Samuel Beam (born July 26, 1974), better known by his stage and recording name Iron & Wine, is an American singer-songwriter. He has released five studio albums, several EPs and singles, as well as a few download-only releases, which include a live album (a recording of his 2005 Bonnaroo performance). He occasionally tours with a full band.
Beam was raised in South Carolina before moving to Virginia and then Florida to attend school. He now resides in Dripping Springs, Texas, near Austin. The name Iron & Wine is taken from a dietary supplement named "Beef Iron & Wine" that he found in a general store while shooting a film.
Beam was raised in Chapin, South Carolina, where his father worked in land management and his mother was a schoolteacher. When he was a child, his family took regular trips to the country, where his grandfather ran a farm. He attended Seven Oaks Elementary School, Chapin Middle School, and Chapin High School. While home from college, he was a waiter at California Dreaming restaurant in Columbia. Beam earned a bachelor's degree in art from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. He specialized in painting. He graduated from the Florida State University Film School with an MFA degree. Before the release of the first Iron & Wine album, Beam's main source of income was as a professor of film and cinematography at the University of Miami and Miami International University of Art & Design. He had been writing songs for over seven years before a friend lent him a four-track recorder. He began making demos and gave one to his friend Michael Bridwell, brother of Band of Horses lead singer, Ben Bridwell. Michael handed it to Mike McGonigal, editor of Yeti magazine, who chose "Dead Man's Will", later released on In the Reins, for inclusion on one of his magazine's compilation CDs. Beam later came to the attention of Sub Pop Records co-owner, Jonathan Poneman, who contacted Beam to propose a deal.
Beam released his first Iron & Wine album, The Creek Drank the Cradle, on the Sub Pop label in 2002. Beam wrote, performed, recorded and produced the album in his home studio. Featuring acoustic guitars, banjo, and slide guitar, the album's music has been compared to that of Nick Drake,Simon and Garfunkel,Elliott Smith, Neil Young and John Fahey.
Also in 2002, Beam recorded a cover of The Postal Service's then-unreleased song "Such Great Heights". Rather than being included on an Iron & Wine release, the track was initially included as a b-side of the original version by The Postal Service. It was later included on the B-sides and rarities album, Around the Well. He then followed up on his debut album in 2003 with The Sea & The Rhythm, an EP containing other home-recorded tracks with a similar style to the songs on the debut.
Beam's second full-length album, Our Endless Numbered Days (2004), was recorded in a professional studio with a significant increase in fidelity. Produced in Chicago by Brian Deck, the focus was still on acoustic material, but the inclusion of other band members gave rise to a slightly different sound. That same year, he recorded the song "The Trapeze Swinger" for the film In Good Company, and had his version of "Such Great Heights" featured in an advertisement for M&M's and in the film and soundtrack for Garden State. This version was later used in a 2006 Ask.com advertisement, and eventually released as a single in 2006 backed with recordings of "The Trapeze Swinger" and "Naked as We Came" made for Radio Vienna.
In February 2005, he released an EP entitled Woman King, which expanded on the sounds of his previous LP with the addition of electric guitars. Each track features a spiritual female figure, and had subtle Biblical undertones.
The EP In the Reins, a collaboration with the Arizona-based rock band Calexico, was released in September 2005. Beam wrote all of the EP's songs years earlier, but Calexico added their trademark fusion of southwestern rock, traditional Mexican music and jazz to the songs' arrangements. Several tracks, most notably, "Burn That Broken Bed", feature brass instruments, a first for Beam's music.
The third full-length Iron & Wine album, entitled The Shepherd's Dog, was released September 25, 2007. This album was voted one of the ten best of 2007 by Paste magazine. Contributors included Joey Burns and Paul Niehaus of Calexico, as well as jazz musicians Matt Lux and Rob Burger. When asked to describe the album to The Independent, Beam remarked that "it's not a political propaganda record, but it's definitely inspired by political confusion, because I was really taken aback when Bush got reelected."
Beam has released most of his music on iTunes, including several exclusive EPs. The Iron & Wine iTunes Exclusive EP features unreleased studio recordings, including a Stereolab cover and two tracks which had previously only appeared on vinyl. The Live Session (iTunes Exclusive) features Beam and his sister, Sarah Beam, performing a number of tracks from his albums, as well as a cover of New Order's "Love Vigilantes". Sarah Beam has contributed backing vocals on many of Beam's studio recordings.
Beam's music has appeared in television series such as Grey's Anatomy, The L Word and House M.D. "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" was used in the film Twilight. The song was specifically chosen for the film's prom scene by Kristen Stewart, the female lead, and appears on the film's soundtrack.
The B-sides and rarities album Around the Well was released in 2009. Iron & Wine also contributed the song "Stolen Houses (Die)" to the AIDS benefit album Dark Was the Night produced by the Red Hot Organization.
On November 26, 2010 Iron & Wine released a special edition Record Store Day Black Friday 12" vinyl and CD single called, Walking Far From Home for independent record stores.
Kiss Each Other Clean, Iron & Wine's fourth full-length album, was released on January 25, 2011 on Warner Bros. Records in North America and 4AD for the rest of the world. With this album, Beam blends his earlier styles with a stronger pop influence.
Iron & Wine's fifth studio album, Ghost on Ghost, was released on 15/16 April 2013 on Nonesuch Records in North America and 4AD for the rest of the world.Ghost on Ghost marks a further exploration into the pop sounds of Kiss Each Other Clean while also exhibiting Jazz and R&B influences, with Jazz drummer Brian Blade contributing to the album.
Beam, his wife Kim, and their five daughters live in Dripping Springs, Texas near Austin. He was raised in the Bible belt as a Christian, but is now an agnostic: "That was a confusing time for me, but I don't miss being misled. I'm not an atheist. There's an undeniable unseen world that some people call God and think they know more about than other people. I try not to get hung up on the names."
In 2011, a portrait of Beam was painted by British artist Joe Simpson. The painting was exhibited around the UK, including in a solo exhibition at The Royal Albert Hall.