Samantha O'Brien at Canyons
The second annual Sirens on the Mountain festival will take place at the High Country Fairgrounds in Boone in less than a month on June 20 and 21.
The event will feature headlining acts, such as the Grammy Award-winner Rickie Lee Jones, renowned soul and blues singer Betty LaVette and Rising Appalachia.
Other acts on the festival bill include Melissa Reaves, Michelle Malone, Shannon Whitworth, Gigi Dover, Laura Blackley, Samantha O’Brien, Redleg Husky, Amythyst Kiah and more.
On Friday, May 30, at 9 p.m., to help spread the word on the festival, the Sirens on the Mountain team will present a free concert by O’Brien at Canyons of the Blue Ridge, located on U.S. 321 in Blowing Rock.
O’Brien is a singer and songwriter who has lived an interesting life, to say the least.
“I moved to Boone when I was 16, and I was on my own,” O’Brien said. “My grandmother had custody of me at the time, and I had a crazy life. She knew that I wanted my independence, so she helped me move up here and to get an apartment for me. I had to live here for six months before I could become legally emancipated, which means I would have the rights of an 18-year old at the age of 16 or 17. When I turned 17, I gained my rights, and then a month later, I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter. So, I ended up staying here. I always thought that I would stay as soon as I came here. I really loved it. There is just something magical about this place for me.”
Eventually, O’Brien had a wide variety of jobs along the way, and when she hit a dead end at one point, she went into the military. The one constant in her life, however, is her music. As for O’Brien’s songwriting and poetry, her many life experiences have proven to be fertile ground for her lyrics.
“I believe strongly in what I believe in, and I’m pretty different than most people,” O’Brien said. “I believe in love, and I don’t mean the gushy kind. I mean that as in if you love your life and the people who are in it, then you are loving yourself, essentially. That is what I hope to push with my music, just to share my experiences and let them know that somebody else has been through that, too. They can look at me and say, ‘OK, she got through this. She has been through this and this and this. If she can over it, maybe I can, too.’
“People inspired me as a kid. I used to see groups like Hanson and Britney Spears, because my mom was really into pop music radio stations, so that is what I grew up on, and I thought, ‘Wow, these kids are making this music, and it’s good, but I feel like I can do better than that.’”
After years of making up songs and poetry as a little kid, O’Brien took the next step toward being a musician before she was a teenager.
“I started to play at age 11, when I got a guitar,” O’Brien said. “It was out of the J.C. Penney catalog, and I played it until the tuners busted off, which were made out of plastic. I used to play until my fingers would bleed, or I’d break a string and have to wait days and days to get a new one. I never really learned how to play covers, so I figure that contributes to my originality. I pick things up really quickly. I can play any instrument, and I’m a master of none, but I do feel like I’m a master of being original.”
For more information on O’Brien, visit http://rougemere.wix.com/samanthaobrien. Her new crowd-sourced project can be found at http://www.gofundme.com/thesamobrien.