Going way back to February’s In Rotation Playlist series, the first song in the entire series “In the Midst” featured production from Tom Misch and a standout vocal performance from UK artist, Sam Wills. Sam’s soulful vocals brought life to the track and made it one of the standouts from Tom Misch’s Beat Tape 2.
Having recently released his latest EP So Bright, Sam Wills is set to make a name for himself with a strong passion for making quality music. I recently sat down with Sam to discuss his musical influences, creative process, the UK music scene, and how he plans to bring his music to life with a live performance. In the interview below you will find Sam is an incredibly humble talent that has the passion and drive to build a successful music career.
At the end of the interview, listen to Sam’s So Bright EP in full and be sure to follow him on his SoundCloud account.
Sonic Selects (SS): First off, Sam thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Let’s start from the beginning, your musical taste. What songs did you listen to growing up? Who had a major influence on your musical taste? Was there an artist or genre that inspired you to get into music?
Sam Wills (SW): Thanks for having me! The first musical obsession I remember was when my mum bought me a Michael Jackson VHS, with all his music videos on it. I was 5 at the time, and watched it on repeat! His music has really stayed with me. At the time when I first started writing songs at age 12, I was listening to a lot of John Legend/Jamie Cullum; they both really inspired me in the early days.
SS: Building on your musical taste. When did you discover your passion for music and was there a specific moment that you realized that you want to pursue music full-time?
SW: I think I’ve always had a passion for music. I was looking through some home videos a few months ago, and though I didn’t remember, there’s a lot of me singing (badly!) from a young age. I didn’t realize it was something I wanted to pursue until I wrote my first song age 12, and I haven’t really looked back since.
SS: Do you remember the first song you shared with a large audience? Did you experience a range of emotions from when you first put it out to when you received praise? Has the experience of putting out new music changed for you?
SW: It’s been a pretty staggered process for me, putting out music. I used to put demos online when I was younger (to little reception, probably because they weren’t very good). Then I’ve done quite a few features, which is weird as you feel attached to it, but not like it’s yours. Definitely the one that I was most apprehensive about was Electrified as it was the first song I’d properly released. It was feelings of excitement, relief, and nervousness, but it was amazing to see a song that I wrote (with Karma Kid), under my name, go out into the world, and for it to get a positive reception was wicked!
SS: The first record I heard you on was your collaboration with Tom Misch on “In the Midst of It All”. That is a standout record for me. How did that collaboration come about? Did you collaborate on the song start to finish or was the beat already made you just had to lay down some incredible vocals?
SW: Ah cheers! Tom got in contact with me after someone tagged him on one of my jam videos on Instagram saying we should collaborate. I went up to London to Tom’s and we listened through some rough ideas he had for his Beat Tape 2, and I loved the vibe of “In The Midst”.
I started singing melodies/lyrics over it and within a couple of hours, we had the main sketch down. I did a little more work on the vocals at home, Tom did a bit more work on the beat, and we put in another few hours at Tom’s to finish it off.
SS: What is your creative process when creating a record? What do you start with, the beat, chords, a lyric? What is the ideal vibe you want to have in the studio when you record?
SW: Like most artists, I start tunes in different ways. However, I often start by jamming with chords, then sing melodies over the top (with nonsense words) until I find something that resonates with me, then build a beat/lyrics around it. But sometimes a melody/lyrics comes into my head randomly when I’m not thinking about music. Often those are the best because I’m not trying too hard. I love wicked synth sounds/sick drum samples; they always inspire me.
Ideal studio vibes are natural light, tea, chocolate hobnobs and inspired, excited people around you.
SS: It’s an exciting time to be in the UK music scene. How would you describe the sounds coming out of the UK? How has your music been received?
SW: I love where UK music is heading at the moment. Although the charts are still touch and go there does seem to be more of a shift towards soul, which is wicked. And Craig David is back on the scene, what more could you want! The future’s looking bright.
I’m really happy how my EP has been received too. I didn’t have premeditated ideas about how it was going to do, but I’m getting nothing but love from people (UK and beyond) and shouts from artists I look up to and respect, which is so rewarding after putting in so much.
SS: As a new artist, you must experience some challenges. What have been some challenges you’ve had to overcome as an artist? How did you overcome those challenges?
SW: I think a big difficulty is getting people to give you their time, when you’re not well known and don’t have much money. It means you are a low priority, which is understandable. It means you have to rely more on yourself though, which is a good thing in the long run, it just slows the process initially. I am lucky to have worked with some amazing people over the last couple of years though, people who genuinely love music above all else.
SS: One thing I love about the music coming out of the UK is that there are songs that blend electronic music with soulful vocals. That is apparent on your So Bright EP. Your vocals pair perfectly with the production. You produced this EP with Karma Kid, how did that collaboration come about? What do you love about this collaboration?
SW: Karma Kid originally heard of me through a collaboration I did with Alix Perez a few years ago and reached out, and I was already a fan of his music. So we got in the studio and within the first 8 hours of meeting we had written/recorded most of So Bright. He’s really great at bringing ideas to life, and we find it easy to pair our creative visions.
SS: How do you plan on bringing your music to life with your live performances? What is your favorite experience performing live?
SW: With the live show I’ve aimed to keep it live as possible, with guitar, bass, a real drum kit (with electric drum pads on the side) and a keys player, with me also playing keys. When I play live, I love to switch it up from the original versions, and adding sections/solos/jams, it’s so fun man. I’ve only done a couple of shows since I released my EP, and it’s been amazing to see people knowing the words and singing along.
SS: What is in store for you for the second half of 2016?
I’m currently working on my next EP. I’m looking to add more live instruments and work harder on my lyrics.
SS: How has your musical taste changed through out the years?
I got really into soul/R&B/jazz when I was 12, which has remained with me as my main music taste. On top of that, I went through a teenage rock phase around 13/14/15 and came out the other side of that! I got really into drum & bass/house at 17/18. I got deeper into neo-soul/hip hop around 18/19, and I’m still there!
SS: Finally, what are your favorite 3 songs at the moment?
SW: A few of my favorite tracks currently are:
Jordan Rakei – “Talk To Me”
James Blake Feat. Bon Iver – “I Need A Forest Fire”
Moonchild – “Just A Minute”