try to emulate the people I look up to.”
She’s gotten her way to get those shows out, too, from changing the name of her band in its early years to changing her name to get a chance at a 2015 Webster Hall performance.
“I was my own manager and named myself ‘Dave Shanks,’ I would just cold email these venues as this manager because I knew they wouldn’t take me seriously as a 17-year-old with pretty much no experience,” Samia said.
But the light trolling of venues hasn’t hurt her reputation as a songwriter in full bloom.
Songs like Ode to Artifice is a sprinkle of poppy instrumentals over a concept rooted in the artist’s balancing act between social and stage identity. Others, like “The Night Josh Tillman Listened To My Song,” shows Samia juggling idolization and fear about the artist she admires.
“The song is obviously on a totally hypothetical situation that never happened but as long as it is grounded in self-awareness, there is not much wrong with idolization especially if you’re using it to support your art-making,” Samia said.
“Sometimes it is fun to believe someone is bigger than the art if that inspires you to be as big as you imagine them to be. But as long as you have an understanding of reality, it can be fun.”
The balancing act between seriousness and fun is familiar to Samia’s affinity for covers. The artist glistens in liveliness for covers on her Instagram or on tour, like during her band’s cover of “Barracuda” by Heart.
Samia points to her father’s technique as inspiring her own take on absurdity.
“We usually do wind up covering a ridiculously inappropriate classic rock song that we shouldn’t be attempting,” Samia said.
“So whether I’m doing something funny in terms of covers or humping the stage, that’s complete plagiarism. Anyone who is impressed by what I do on stage I point toward my dad.”
Although the days of doing $5 shows, or changing her band’s name, are in the past, Samia said she looks forward to being on the road and continuing to work on an album.
“I try to take songs seriously, without taking myself seriously, and that’s the only thing I want to remind myself to do during this process.”
Samia takes to a mix of northern cities in October as a supporting act for Remo Drive.