How would you describe your genre of music?
This has been a hard question for me to answer for a long time. Even though genreless music may be considered less marketable, I think artists have recently been allowed to play with genre in new and moving ways. So I’d say I make cinematic folk/alt pop strung together with some warm vocals.
What made you go into music
I’ve been in love with music for as long as I remember. As a child I could recognise that the songs that had been my own soundtrack impacted me in a different way than from my peers. Not to say stronger or more meaningful, because I think music can be so much to so many, but in a way that made me feel like I needed to be doing this. It just made sense for me to figure out my emotions and sift through my experiences sonically. Music is also the thing I’m best at. I look at some of my friend’s jobs and think I’d be immediately fired.
Who are your influences?
There are so many incredible artists that have influenced me, so just to name a small but precious few: Bon Iver, Etta James, Max Richter, James Blake, Amyra Leon, Brittany Howard, Joni Mitchell, Kelsey Lu, and Robert plant.
Are you signed?
No, I’m not signed. For most of the artists I know and also for myself, finding a label that genuinely values and understands what your doing, has POC/female/non-binary/queer people running it, working and making decisions within the company, and has a set of values that feel in line with my own is really difficult. So I’d love to end up working with a group of talented passionate people I feel really good around and who could help elevate what I do, but until then I don’t feel any urgency in working with a label. This is also the case across the board with the types of teams I work with and want to work with in the future. My management team at LAVICHI for example is queer female/POC owned and run. So I’ll stick to my needle in a haystack group of folks in the music industry for now, and hopefully that can just be the norm at some point.
You released your new single ‘Grateful’, tell us more about the single. What is the meaning behind the single?
‘Grateful’ is the fourth song from my upcoming self-titled EP, “I Used to be Sam.” This project is an exploration into my own personal experiences as a TRA (transracial adoptee) as well as my continued education on the TRA and adoptee experience as a whole. In some ways I feel I was thrown into the deep end of facing my own adoption trauma and it felt like drowning at times; and sometimes it still does. What truly made writing these songs feasible to me, was my chosen family and the TRA community I’ve gotten to know. For the first time in my life I found people whose experiences mirrored my own and they were really the first group of people I could relate to. I think I didn’t realise how badly I needed that until I actually found it. So ‘Grateful’ is about recognising and thanking those people. They have made this whole project possible for me. The other aspect of ‘Grateful’ is starting to let go – or hopefully let go of the harmful thought patterns I have acquired as a misguided form of self protection as well as the types of people those parts of myself attract.
What was the writing and recording process like?
I worked with an incredible producer from Berlin named Novaa. We were in a small bedroom studio and started each session with a long talk, figuring out what I was feeling, what I needed to move through, and what I was ready to confront. I knew there would be a song for my birth mother, a song to put words to the anger I didn’t know I was allowed to have, as well as a song of gratitude. Having the space to take my time and explore those feelings and memories was crucial to creating this project for me. Sometimes I had little themes or lines I would bring in, and sometimes we just tried to figure out what sounds and landscapes would express what I was trying to communicate as honestly as possible.
Describe the track in two words.
Who did you work with on the single?
I created the track with Novaa. I already had the theme on piano, and together we built a world around it. We used my body parts, salt shakers, pages from books, really whatever was in the room to create the percussion. I really liked the idea of putting as much of my physical body into the EP whenever possible.
What was the creative process like for the making of the music video for ‘Grateful’?
Originally there wasn’t going to be a video for ‘Grateful,’ but very spontaneously, Marie Sutter, who I had created the ‘Gentle’ music video with called me and said she was in town for a couple days. We both had the afternoon free the following day and I knew with such little time to prepare, we needed a simple yet impactful image. Because this is such a personal project and also a way to challenge myself to be seen (which is something I’ve had a hard time with in the past), I thought an image of my face looking straight into the camera could work. We wanted there to be an additional element to the video, and I had all these reference photos to show her that were shot through water. So I took the tram to her mom’s house and climbed into the shower, sat on a little children’s stool, turned the water on and off while Marie balanced with one foot on the tub and held this old blue light she had with her in her other hand. It sounds silly, but being able to be comfortable and feel safe enough to be like, “I have this idea, are you down?” and having the person you’re working with have such an open mind and take your ideas seriously feels incredibly rare and like such a privilege. And the image really fell into place. I also liked the idea of the water washing away the toxic thought patterns and things I’ve held onto, so it worked on a few levels.
Can you give us a teaser of what to expect from your upcoming album?
You can expect lush worlds, warm vocals, stories of a new kind of heartbreak, and hopefully an EP that just feels good to listen to. Comfort food meets a piscean’s love of strings and vocals.
Do you have any live shows or a tour coming up and if so let us know where we can catch you at?
I’ll be posting my upcoming shows online, but I am preparing for a big show in Basel, Switzerland on September 17th at Kaserne, where I will be performing the entire EP with a live choir. It’s gonna be a special night, so if you’re around, I’d love to serenade you.
What else can we expect in 2022?
I’ll be releasing my EP this September and playing a handful of shows along the way. You’ll hear some more new music from me, and as I continue to educate myself on the adoptee and TRA experience and industry, I will continue to share what I learn, what I’m feeling, and combine that knowledge with the musical world.
Will we see any collaborations and if so, can you tell us more about them?
I just started working on a new project/collaboration with Red Moon, a beautiful artist from Norway. I’m really excited to blend our worlds together and create something unique and impactful.
Where do you see yourself now in 5 Years?
I see myself truly immersed in the TRA community. Speaking of things that up until recently, adoptees weren’t able to say, and share the mic as much as possible along the way. I see a more whole and at peace version of myself, and I hope my music will reflect that as well.
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
When people show you who they are, believe them.
When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget?
If it’s my gig – then good sound, keeping my anxiety at bay, water, the lyrics (even though I forget them all the time), and connecting with the audience in a genuine and less performative way.
Do you have social media accounts so your fans can follow you?
Yes! I’m “I Used to be Sam” on everything. Come find me. Social media can be such a scary and unnatural place for me but honing a community of beautiful souls can be so rewarding. So I hope to see you there!