Sam Burchfield
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Sam Burchfield

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Solo Americana Folk




"Sam Burchfield - Here Tonight"

We have an exclusive video premiere today from singer-songwriter Sam Burchfield who grew up in Seneca, South Carolina where his live stage was the likes of humble coffee shops and other small venues. Those days are far behind him now as his blend of blues rock, funk and folk have taken out on the road across the US.

The uplifting song Here Tonight is his latest song to undergo the video treatment for which we are pleased to be premiering today. It was directed, filmed and edited by Daniel Bagbey at Convolution Films. The scenery is absolutely stunning and although it looks like it was a bit of journey to lug their instruments up a hill the results make for a fun-filled video which comes with some raucous kids who seem set on dunking Sam in the river by whatever means necessary. - Folk Radio UK

"Why Athens Musician Sam Burchfield Abandoned 'American Idol'"

The plane to Los Angeles was departing in the morning. While dozens of freshly selected “American Idol” contestants eagerly awaited the trip without a second thought, Athens songwriter Sam Burchfield clutched his golden ticket and wondered if the prospect of mainstream success was worth sacrificing his musical freedom.

Between the pages of a thick contract lay a daunting reality: Continuing as a contestant on the show’s 13th season meant Burchfield would have to suspend his dream of a solo career in order to conform to “Idol” producers’ demands.

“The thing I really value about music is the freedom to do what I want to do,” says Burchfield. “That was kinda the moment when I said, ‘Screw this, I’m not gonna get on the plane’.”

To some, Burchfield’s decision to quit the popular Fox competition show after making it through the rigorous audition process may seem odd. Thousands of aspiring singers try out for the program each year in hopes of achieving fame and fortune. But for Burchfield, music has never been about those things.

Burchfield’s sound, featuring his smooth voice, bluesy guitar riffs and an effortlessly jazzy essence, had begun to attract fans before the “Idol” experience. During his time as an undergrad at the University of Georgia, Burchfield regularly performed with his band Street Rhythm and Rhyme, making a name for himself in college-scene circles in a few short years.

At UGA, Burchfield was also heavily involved in the music business program (MBUS), where he learned the fundamentals of production and industry standards.

“Sam was a great student,” says MBUS director David Barbe. “He is so into the creation of music and is the best [kind of] music business student, in that sense.”

Burchfield’s “Idol” tryout was not premeditated; a group of friends suggested at the last minute that he give the auditions in Atlanta a shot.

“I got into it really just on a whim, not knowing fully what I was doing,” he says.

After making it through multiple auditions that spanned several months, Burchfield arrived at the final round, where he performed in front of the three celebrity judges—Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban. Staying true to his quirky nature, Burchfield sang “I Wanna Be Like You,” a song from The Jungle Book, accompanying himself on guitar.

“Since I worked at a kids camp, I decided to do a kids song, which I thought was kind of clever,” says Burchfield.

The judges agreed. Two “yes” votes—from Urban and Lopez—meant that he received a coveted “golden ticket,” which would send him to the Hollywood round.

A Rude Awakening

Burchfield’s bliss was quickly tempered by the show’s contract, which the singer received only hours after his audition ended. The sheer length of the document made Burchfield skeptical about its content.

“In the music business program, we talked a lot about contracts,” says Burchfield. “When they gave me this massive contract, that’s when I started second-guessing everything.”

Burchfield quickly sought the advice of Barbe, his former professor, who referred Burchfield to Atlanta-based music lawyer Evita Kaigler. She agreed to examine the contract pro bono.

Kaigler tells Flagpole the “Idol” contract was a “kitchen sink deal,” explaining, “Everything that you could possibly imagine that you would want to do as an entertainer is tied into the contract in the very early stages.”

The contract would have restricted Burchfield from playing shows or recording music outside of the show. It also would have barred him from releasing his finished EP, Where to Run, until one year after the final episode of season 13 had aired. (Due to legal restrictions, Burchfield was reluctant to discuss particulars of the contract beyond that.)

Kaigler has seen many “Idol” contracts, and says a few of her clients have had success on the program. But success on the show, she emphasizes, does not necessarily transfer over to success in the industry.

“No matter how many people are dialing in each week to vote for you, we know that those numbers are not transferring over into record sales,” she says.

Burchfield concluded that the “Idol” stipulations did not align with his long-term goals.

“You can’t go out and build your career while you are a contestant on ‘American Idol’,” says Kaigler. “Sam… has invested in his career for a good amount of time and had a finished project [ready for release]. We had to consider if ‘American Idol’ was a platform that was consistent with who he was as an artist.”

Burchfield’s qualms with the show extended beyond legal matters. Ultimately, he says, he felt like he would be sacrificing his personality in order to “fit the part.” When the musician notified producers of his intent to leave the show, he was told “Idol” executives were hard at work on a “storyline” that would compare Burchfield to season 11 winner (and fellow Georgia native) Phillip Phillips.

“I don’t really like Phillip Phillips’ music,” says Burchfield. “I just need to be me, and that’s it.”

Burchfield, who now lives in Atlanta, says his “Idol” experience soured him on the “big business” element of the music industry.

“He ultimately chose that he did not want to sacrifice the creative vision of his art in exchange for more guaranteed financial success,” says Barbe. “I admire him for doing this, because a lot of people wouldn’t.”

The Right Decision

Burchfield says leaving the show was absolutely the right move for him. So why is “Idol” still such a beacon for aspiring singers? According to Burchfield, the answer is simple: Many young musicians believe the show is their only opportunity to make it in a troubled industry.

“People go into this thinking, ‘This is my only shot,’ and they are willing to do whatever they can to get the publicity,” he says. But, he argues, the program presents an inaccurate portrayal of what it takes to make it in music.

“[The show] promotes that you don’t have to put any work into music—you just show up, sing and look pretty, and if they like you, they prop you up with lots of money,” says Burchfield. “Anybody that has been doing music for a long time realizes that the good stuff comes from slow growth and a lot of practice.”

In addition, shows like “Idol,” Burchfield says, are geared towards people who don’t write original material. This is not the case for Burchfield, who brands his own style as “soulful folk.” He released the Motown-inspired Where to Run last January and has since celebrated his post-“Idol” freedom by forming a full band, complete with a permanent horn section. - Flagpole Magazine

"Introducing Sam Burchfield"

Recently, it was recommended that I listen to the music created by Sam Burchfield. I checked out a few of his tracks and my ears were liking what they were hearing. I needed to find out more about this talented musician. I was surprised to learn that he featured in the early stages of American Idol season 13 but has decided to release his music without the aid of the show. I have total respect for Sam as the path he was on could have seen him put in the limelight but he decided to do his own thing instead.

Sam has recently released his debut EP ‘Where to Run’ which has been received to great reviews. When I first listen to this EP, I heard the musical styles of Ray Lamontegne, (early) Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson which is why his sound has a familiar feel to me. This is a good thing as I am a huge fan of these artists. Sam delivers an acoustic soulful sound which has a twist of funk, folk and blues. It is the kind of EP that when you press play you want to kick it back and chill to. It has that type of sound that would be perfect for a warm summer evening when you want to wind down for the day.

I love how this EP has the cool vibe which is thanks to the combination of vocals and the guitars. They both sound so good and deliver a diversity in their own sound which is great for the listener. The vocal range that Sam delivers throughout the EP is very impressive as it has so much depth but still keeping this warm tone that pulls the listener in. You can definitely hear the passion for his music when he sings. The more I listen to ‘Where to Run’ the more I notice about Sam’s overall song writing ability and become more impressed with what he has created.

My stand out songs are ‘Here Tonight’ and ‘She got your Love’ which together gives the listener a good range of the music Sam has to offer. My favourite track is ‘Moses’ that oozes soul that has a sassy bluesy element to it too. I really like what the backing vocals and piano add to this track to help give it this overall cool groove. Love to hear what this would sound like when performed live. - My Random Jukebox


Still working on that hot first release.



Raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains of South Carolina, Sam Burchfield was brought up on Appalachian music: folk, gospel, country and southern soul.  The young songwriter draws on these roots with a deep lyrical honesty and carries the tradition of folk music forward. 

Burchfield’s upcoming EP, ‘Graveyard Flower’, seeks to reconnect to the Appalachian roots that raised him. In a world of cell phones and internet distractions, this body of work beckons the listener to plant their feet firmly in the soil. Reconnect to the land, reconnect to each other; ‘Graveyard Flower’ is honest music.

Sam Burchfield and his band of ‘Scoundrels’ have opened for wide range of talent, from St. Paul & The Broken Bones to CAAMP and Ben Rector. Whether a raucous full band performance or an intimate acoustic performance Burchfield’s lyrical depth and pure vocals bring to life beautifully crafted songs. After turning down multiple contracts, the up and coming folk singer has continued to release music independently and has grown over 150k monthly listeners on Spotify as well as millions of listens.

Band Members