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Interview with Kam Franklin, lead singer of the Houston, Texas based band The Suffers on 7/23/16 at The Newport Folk Festival.
Q: How did you get started in music?
A: “I started playing when I was 5 years old in the Baptist churches back in Houston, and I started performing in bands in high school. I’ve been performing ever since.”
Q: Has there been an evolution of the genre of music you’re attracted to?
A: “ I think its constantly evolving. I started doing gospel music, but I got into soul and hip-hop and then, in high school, ska and punk and reggae. As I’ve gotten older it’s everything from traditional country to traditional pop, classical jazz, everything.“
Q: Have you always known you’d be a professional musician? Ever since you were 5 years old singing in those churches?
A: “ Yeah I think I’ve always known it would be what I did. I just didn’t know in what capacity. When you grow up seeing people on TV thinking, ok yeah I’ll be Janet Jackson too, I’ll be Madonna too, and now I don’t think that’s the direction I want to go. But if I could have a career like Mavis or like Gladys Knight I’d be eternally happy. “
Q: So, what’s next for you?
A: “Well… I want to travel the world with my band; I want to release our next record, and just to do this fulltime forever. This is our second year touring fulltime. While it gets discouraging sometimes because of the way we have to do it (Everything we do is pretty much independent), it is extremely rewarding and I just really look forward to all the adventures we have coming up together.”
Q: So, you really like the traveling aspect of it?
A: “I love the travelling aspect of it! I get to see things that I never-ever thought I’d get to see, and I learn to appreciate the United States in a way that I never used to. I used to almost fantasize about so many other countries because the way that they advertise the beauty. But some the most beautiful things I’ve seen have been right here in the US.
Q: What are some of your musical influences?
A: Well I already mentioned Gladys Knight, to Betty Wright, to Dolly Parton, George Jones, Prince, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross. Its pretty all over the place, but at the same time all those artists I mentioned are artists that have stepped out of their boxes a lot. Like Dolly has done full on gospel records, and a few weird blues records, but most people only know her for the country stuff. Same with Prince, all over the place. But it’s because as an artist I don’t think you should be labeled by that first genre you come out with. You should be allowed to evolve. It gets boring if you don’t, and I’m not here to be boring.”
Q: Have you performed at Newport before?
A: “Yes. Last year we performed on the fort stage and this year my band went home to Houston yesterday and I’m sitting in where I fit in.”
Q: As an artist, how does Newport differ from other festivals and venues?
A: “As an artist, especially from playing last year, Newport was the first festival that ever treated us with an extreme amount of respect. There were no class systems. Like, nobody had private anything. When you go to the artist’s area everybody is out there. There’s no, oh you’re at the top of the poster so you’re going to be over here, and you’re at the bottom so you have to stay over here. No, there’s none of that.
If you’re there it’s because you deserve to be here. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it or how good or bad you are. It’s because somebody believed in you enough to say that you should play here. And for us, last year being our first year touring, that meant everything to us, so I’ll always respect and appreciate that.”