Steamboat Springs Sam Holt lived out a dream when he took the stage with Widespread Panic to finish out a summer tour as their guitarist in 2006.
A guitar tech for the renowned Southern rock jam band from 2000 to 2007, Holt later went on to start his own group, Georgia-based Outformation, inspired by encouraging words from Panic guitarist Michael Houser before his death in 2002.
Now a Front Range resident, Nashville-born Holt started the Sam Holt Band in July, featuring himself, Michael “Spanky” McCluer on bass, Adam Stern on pedal steel and guitar and Andy Clapp on drums.
They’ll play a free show at Old Town Pub on Saturday with soulful rock originals. But don’t expect to hear any popular Panic tunes.
“I don’t want to hear anyone play those songs except those guys,” he said.
Holt took a few minutes Thursday for an interview with Explore Steamboat.
Explore Steamboat: Why did you make the move to Denver in 2010?
Sam Holt: Outformation decided to not play anymore, and we all decided to go do our own things. And one of our best markets was always here. It was such a great live music scene out here in Denver and Boulder and the mountains. My girlfriend was out here, and it just seemed like a natural thing to do, to come out here and keep playing music.
It just seems more laid back. People are really nice in the South, and people are really nice out here in different ways.
Even though I come from the South where the pace is slow, it’s just a different vibe here.
ES: What was it like to play as a substitute guitarist for Widespread Panic?
SH: It was pretty surreal the first few times. And then by the end of that summer tour, I was becoming really comfortable with it. It became really like a celebration of the music to me, the end of that summer.
It gave me a lot of confidence that I could do this. It gave me a lot of material for life experience for songwriting.
ES: Were you a fan of Widespread Panic growing up?
SH: It’s kind of like a “fight club” to me in a way. People do talk about it, but you take your own experiences and you make it so internalized and personal. I was a fan early on in the 1990s, when I was really young. They were one of the first bands I could go and see up close. Then I got into the taping thing.
I remember that first time, we brought in two different microphones and two stands and we had this old tape deck, we were all nervous. It’s addicting. You can see this band you really like and record it and listen to it over and over.
ES: When did you first become interested in playing guitar?
SH: I remember seeing “The Song Remains the Same” on TV on Christmas Day in ninth or 10th grade and seeing Jimmy Page play. I was floored. It really spoke to me. I asked for a guitar and got one when I was 15 or 16. I took a couple lessons, but I was a lot more interested in learning songs than theory and sales.
I never really had any aspirations of playing professionally, but I just kept doing it.
ES: How did the Sam Holt Band come together?
SH: I ran across Spanky and Andy playing with other bands and they’re so … honestly, I was so psyched they were willing to play with me because they’re so good.
And Adam, I always knew he was good … and he started playing pedal steel guitar, and he’s really blossomed on the instrument.
I come from the South, man, and a lot of the songs have that country leaning. So having that sound and texture on the guitar is just ... I love it.