Sam Handy, welcome to VENTS! Can you tell us about your latest single, Done?
I wrote ‘Done’ back in the summer of 2020. England was just coming out of its first lockdown and I had plenty of time to experiment with different sounds and styles. I took great inspiration from the neo-soul genre. Artists like D’Angelo played a great role in establishing the roots of this song, and it was a song I felt needed finishing to fulfill myself as a songwriter. I didn’t think it would grow to be so loved as it felt tongue-in-cheek most of the time, and a lot of that ‘self-indulging’ songwriters and musicians like to do, and I got away with it.
Is there a story behind the single?
The main story is how I grew to have feelings for someone. They were short-lived, and if I’m being delicate, stamped out. That’s life though! But I didn’t know too much about this sort of thing. Instead of getting mad, I got writing, channeling every little drop of disappointment and resentment into that beautiful ballpoint pen. And here we are!
A lot of what I wrote down was never intended to be put into a song. It just felt good to write it and bury it. I realise that is a thing people do, and I’ve been told it’s healthy. A couple shots of rum later that changed. I started working the words into a song, and it all started to fit hilariously. I figured I could turn this into something that would get my message across, but without all the hostility and attack.
It’s such a soulful yet vindicating single; how did you pull it off?
In this industry, I’ve grown to take failures as they come, but with people and things that breathe, I can’t discard them so willingly. It was torture to know someone had done that to me, and out of nowhere. To say this song was vindicating for either myself or another, I wouldn’t know. I hope it is for others, but it still took a lot of time and a few broken halos. I wasn’t liberated instantly, but it was therapeutic enough to guide me along the way. Ironically, I’m going through the same thing
again, only this time it’s a lot tougher. And aren’t coincidences just the best? I guess I pulled it off because I didn’t take it seriously. I saw it as a parody, an experience many feel the same way about and perhaps would relate to, instead of being another sad break up song.
What is it like working with Ed Stokes?
Ed is an absolute saint. I’ve never met someone who works as hard as this guy, yet remains so supportive inside, and outside, the studio. I can call this guy anytime with an idea, or with anything personal, and he’ll answer. He’s a perfectionist, and I need that. He pushes you to get the best take and then adds his own magic to each song. I always come out of a session a better songwriter and performer. I couldn’t do it without him!
How would you say your sound has changed since making your debut?
I love writing pop music. There’s a structure to it, and if it isn’t broken why fix it? I want my music to feel alive, modern but instrument-based. I was rather rock-focused when I started out. I liked big guitar solos and blues-influenced melodies. I recently started moving towards other influences, more soulful approaches. Artists like Tom Misch, Harry Styles and John Mayer have proven you can still have these phenomenal songs that are still expansive, and creative, without
losing any relatability, or integrity, of the story told. Rather than find a genre to fit in, I just started to write what comes to mind, putting a little bit more of me in every song. Telling my story.
You went for minimal production with Done; would you say that most music on the airwaves is over-produced in 2021?
This was a conversation Ed and I had, and it wasn’t a long one. The goal was simply to make this track the best it could be, and we never thought about how much production is ‘too much’. If it enhances the track, then we’ll work it in, but we didn’t find that with this song. There were already plenty of vocal takes, harmonies and instrumental parts. Allan Penford performed his killer bassline, and I called on Ted Hayes to record a few cheeky piano fills and a synth pad. Before we knew it, the song sounded full enough already, and we worked around it.
I honestly don’t listen to what is on the airwaves often. Doesn’t mean I’m not a fan of what’s on there. I just don’t like being told what’s good, and what doesn’t make the plugger’s cut. If a song is good, I’ll be listening to it. Doesn’t make me a hipster, or in denial of the modern music machine pumping out the same tune each week via algorithms. Yes of course it happens, but you still get some absolute gold shine through, but I’ll find it on my own. I love this about music, the discovery and surprise!
You have moved from strength to strength in your career; what has been the highlight? Performing live is always a highlight, and it’s made even more special when audiences sing your songs back at you, and it’s not just your Mum. There’s some special shows I’ve performed at, one of them being at Ronnie Scott’s where I learned that Jeff Beck digs my music. And that conversation started with ‘you probably haven’t heard of him’, and ended with me screaming in a nearby gents cubicle.
What can we expect from Sam Handy in 2022?
Oh who knows..! Probably still grinding away this time next year. Pouring oat milk art into a latte and shaking cocktails somewhere. I’ve got a lot of new music planned – ahh, oh and it’s good! If I may say so. I’d love to get gigging again, move into London and see more shows, meet new artists and write bigger songs. So expect a lot, but not too much, I am on a budget. But the music will keep coming, that I can promise. I try not to think further than that, otherwise it puts me off the whole thing. So I’ll see you then!
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