Music Showcase: Six Mile GroveOn November 22, 2010 by Ryan Dennis
Small farmers are brave, their families are brave, and it’s something I feel proud of. Brandon Sampson, Six Mile Grove
In a country in which most people are three generations or more removed from the farm, song about agriculture are becoming rarer. Music that is reflective, well-written and hits the nail on the head when it comes to farming is even harder to find.
The Milk House found one.
Six Mile Grove yields the energy of American rock and the simplicity of classic country music, delivered with pure farm boy charm. With roots generations deep in the cornfields of southern Minnesota, the band Six Mile Grove continues to
flourish like a well tended crop. Six Mile Grove was founded in 1997 in Lyle, MN (population 500) by brothers Brandon and Brian Sampson, Barry Nelson and Dezi Wallace. SMG has celebrated 5 albums and 11 years of playing together. Their forthcoming album “Steel Mule,” reflects upon “coming of age” themes: marriage, parenthood, family, and mortality. Watch the video for “Steel Mule” in the video sidebar for this site.
Six Mile Grove answers a few questions for our readers.
When you sit down to write a song that tells the story of the small farmer, what themes do you find yourself returning to?
In the last few years my music is more strongly reflecting on my roots, muses and how I see the world; the inevitable effects of progress, what happens when children grow up and leave their home to find their own destinies; who they bring with them, and who they leave behind. My songs are about growing up and becoming a man, and how the best way to make a mark on this world is through the legacy of having a family; passing things on from generation to generation. When I look at my son, I want him to know the importance of storytelling, and expressing himself. I remember the importance of teaching, of telling stories and of noticing the small things in life. It’s the simple pleasures of the country that I remember most. The cool summer nights, the quiet mornings while the sun is coming up, dipping sugar cookies in my dad’s coffee when I was 4, and then getting to drink the last sip with all the crumbs. Small farmers are brave, their families are brave, and it’s something I feel proud of.
As a farmer’s son myself, I find that most songs on the radio about farming miss the mark in one way or another, sometimes for being too campy or reductive, and sometimes as just inaccurate. What other songs about farming have you run into that feel genuine?
I agree. I haven’t really noticed anything lately that feels genuine. I’m really a fan of early, or classic country. Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, etc… In the last couple years I’ve become friends with many musicians from Nashville, TN. I’ve toured with other singer/songwriters including Dana Cooper, Grammy Award nominee Sally Barris, and Grammy Winner Jon Vezner. They’ve opened my eyes to living the life of an artist. They’ve also taught me a lot about being true to yourself when it comes to songwriting. I find myself being drawn to the craftsmanship of writing songs in the Americana genre, where the emphasis is on the integrity of the music and the story, with lots of freedom in the sound. In my high school years I would get ideas for songs while driving tractor back and forth across a field. There is just something about spending time alone in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by acres of farmland that makes me feel small. And it’s comforting to realize how the small, personal moments in life are at the same time the most universal for people. This is where songs about farming feel the most genuine to me.
In “Steel Mule” your grandfather appears to be a natural in front of the camera. What was his reaction to the video, and to your music in general?
He’s really proud of the video and spent many hours explaining the history of our farm with the videograhper during the shoot. He’s been showing it to everyone that comes to his place the last couple weeks. He pulls it up on youtube and just smiles. He’s always been really supportive of our music since the beginning. After all, we started practicing as a band in 1997 in the farmhouse he was born in. His mother, my great grandma, lived there till she was 101, then it became a place for us to work on our music and disappear in the evenings after the chores were done.
In your music, representing the life of the family farm, do you feel like you are telling a story that is not told enough, or not told accurately enough?
I write songs about things that make me feel good. Things that just are natural for me. Things that are true. Growing up on a family farm, a century farm, is the only thing I know. The people of small towns, living in farming communities all have an important story to tell. A story that people should hear. I tell the stories they can’t tell themselves, because if I don’t tell it, no one will.
What’s next for Six Mile Grove?
We’re working on a new album to be released in the Summer of 2011…just in time to walk beans.
Visit www.sixmilegrove.com for band updates, tour information and CDs.