Happy Birthday, Samuel Beam, of Iron and Wine, a Former Miamian Who Influenced Local Musicians | County Grind | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

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Happy Birthday, Samuel Beam, of Iron and Wine, a Former Miamian Who Influenced Local Musicians

Of all the national acts South Florida has exported to the rest of the world, Sam Beam may well have been the most unlikely.

His hushed, introverted stance is a far cry from the effusive approach taken by most reared in these environs, whether they were birthed in the disco boom (KC and the Sunshine Band, Betty Wright), raised our rock 'n' roll credibility (Marilyn Manson, the Goods), or even ventured into country crossover (the Mavericks).

Despite the fact that his sound didn't seem tailored for mainstream acceptance, Beam persevered and, under the aegis of Iron and Wine, managed to become this region's most prominent indie alt-folk contender to date.

Born July 26, 1974, Beam spent his childhood in South Carolina and Virginia before settling in South Florida and graduating from Florida State University's Film School with his MFA. After relocating to Miami, he became a professor of film and cinematography at the University of Miami and the Art Institute.

Although a painter by trade, his first love was music, and after seven years of recording his own homegrown demos, he finally decided to give one to his friend Michael Bridwell, whose brother Ben helmed the group Band of Horses. Eventually the tape found its way into the hands of an influential music editor who decided to include his song "Dead Man's Will" in one of his magazine's compilations. The president of Seattle's Sub Pop Records heard the song, which led him to offer Beam a contract. It was on Sub Pop that his first album, The Creek Drank the Cradle, was released in 2002.

Although Beam recorded primarily on his own, he opted to work under a moniker other than his name, borrowing the branding Iron and Wine from a dietary supplement he discovered while shooting one of his films. So while various collaborators have contributed to his albums and accompanied him in concert, Beam remains the sole musician who can claim the Iron and Wine handle. He released four studio albums, three live efforts, a compilation, and at least a dozen EPs over the past decade. Each is an example of his quiet, introspective stance and the atmospheric ambiance that embraces it. Eventually, his success prompted him to leave South Florida, and he currently resides with his wife, Kim, and their five daughters in a small town on the outskirts of Austin, Texas.

Iron and Wine's reputation can be measured by the critical kudos Beam's received and a steadily growing legion of admirers who have helped increase his following. At the same time, he's made other inroads as well, contributing to several movie soundtracks -- among them Garden State and Twilight -- a number of television shows, including Grey's Anatomy, The L Word and House, and even an advert for M&Ms. Not surprisingly, Iron and Wine has also become a staple on the festival circuit, most notably Bonnaroo, where one of his earliest live albums was recorded in 2005.

Perhaps the greatest affirmation of Iron and Wine's progress thus far lies in the fact that Beam was recruited by Warner Bros., one of the music industry's few remaining majors. The first fruits of this relationship emerged at the beginning of 2011, when Warners released Beam's label debut, Kiss Each Other Clean.

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Lee Zimmerman

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