Sample Answer doesn’t like calling himself an artist – “I just like to write tunes,” he tells us. Well, he’s certainly good at that: his previous EPs impressed major industry players such as Annie Mac, Zane Lowe and John Kennedy, whilst his latest track, “Collision” is undoubtedly destined for an equally laudatory response.
Maurice O’Connor, as Sample Answer goes by offstage, hails from Dublin, and moved to London in 2013. Launching himself into the gigging circuit – he performed at two to three open mic nights a day for an entire year – his distinctive folk-rock sound and inimitable work ethic landed him a record deal with ACP Recordings/Essential Music. He released two EPs in 2015 alone (did we mention that work ethic?), titled “Good Boy” and “Textile Baby”, and racked up a fair bit of critical acclaim in the process, listed as an artist about to blow by Pigeons and Planes.
The gigging sensibility honed by all those open mic nights hasn’t gone to waste. Sample Answer has performed at Latitude Festival, toured with Pete Doherty, Gabrielle Aplin, Damien Rice, The Fratellis and The Milk, and is currently in the midst of a series of free London shows. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll put one of his last two dates, in Shoreditch and Brixton, in your diary. In permanent marker.
“Collision” heads up Sample Answer’s latest EP of the same name, released this month, and explores a wistful, hazy sound that calls former touring buddy Doherty to mind. To discover what inspires the artist we’re tipping for something major, read our interview below!
Where did the name Sample Answer come from?
“I got it from my Mama!”
Who are your biggest musical influences?
People that I meet. And a lot of musicians who are unfortunately dead… RIP.
You’ve worked with several high-profile producers on this EP, including Iestyn Polson and Hugh Fothergill. How does your collaboration with different producers inform your sound?
I also worked with Ant Whiting and his wife Emily. It’s more about the vibe I think. I love them all and get along with them great, and I think that’s why the songs come out how they do. They let me be whoever I want to be.
You say you used to make and sell your own CDs on Camden High Street – do you think that early graft has shaped your sensibilities as an artist?
I think everything in life shapes an artist’s sensibility. As long as you try to stay sensible, ha! But I don’t like calling myself an “artist” – I just like to write tunes.
You’re an open mic night veteran – would you suggest this as a starting point for newer artists?
I loved doing open mics. It’s where ya can begin, ya know! You don’t wanna just say, “I wish I could go and play”, you need to just go and do it. Open mic nights are where you can start. I fell in love a few times at open mics, with men and women.
How has it felt to receive support from prominent industry figures like Annie Mac and John Kennedy?
I love John Kennedy! I met him when I was still doing open mics. I played home a song on the stairs of The Barfly the first time I met him. He’s an awesome guy. Annie Mac is someone I really respect too. She’s from where I’m from and she just goes and does what she does so amazingly well.
Has your life or outlook as a musician changed since reaching a wider audience?
My outlook as a musician will never change. I make music for and about every person I’ve met, and because I really, really have to – and want to!
Your latest release, Collision’, takes on a dreamier sound – what inspired the song?
I never think about my tunes before I write em, but if I was to think about it, I reckon it was written due to conflict I’ve recently been seeing, literally all over the internet and news. But then again, sometimes I hear it and think, “Maybe it’s about myself”. Me versus me…the definition often changes.
You’ve supported Pete Doherty and Gabrielle Aplin on tour – how did those experiences compare?
Peter’s shows are sweaty, boozy and wild – you can stage dive right into the crowd and get away with it. Peter was also someone I quite admired, so sitting with him backstage was actually pretty special for me.
I love Gabrielle! She’s a badass in my opinion. She also has a very respectful crowd. Very kind, very nice, with a hint of her badassness – if that’s a word, which it isn’t, but yeeeees.
Where do you see your musical career taking you in the future?