The acoustic singer talks new EP, staying creative in lockdown and lessons learnt.
With his acoustic guitar in hand and crooning vocals at the ready, songwriter Sam Johnson is preparing to build a legacy. Speaking truth with his nostalgic songwriting and heartwarming music, Johnson is taking the next step in his career with his new single “Peter Pan” – taken from his upcoming EP “Are We There Yet?”. The singer’s wistful vocals are brought to life with his acoustic music video for the tune, where we see the singer pour out raw emotion over a backdrop of chirping birds and peaceful rivers.
Speaking on the forthcoming EP, the singer said, “I create characters influenced by what I see around me. Alot of the lyrics are touchstones of my childhood, and where I grew up and the people that I grew up around.”
The relentlessly ambitious artist has been taking inspiration from his rural upbringing to the hustle and bustle of London for his forthcoming EP. We caught up with the singer talking the new EP, lockdown lessons and what’s next for the singer.
Check out the interview below…
Hi Sam, how has lockdown been treating you? Tell us one thing you’ve learned?
I’d say it’s been a pretty mixed bag. Lots of highs and lows. The adjustment to the new rhythm of things has been tough at times, especially the lack of shows. That regular affirmation from a live audience is something that I think a lot of artists will be missing. However, I’ve loved all the time spent with family and loved ones and have spent a lot of time writing and learning to surf which I’m very grateful for. One thing I’ve learnt is that you are never too old to read all of the Harry Potter books again.
You’re from the countryside – whereabouts and how do you think this has impacted you sonically? Who did you grow up listening to?
I’d like to think it’s had a pretty big impact on me. Having that freedom to sing without worrying about anyone hearing you is huge when you’re just starting out. I grew up listening to a lot of the albums my mum has loved all her life, so a lot of The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and a little Dylan here and there. She’s quite a hippy at heart, so I had a lot of ’60s and 70’s music playing around me from a young age.
Congratulations on your new track “Peter Pan” – what was it inspired by?
Thank you! It was originally inspired by a friend of mine who struggles with depression and addiction. I carved the song’s narrative around loose elements of his life, but when I came to record it for the first time, my friend and collaborator Odd Martin suggested that instead of singing about him, why don’t I become him, and take ownership of the song. Therefore, prefaced everything with ‘I’ instead of ‘he’, and suddenly the song evolved into a story about both of our lives and my own fear of growing up.
And love the acoustic performance on the boat – why did you want to implement this added layer onto the track and really strip it back?
Haha, thanks! We had a lot of fun making that video. Dodging swans and trying not to fall in. I just wanted to put a live version out there as this song really caught on when I was touring it. I found a lot of people fell in love with it then and would message me all the time asking when I was going to release it, so I just wanted to make sure there was somewhere people could go online if they were missing the live version.
And your new EP “Are We There Yet?” –what ties it together as a body of work?
Nostalgia really and letting go. It’s a big reflection on the youth I was so fond of and the inevitability of getting older. I really hate birthdays, and I suppose this is an attempt to permanently frame my youth in music.
How do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
I want their heart to beat that little bit faster. I want it to put them back somewhere that may be uncomfortable or maybe beautiful. I just want it to be relatable and wash over them in a way that makes them fall in love with the lyric.
You were announced as a member of Ivors Academy Youth Council, which is amazing – how did that feel?
Yeah, it’s pretty special thank you. I’ve always been a big fan of the Ivors and everything they do to protect artists and the wider industry, so it felt really great to be embraced into their family.
And you actually started out in music because My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields took you to the studio for the very first time – can you tell us how this came about?
I got pretty lucky, to be honest. My uncle married Kevin’s sister Ann Marie Shields, and both of them ended up becoming big mentors in my life. Kevin is very uncompromising when it comes to trusting his ears and heart, and that belief in oneself really rubbed off on me from a young age.
What’s next for you? What do you hope is in store for 2020?
Lots of cool things hopefully, but more music first of all! The next single is definitely one of the grander sounding pop songs on the EP, so I’m excited to put that out in the world and show a bit of versatility. Also looking forward to playing my next headline show in London early next year! It’s been a while.