Since the release of her tribute to the Covenant School in Nashville, “Falling off the Merry Go Round” a few months back, Pam Ross has been riding a steady wave to the forefront of the americana music landscape. Performing her own brand of “Pam Music” on a regular basis has given her a strong foothold on the eastern seaboard, and now, with the release of her Top 10 UK iTunes hit, “Two Shots of Tequila,” Pam is looking at taking on the world. She took a few moments to answer some questions for us…
Can you tell us about your experience performing “Pam music?”
It all started when people would come up to me after shows and ask what I call my music…what genre do I consider it to be. I didn’t have an answer. I would tell them it’s a blend of americana, roots rock, and country. It’s Pam Music. I don’t conform to any particular genre. People agreed and the name stuck.
How do you approach interpreting and conveying the emotion behind your lyrics?
I just perform and the emotion comes out. It’s nothing intentional. All of my songs come from something I’ve experienced in some way, so the emotion is already there.
What inspired you to pursue a career as a singer?
It’s what I always wanted to do. I’ve gotten sidetracked a few times along the way, but I always come back to music. It’s the one thing that I truly love to do. I can’t say there was one inspirational moment that made me say, “Hey, I want to be a singer.” It’s really the first thing I ever wanted to be.
How do you engage with your audience during a performance?
Every audience is different. I try to read them a bit. I enjoy talking about my songs a little and what inspired me to write them. I also enjoy going out into the crowd while I’m playing and running around. It’s cool to be out there with them. I like to make the audience feel like they’re part of show, which in my opinion, they are.
Can you walk us through your process for selecting songs to perform?
It depends on where I’m playing. Is this a songwriter showcase, a family-oriented festival, or a bar? Those things help me make decisions on what to play. I always make changes to my set list during a show. I read the audience and change things up to fit with their vibe. To me, a set list is just a rough draft of what the show will look like. You need to be flexible and make adjustments on the fly to keep things moving in the right direction.
How do you handle difficult or challenging performance situations, such as technical issues or an unresponsive audience?
Both will eventually happen. At first, it’s terrifying but the more experienced you get, the more you roll with the flow. I always carry an extra guitar to my shows in case a string breaks during a performance. It happens. I just tell the audience; I’ll be right back because I broke a string. They’re always understanding if you explain what’s going on.
An unresponsive audience is every performer’s worst nightmare, but it happens. I try to focus on the people who are listening and play to them. Another thing I do is tell myself, “Hey, I’m still playing music for a living. I’m doing what I love to do while most people wake up and hate their job. This may not be the best show, but I’m still doing what I love and getting paid for it.” I believe if you can throw positive vibes out then things will turn around.
How do you maintain the distinctiveness and authenticity of the roots genre while also making it appealing to modern audiences?
I write what I write. I very rarely target a particular genre when I write a song. My distinctiveness comes from the variety of artists that have influenced me over the years. That’s why some songs lean roots rock while other lean country, etc. I don’t fight it. I just let it flow and hope that people will like it. I’m fortunate that people do. I think, as a songwriter, you lose something when you try too hard to fit in or make a hit record. I let the creativity flow and hope for the best.
Have you collaborated with other musicians or artists in the past? How did that experience impact your approach to music?
I don’t collaborate with other musicians. I did use a close friend as a sounding board when I rewrote Two Shots of Tequila. It would be interesting to try and write with someone, but up until now I’ve been writing alone.
Can you speak to your knowledge of the history and cultural significance of roots and americana music?
For me, it’s the cornerstone of what I do. Roots rock and americana can be found woven throughout all my songs. When you listen to today’s rock and country artists talk about who influenced them, you’ll often hear names like Springsteen, Mellencamp, Tom Petty, The Eagles, Lucinda Williams, and others. The influences of artists like these are so widespread. I think that is one of the reasons we’ve been seeing country music lean in a rock / pop direction. Today’s artists have been influence by roots rock / americana songwriters just as much as the classic country songwriters.
How do you continue to develop your skills and push yourself creatively as a singer?
I’m always listening to different genres of music. Old and new rock, country, blues, etc. To me, it’s really about the songwriting above being a singer. Songwriting is where the real creativity is for me. The rest just falls into place.
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