Samuel Stephenson and Cameron Potts are two classic gentleman, dress the part and play charming indie folk songs. The duo forms the band Oxford and Co., and count everything from the musical Grease to classic rock to the hard-living country sounds of Johnny Cash amongst their influences. We caught up with them in Washington Square Park, where the duo hit the NYC street for a morning busk.
Sam and Cam talk about the history of Oxford & Co., why Australian country is still finding its footing, and how easy it is to be brutally honest in an e-mail.
How was the first New York busking session?
It was special, actually. People threw some dollars into the box. I think we’ve got enough to get a sandwich between us now.
Tell us a little bit about Oxford & Co. How did it start?
We actually met at university back at the University of New South Wales in Kensington. We’d known each other, but hadn’t really hung out that much. We played together a bit, decided we liked each other enough. Now fast forward a couple of years and we’re here.
Tell us about the making of your self-titled EP? How did you guys record that?
We actually got a little holiday house on the south coast of Oz ad spent a week locked up down there, writing and recording and producing the album together. We did it ourselves. When we finished that off, we got a drummer and that was that. It was a pretty organic, awesome experience.
What brought you guys to the US?
A few reasons actually, but really we just thought it was the ideal spot for our music. Our music resonates with the market here pretty easily. Nashville in particular was attractive to us. Our music has that country edge so there was always that allure but we haven’t made it to Nashville yet…except to play shows. We might end up with a ranch in Nashville at some point. That was the romantic idea we had back in the day.
Do you guys have similar musical tastes?
We agree on quite a lot of music actually. We both love Paul Simon an awful lot. Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Springsteen, The Beatles. We love all that kind of stuff.
We hear you guys have a weakness for the musical Grease? Why do you guys like that so much?
Just being a human? How can you not love it? My mum was really influential in my music choice-she had a vinyl of Grease and she would just play it non-stop my sister had two Grease themed parties growing up.
It is awesome, but I had this amazing distaste for musicals in general, and Grease was at the top of that list. I thought: ‘why is everyone so into this stuff?’ Then I became a music teacher back home and had to watch these musicals as part of my classes and really started to like it a lot.
Funny that you two even agree on that now-as you said though, have a country though? Do you guys listen to much country western type stuff?
A lot of old whiskey soaked country music. Hank Williams and Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings. Johnny Cash is a big influence on our single “Love is Gone”
Any Australian country at all?
Australian country is still growing up. We got overexposed to the country pop bands of America and got a little bit lost. There’re a lot of Australian country acts, or americana acts, who’re bringing it back to what it is. Slim Dusty is great because he knew how to keep it simple.
What’s appealing to you two about country? Is it the musical sound, or the lyrical content, or both?
We like the simplicity and succinctness of the older country guys. They can only have a couple chords, but really nail the heart of the song. But we also love modern day production, so we’re trying to do a little bit of both.
How has technology helped you guys? What do you think about its place in music?
It’s been really positive actually-technology has made things so much easier for us. Now besides being on the phone every other day both of us are writing on our own material and we just share it via the net.
Has that collaborative space become pretty important to Oxford & Company’s creative process?
We can collaborate but also give it a real personal touch. We’re not in each others’ face all the time so we can add our own kind of flavor without compromising, then come together and go ‘Ok, what are the best parts? how do they work? what’s the best for our songs? It’s easier to be honest through an email than face to face.
Hah, that’s the truth. Thanks boys.