Iron & Wine

  • Indie folk musician, singer and songwriter born Samuel Beam in 1974 in Chapin South Carolina.
  • Beam was a lover of music and art as a young man. He graduated from college with a degree in art, and painted while going to graduate school, where he received a fine arts degree. He became a professor of film and cinematography. During his school years, he wrote songs, and a friend lent him a four-track recorder, which he used to make demos. While working on a film, he came across a dietary supplement called “Beef, Iron & Wine” in a store, and he choose “Iron & Wine” to be his moniker for his work in music.
  • One of his demos reached the editor of a music and art magazine, and the magazine used the song Dead Man’s Will in a compilation CD. A record company heard the song, and they requested Beam to send more material, anticipating a recording deal. Beam sent 2 CDs, both of which were the equivalent of full-length albums.
  • Beam was signed to a recording contract, and 12 songs were chosen from the demos for his debut album, The Creek Drank the Cradle, released in 2002. As it was recorded in Beam’s home, it was decidedly lo-fi, with Beam writing, performing and producing all tracks. The songs featured Beam’s vocals with acoustic and slide guitars, and a banjo. It was highly acclaimed by critics, who compared it to prominent folk artists like Nick Drake and Simon and Garfunkel.
  • In 2003, an EP titled The Sea & The Rhythm was released, featuring more songs recorded in his home studio. The title track was used in an episode of the television show The O.C. that year.
  • Determined to release music that reflected a shift in style, Iron & Wine released his second studio album in 2004 – Our Endless Numbered Days. Recorded in a professional studio, it included session musicians that gave the acoustic music a different perspective. It again was acclaimed by critics, and Beam became prominent in the folk indie pop scene. Several songs from the album were featured in television episodes and in films, particularly Naked As We Came, which was featured in the films In Good Company and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and in the television shows The L Word, Numb3rs, Ugly Betty and Grey’s Anatomy. The album made the Billboard 200 album chart, and three years after its released, it had sold nearly 200,000 copies, a considerable success given that his music was not mainstream and had little promotion.
  • Two EPs followed in 2005 – Woman King (which included electric guitars) and In the Reins (in collaboration with indie rock band Calexico, which provided a southwestern rock sound, including brass instruments). In 2007, his third studio album, the politically influenced The Shepherd’s Dog, was released. Again loved by the critics, it debuted at #25 on the album chart, and it peaked at #2 on the Independent Albums chart. The song Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car made Rolling Stone’s best songs of 2007 list. Flightless Bird, American Mouth was used in the film Twilight – specifically chosen by Kristen Stewart, the female lead character in the film. An acoustic version of the song was used in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1. 
  • Six studio albums were released during the 10s, each showing subtle style changes in Beam’s folk music. 2011’s Kiss Each Other Clean peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 and at #1 on three other Billboard album charts. The album reflected an incorporation of pop music with his acoustic style. Later albums leaned on jazz and R&B sounds blended with his folk tunes. Half of the albums were collaborations with other indie artists – Ben Bridwell, Jesca Hoop and Calexico.
  • Iron & Wine is one of those indie artists that you stumble upon, and then you are glad you did after you listen to a few of his pieces. You won’t hear him on the radio, unless you listen to non-commercial alternative stations like Public Radio. After reading about him here, maybe you’ll give him a listen – you can find him on your favorite streaming service, as well as YouTube. Here’s the first single from his The Shepherd’s Dog album – Boy With a Coin. Give it a try.

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