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Benefit show is a chance for Sam Beam to explore his love of film

Peter Mongillo

Sam Beam, the Dripping Springs-based singer-songwriter also known as Iron and Wine, is a busy man. When he's not on the road, Beam is a full-time father to five daughters. He's also hard at work finishing the follow-up to his successful 2007 album "The Shepherd's Dog." It's a schedule that doesn't allow much time to perform up the road in Austin, something that makes his two appearances next week at the Paramount Theatre even more special.

In the second year of what Beam hopes will continue to become a larger event, the indie folk darling will perform a concert Thursday to benefit the Midwives Alliance of North America, the night after hosting a film.

"The cause is important to me," he said by phone this month from Virginia, where he was visiting family. "My wife is a midwife, we've had all our kids at home and it's been such a good experience that I like to do what I can to see that women have the option of having a midwife."

Last year's event was so successful — raising much more money than expected — that Beam decided to add a second recipient this year. Part of the proceeds from Thursday's show, which includes a guest appearance from members of past Iron and Wine collaborators Calexico, will go to the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. Beam says that he chose HAAM in part because he knows what it is like to be a musician without health insurance.

On Wednesday at the Paramount, Beam will host "Iron and Wine Movie Night," in which he will introduce a screening of Terrence Malick's 1973 film "Badlands." Beam, who earned an master's of fine arts from Florida State University's film school and taught film classes at Miami International University, says that Malick's films rank among his favorites.

He was excited that a print of "Badlands" was available, partly because Malick resides in the Austin area (don't expect to see the reclusive director at the screening). "It's an older movie that a lot of people know about but not many people get a chance to see it in a theater," he said.

In the context of the lush and often dark Gothic tinge that characterize many Iron and Wine songs, Beam's choice of "Badlands," which is based on an actual 1950s killing spree, isn't too surprising. Beam introduced a screening of another Malick film, "Days of Heaven," at the 2009 All Tomorrow's Parties Festival in New York.

Beam's love of film is not limited to hosting screenings; this year he directed a video for the Swell Season's "Low Rising" (the Swell Season's Glen Hansard joined Beam at last year's benefit show). He developed the concept for the video, which features Hansard and bandmate Marketa Irglova going about their day, each with a personal rain shower above their head. He says it was fun to bring his perspective to someone else's song and that he'd like to do more directing in the future.

His background in film also plays a role in his songwriting. "It's not like I sit and try to think of a movie when writing, but I did have the training in screenwriting where you learn to communicate visually, and I think I've always been drawn that kind of communication, whether it's painting or photography or film," he said. "It's more interesting to me; it's a bit more open ended. It's much more fun to paint a picture and let people draw their own conclusions."

Fans of Iron and Wine can expect a new album in the beginning of 2011. It will be his first release of new material since 2007's "The Shepherd's Dog" (in 2009 he released "Around the Well," a collection of previously unreleased singles and B-sides), which saw Beam take his music in a more expansive direction, incorporating new layers of percussion and experimental sounds.

Beam jokes when asked how the material compares with his previous work.

"It's newer," he laughs. "There seems to be more of a pop element to it. It definitely picks up where 'The Shepherd's Dog' left off. It's got the same amount of sonic bits and bobs, at the same time there's horns, a lot more keys, it's kind of all over the place. Some people that have listened to it say it sounds like the smell of their parents car in the '70s — all their favorite AM Gold."

In the meantime, Beam says he's thinking about ways to expand next year's benefit show, possibly by adding performers. "Now that we've decided to make it an annual thing, we can kind of do whatever we want," he said. "I'd like to make it something different each year."

Sam Beam at the Paramount