Tom Samulak: Fruitvale musician on stage at The Gorge

A Fruitvale born-and-raised turned country music artist is taking his talent to the big stage this weekend at The Gorge.

A Fruitvale born-and-raised turned country music artist is taking his talent to the big stage this weekend at The Gorge.

Tom Samulak, 25, is the lead guitarist with Haley and Michaels, a top-selling country duo performing Friday at the fourth-annual Watershed Festival. The three-day music and camping event includes country superstars Dierks Bentley, Florida Georgia Line and Carrie Underwood.

“I’m always excited to play, but I really hope to see some familiar faces,” he wrote the Trail Times Wednesday. “I’m just preparing myself as we speak, packing my bags.”

The humble musician is just following his passion. Although he’s not “quite there yet” in the music industry, he said when he makes it big his Kootenay pride will always remain strong.

“I’m always thankful for the hometown support and also my parents for never doubting me,” said the son of June and Darcy Samulak.

The acoustic and electric six-string guitarist was recently home with musical talent Molly Brown. The two brought a little bit of Nashville to his old stomping grounds with a show at the Villagers.

“It was a hoot,” he said earlier this month.

Samulak started taking guitar lessons with Pricilla Cole at about 10 years old and then from radio personality Wayne Kelly. His interest piqued in Grade 8 when he enrolled in his school’s band program.

After completing the Selkirk College music program, Samulak won one of 12 Fred Sherratt Awards. At 19 years old, he traveled Europe to explore the jazz scene.

He’s inspired by music idol Jimi Hendrix and spent many nights trying to learn his sound.

In his earlier days of finding his tune, Samulak enjoyed funk, blues, hip-hop, country, classic rock, bluegrass, and fusion. However, nowadays Nashville is starting to rub off on him. The band he plays with has a modern country sound “with a bit of a California twist to it.”

“I’m always happy to be playing anything, but really twangy, bendy guitar like Brad Paisley is my absolute favourite,” he said. “I like to learn from watching the old timers in Nashville.”

Samulak visited Nashville on a school spring break trip, where he witnessed 80 bands playing all day and night downtown on Broadway Street.

After graduation from Berklee College of Music, he packed his  “pickup full of clothes and equipment and saddled up for the 40-hour drive” with his dad to keep him company.

He considers his time in Music City invaluable.

“I want to go through a full lifetime of development in my craft, leaving behind a large body of work,” he said.

-With files from Jim Bailey