“Sometimes You have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself” - Miles Davis
If you know Sam McGarrity, or have ever met him or seen him play, you might notice that he is, well, unique in many ways. Tall, big goofy grin, blue eyes, and a mane of long curly red hair, which, he hasn’t cut in over a decade. One thing's for sure though, it seems that he was destined to be a musician.
In his early years he remembers his first musical experience started in the mid 90's with The Beatles; listening to them while driving around in his mom's old beat-up black and maroon Jeep Cherokee. Originally he wanted to be a drummer. Wanting to emulate the smooth and palatable stylings of one Ringo Starr and receiving his first (and only) drum set at the age of 5, it seemed he was well on his way into the land of percussion. But as the years went by, his musical choices began to change, for better, for worse, and for the strange.
In middle school, it began with the classics: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Doors. Then, and with the help of one of his teachers, things took a turn for the heavy. Pantera and Metallica entered his perception. Alice in Chains, Guns N' Roses, Ozzy Osbourne and Van Halen. Then came the discovery of the "virtuoso" category of guitar shreddery, the likes of which he had never heard before. "Surfing With The Alien" by Joe Satriani he recalls as his introduction to this realm of guitar wizardry. Finding others like Steve Vai, John Petrucci, and Guthrie Govan, he began to learn everything he could from them and practicing like them (a discipline that hasn't waned). Having started a band with his friends and this new wealth of musical knowledge, he thought there was nothing more he needed to hear.
Then, reaching high school, a whole new world of music and musicians would cross his path. With making new friends who had creative musical pallets of their own, he was introduced to such pleasantly bewildering new music. From Frank Zappa, to King Crimson, Medeski Martin and Wood, Steely Dan, Umphrey's McGee, whole catalogues of jazz musicians from John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Miles Davis. He joined jazz band and became apart of a few different groups throughout the years, even winning the "prized" Battle of the Bands his senior year.
In 2009, he was accepted to the Berklee College of Music in Boston where he stayed for a year studying guitar performance before dropping out. Shortly thereafter and continuing his studies back home, he began playing in multiple projects, such as The Nice Ones, Ross Jenssen, Cura Cura to name a few while also taking a stab at writing and creating his own music.
The words ‘soul’ and ‘dedication’ come to mind when I think of Sam. He is committed to his craft and he goes all in. There has always been a fire-like intensity to his playing and more recently that intensity is maturing and becoming more expansive. His versatility as a guitarist extends beyond dirty riffs and face melting solos to atmospheric textures and hauntingly beautiful melody lines. He has a growing instinct to sense what a song needs and the technical ability to execute that live and in the studio. He also takes great joy in arranging. "Whether it's vocal lines, guitar lines, chords, I love to arrange harmonies and create layers and textures that add beauty to the music". Sam's instrumental attentions have expanded to piano as well as developing his voice, which if you've never heard him sing, is something to behold.