Feb 5, 2013
What a busy year 2012 was! And I can't believe it's already FEBRUARY.. Whaaat?? Way too much happened last year for just one blog post, but I'll fit in as much as I can to sum up the year.
I released a full-length album, I played some shows and made some friends in Japan, I stayed super busy with my custom commercial music business, Primary Color Music, I started writing a column for a new publication in KC called The Record, and I released a Christmas album with my dad, brother, and friend Josh Atkinson.
My full-length album, PLACES, was released in October and I'm happy that people seemed to really enjoy it. I've actually seen it show up on a number of 'top albums of 2012' lists in the past couple of months. Check them out here:
The Death Cat (Austria)
Over the summer, I spent a couple of months in Japan with my family. I met up with one of my favorite Japanese bands, Tenniscoats, and we performed and recorded a bit together (check out the video below). Through them, I met a number of great artists and friends in the Tokyo area. I look forward to hopefully making it back over there this summer to perform again. I also did a little video series called Sam in Japan - click here to see some of those videos.
My company, Primary Color Music, created custom songs for a number of projects in 2012. One of my favorites by far was a project called Far West. Usually PCM does music for commercials or short films, but Far West is actually a table-top role-playing board game - it was a welcomed challenge to try composing for something so different and unique. The game's theme called for a mix of old spaghetti western music and some asian instrumentation (sounded like the perfect combination to me!). You can hear the result below:
I also created some music for an awesome production company called Bazillion Pictures to be used in a handful of videos for hilmor tools. Here's the main video from that project:
Lastly, the Christmas album. Every year for the past 5 years or so, I've been doing a Christmas music project - some have been big, some small. This year's project was a bit smaller, but (in my opinion) no less powerful than in previous years. It was a 7-song, instrumental Christmas EP called Merry Christmas - I worked together with my father Bill, my brother Dan, and our good friend Josh Atkinson on the album. We offered it on my bandcamp page as a free download - stream/download it right here!
I'm already into the full swing of 2013 and staying just as busy as ever. I hope your year is off to a good start as well!
Watch for more updates here on sambillen.com as the year progresses (or sign up for the mailing list on the right if you want to be notified of new releases and other big news every once in a while)!
Dec 12, 2012
For about 5 years, I've been doing Christmas projects - sometimes on my own, sometimes with friends. This year, I teamed up with my long-time Christmas-project-buddy, Josh Atkinson, and we brought my brother Dan and father Bill into the fold as well. The album is purely instrumental and was recorded over the last couple of months in Kansas (the Billens) and Japan (Josh). My good friend and ex-bandmate, John Jared Bowes, chipped in to master the album for us. Download the whole thing for free by clicking here or listen to it below!
I wanted to keep the music mostly acoustic, but anyone that knows my brother knows that he can't make a song without bringing in some old synth sounds. With that said, the resulting sound is a nice mixture of acoustic instruments (guitars, dobro, banjo) with some other slightly electronic elements mixed in. It's a short collection - about 22 minutes long - but I think it really captures the simple beauty and deep mystery of Christmas. I hope you enjoy it!
If you choose to download it for free via the player on bandcamp, click 'download' or 'buy now' and enter 0.00 for the price - consider it a Christmas gift from us to you! If you choose to drop a dollar or two on it, that's alright! Please just know that we are going to give any money made on this album to charity.
Also, please consider sharing this album with friends and family by clicking 'share' on the player above or by sharing the link (http://sambillen.us4.list-
Nov 14, 2012
I woke up this morning to find a couple of cool articles online about my new album (yes, I google myself occassionally to keep up with what people might be saying about me).
The first is by Jason Morehead and was written for Christ and Pop Culture blog - which is a part of patheos.com - it's a very cool, in-depth review/interview with me about Places. Check it out here. I was also humbled to see this sweet artwork (see below) with my face plastered in a beautiful Japanese horizon that was made for the article by Seth Hahne.
I also found a great article by one of my favorite local blogs here in the Lawrence/KC area, IHeartLocalMusic.com - it's a review of my album release party that took place in downtown Lawrence last week. Read it here. The writer, Lillian, also got some cool shots of the party as well - here's one of my favorites - it's my daughter, Hannah, and I just hanging out:
Lastly, a good friend of mine, Rolfy, was also at the release party and made a sweet video of the party. Watch it below. Thanks Rolfy!!
Nov 12, 2012
Nov 9, 2012
Oct 28, 2012
Since it's recent release, my new album Places (you can hear the whole thing on the widget/player to the right), has been gaining some traction in the music blogosphere. You can find some of the reviews and interviews worth noting at the bottom of this blog post. Very cool to see people enjoying the new music!
In the past month, I've mailed out approximately 300 copies of the album - I've even had some people sending me pictures of them holding and playing with the new album. Check them out!
(Michelle, Kansas City)
I really like this idea, so if you got or get a copy of the album - take a picture and tag me on facebook or e-mail it to me!
In other news, I've decided to offer my last full-length album, Headphones and Cellphones, as a free download through NoiseTrade - I'm hoping it spurs some interest in my new album as well! If you don't have Heaphones and Cellphones yet, head over to NoiseTrade and download it now!
Lastly, tune in to 90.1 KKFI (or http://www.kkfi.org/) at 10am on Wed. November 21 - I'll be on the air talking with Mark Manning about the new album.
Reviews and interviews regarding the new album, PLACES:
And if you read German, check out the review on The Death Cat.
It was also listed as one of the top DIY releases of the week by IndieRockCafe.
More updates soon!! Thanks for reading.
Sep 19, 2012
My good friend, Danny Joe Gibson, made a beautiful video for the song Choices off of my new album, Places. So simple and innocent - reminds of how Terrence Malick chose such simple things in the Tree of Life to remind us of our humanity - things we notice as children, but pass right by as we grow older.
Lastly, the CDs are currently in production. They will all be hand-assembled - we've got different pieces coming in from different factories, so expect to see them in early October. I got the discs in the mail yesterday and they look awesome! I can't wait to get the cases in to start putting them together.
If you haven't heard the new album yet, please scroll down to my last blog update to listen to it.
Sep 15, 2012
It's been many months (years, actually) in the making and the day has finally arrived to release the album Places! I can't thank those who supported the creation and release of this album enough. It's my first solo album in 3 years, but it's really not a 'solo' album at all - many friends poured their time, efforts, and finances into making this possible. I offer my sincerest gratitude to them for that.
For those of you kind enough to swing by the site here to find more information, I'd like to share a listen of the album with you. If you like it, please consider sharing it with your friends and/or purchasing the full album for $7 on bandcamp.
Watch for more updates on the album, music videos (one coming out by the incredible Danny Joe Gibson on Tues. Sept. 18 and one in the works by the talented Matt White), etc. coming soon. SIgn up for the mailing list to the right to be notified of new things (and don't worry - I usually only send out about 2 or 3 e-mails a year!). Thanks!
Aug 15, 2012
Aug 13, 2012
Sometimes you find amazing things in Japan. Sometimes you don't. This time, I did.
Aug 12, 2012
There are lots of festivals that take place throughout the summer (and the whole year) in Japan. I've been to this wonderful country probably 8 or 9 times, but up until this trip, I never had the chance to go to a festival. Finally, thanks to my wife's parents, I got the chance to go. It was so fun to see our daughter Hannah in her yukata, playing games, eating snow cones, enjoying this beautiful Japanese tradition.
Honestly, it strongly resembled our 4th of July festivals/celebrations in the U.S., but there was something starkly different about it - maybe it was the fact that this tradition echoes back thousands of years, maybe it was the fact that this festival was taking place during obon season (a time to show honor to ancestors by visiting your hometown, etc.). Whatever it was, it inspired me to make this a more melancholic reflection on the experience.
The music was something I created with my music production company www.primarycolormusic.com.
Please enjoy the music and images.
Aug 8, 2012
My daughter, father-in-law, and I went to Tokyo Disneyland a couple of weeks ago. It's always been a magical place to me, but this time it was even more so being able to watch my 3 year old experience it for the first time. I wanted to make a short video that captured (to the best of my limited abilities) the magic and excitement we felt while we were there. The video was really fun to put together - the music even more so!
Aug 7, 2012
We took some time to go out into the Japanese countryside (don't ask me where because I have no idea! I think it was somewhere around... Narita Airport?) to visit Yuka's relatives a week or two ago. Honestly, it was hot, muggy, and very unenjoyable... That is, until the first beer hit my mouth.
Aug 3, 2012
I LOVE food in Japan. Bread shops on every street corner, vending machines with every drink you could imagine (including beer (sometimes)!), fresh sushi, takoyaki (octopus balls), kakigori (shaved ice), etc. etc. One of my absolute favorite meals in Japan, though, is called YAKINIKU (literal translation: 'grill meat'). Watch the video to see how it's done!
Aug 2, 2012
Love the Beatles? They do in Japan, too. Lennon House is just one of many 'Beatles fan bars' in and around Tokyo. My family and I took a trip to Lennon House last night and I put together this little video to show just how fun it was. Sure, the sound mix wasn't great and we could've used a bit of practice, but we sure had fun!
Jul 29, 2012
New Sam in Japan episode - short but sweet! Bellydancerzzz:
Jul 25, 2012
Challenge the TRIPLE! at 31!
Jul 21, 2012
Cheesiest, most 'slideshow-esque' video yet in the Sam in Japan series. Hope you like it though! The video doesn't do this park justice. It was straight out of a movie. People were actually out having fun - it was a blast!
Jul 18, 2012
The video basically says it all, but for those of you that are still running on a 26k phone modem and don't have time for the 12 min video to load, I'll give you a quick rundown. I got invited to sing backup for one of my favorite Japanese bands, Tenniscoats, this last weekend. It was an amazing experience. I met so many great people at the show/festival and I can't wait to sing with them again!
OK - now watch the video!
Jul 12, 2012
My family came to Japan for about 6 weeks this summer. My wife is teaching at an intensive summer Japanese language program at her alma mater, International Christian University (ICU), and our daughter, Hannah, and I decided to come along for the ride.
We're living in a dorm - had no idea what to expect of it - but were pleasantly surprised to find out how nice it was!
I haven't done a great job of keeping 'Sam in Japan' focused on 'cultural' things like I wanted to, so I spent a little time talking about the JAPANESE TOILET SYSTEM on this one. Truly an amazing invention.
Enjoy the video! Another one will be up soon.