You Sing, I Write: Q&A with Sam Sparro

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Q&A with Sam Sparro

Though he just released his debut album, Black & Gold in the U.S., Sam Sparro is becoming quite the musical sensation. With many of his singles topping the charts throughout Europe and much of the rest of the world, it's only time until the U.S. catches on. When listening to his music, comparisons to Prince abound and you can't help but dance along. His album encompasses much versatility, with hints of electrofunk, house, dance and soul. Hard to pin down into one genre, and a music lover himself, Sam's distinct tastes can be heard throughout the catchy tracks on Black & Gold.

The Australian singer-songwriter grew up singing gospel music in church. While he spends most of his time in between LA and London, he will be touring throughout Europe and Australia within the next few months. In a phone interview, Sam talked to me about his album, singing for Chaka Khan when he was younger and his upcoming plans, which includes collaborating with Lindsay Lohan on her next album. Be sure to watch his latest video for single, "21st Century Life" — a video Sam describes as being "really nutty and eccentric." (You can see that here.) And if you like that, check out his hilarious video for "Cottonmouth" below. Make sure you watch until the end! You'll get a good laugh, I promise.

To listen to the audio version of my interview with Sam, click here. Feel free to read it below and check him out on MySpace if you haven't yet!

Congratulations with all the success of your album. Is it overwhelming yet or are you still taking it a day at a time?
It’s nice to have a moment to collect my thoughts. I’ve been traveling so much. I’m back in LA now and it’s nice to be home to have a minute to take in all the crazy things that have happened this year. It’s been amazing.

Tell me about your album. Each song sounds entirely different from the previous one. Did you go into the studio having a concept for the album or an idea for what you wanted to come across?
Well, I listen to so many different types of music and I’m influenced by so much different stuff. I wanted the first album, at least, to really reflect that. I think it’s an album for the iPod generation where you don’t really listen to the whole album, you just kind of shuffle around. It definitely has that feeling to it, where all the songs are different and the influences are so far and wide.

What were your influences for the album?
I’m very interested in and influenced by late 70s to mid 80s electro and funk and disco and soul, electro-soul. And then I’m really interested in early 90s dance music and house. I’m into new wave, modern dance music and stuff like that. But, all with a very soulful twist.

What is your usual writing process like?
I don’t really have a formula for writing. Sometimes the music will come first if you’re working on a piece of music. Sometimes I’ll have something I want to write about and I’ll start writing lyrics. It doesn’t really ever happen in the same way, it’s always very different.

I read your song “Black & Gold” was written at a low-point in your life. Did you ever imagine that you’d make it to this point, have your album out?
I did. I always felt like I was meant to be really successful in music. So, I wrote that song when I was feeling like, “How come I’m not doing anything?” and “Why isn’t anything working out?” And ironically, that was the song that kind of propelled me and my career.

I love your song “Recycle It.” It’s such a fun song, how did it come to you?
That was just really back into dance and Parliament-Funkadelic. They could sing an eight-minute song about a hamburger and make it sound cool. It just seemed very time appropriate. We’re living in a time where we are questioning the way we live and trying to look for solutions to save the planet. I just thought it’d be fun to do a silly little ditty about recycling.

I really like your song “Pocket.” What were you thinking about when you wrote it?
My life had started to change already because I was recording the album, but “Black & Gold” had already become a big hit in Europe. I noticed people’s attitudes started to change and a lot of vampires started coming out of the woodwork. It’s a song about having people in your life that you can trust and also being a trustworthy and loyal friend.

You already have so much success in the UK, your singles are on the charts. What are your hopes for America?
I’ve always felt like my music would do really well in Europe. Success in America is not something that I’m expecting necessarily. For me, it’s just really nice to be here and be appreciated for the music. In England it’s gotten a bit distracted. People are more interested in who I’m hanging out with. Because it’s a bit more underground here, people are more interested in the music. People are writing about me in their blogs and people in LA know who I am and people in New York know who I am. I’m quite happy with that actually.

I read that you started a speakeasy night in LA — an underground music night with Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. Can you tell me a little about that?
Well, my dad was renting a studio space in a friend’s loft downtown. It was this massive 5,000 square foot loft. David J, who is the bass player in Love and Rockets and Bauhaus, lived there as well. They wanted to start a night where people could come and play their music. It was free to get in, you could bring your own alcohol, and it was very low-key. And then it became [this] really thriving, really cool night. That was where I met Jesse Rogg who I collaborate with musically. It was just a really cool time of meeting new people and playing music without any kind of pressure.

Do you feel pressure now to fit into a specific genre?
I don’t feel any pressure to fit into any certain musical genre or stereotype. There is definitely a lot more pressure involved with my schedule [being] very hectic. I have a lot of things to deliver and to do all the time. It has definitely changed. That’s what happens when you become successful.

I read that Chaka Khan is quite at admirer of you. Have you worked with her at all?
Well, that’s a slight exaggeration. I met her, a couple of times when I was quite young and I sang for her. She said, “Wow, you really have a good voice.” Recently she did an interview in the UK and someone said, “I hear you’re a big fan of Sam Sparro” and she’s like, “Who’s Sam Sparro?” So we don’t know each other, I met her casually about 15 years ago.

You’re working with Lindsay Lohan on her next album?
Yeah. We haven’t started working together yet, but we're hoping to do some stuff together. It’ll be quite danceable, electronically produced, it should be quite exciting. I’m really looking forward to it actually.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’m doing a headlining tour of Europe and the UK. I’m going back to Australia to do some things, going to Japan, doing some writing and producing with other artists on some of my side projects and then I’m going to start working on the next album.

Do you have any ideas for your next album?
Yeah, it’s going to be quite electro with influences from gospel to classic rock. There’s going to be a lot more guitars on it.

Do you play all the instruments heard on your record?
Most of time I do. There are a couple of collaborations I did with other producers where they played a lot of the music, but most of the time I play and arrange everything. Sometimes they bring in live horns or bass or guitar, stuff like that.

What would you be doing right now if it wasn’t for the music?
Probably still waiting tables. [Laughs]. Yeah, not much.


TaMz said...

Hi Annie! I'm surprised you don't have hundreds of comments on here. I also have a blog which mostly caters for music reviews and what not but mine is only 1 week old. Sam is amazing..i wrote a review about him on

Your interview with Sam is pretty cool and your MySpace idea is great. I was thinking of doing the same with Facebook too but I want to write a few more blogs first. It's a little too early...if you like writing and music then you should send links to music mag companies to get them interested in you. Good luck!! Enjoy your weekend :)


TaMz said...

Do you mind if i add you to my blog list on my blog please??

shermanelli said...

i loveeee sam..

awesome interview


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