London-based musician S.A.M. has recently signed a deal with Sony Music Entertainment, marking a significant milestone in his musical journey. His passion for music began at a young age, nurtured by early encounters with instruments like the piano and his upbringing in a church environment steeped in musical traditions. However, he encountered rap during his teenage years, which kindled the flame of his artistic passion, setting him on a course to discover his true calling in music.
Today, S.A.M. finds himself at an exciting moment in his artistic expedition, showcasing a diverse range of skills encompassing songwriting, rapping, singing, and producing. As a versatile artist who has honed his craft independently, he is now poised to significantly impact the mainstream music scene through his collaboration with Sony Music Entertainment.
In an exclusive interview with TC, I had the opportunity to delve into S.A.M.'s journey and artistic upbringing, where he shared insights into his evolution as a musician, the challenges he encountered, and the invaluable lessons he learned along the way.
A Prelude to His Musical Journey
I began our conversation by asking S.A.M. about his early exposure to music. He recollected, “I've been playing the piano since I was around 5 or 6. However, it wasn't until I was about 9 or 10 that I realized I could play by ear. For those unfamiliar with the term, playing by ear means I can listen to music and replicate it without using sheet music or formal instruction. I started playing music in church at a young age, around 8 or 9, because I had this natural talent for playing by ear. I was always curious about how others played, and even now, when people hear me play the piano, they often notice that I can effortlessly incorporate melodies and various elements into my performance. This skill comes from years of observation and studying how others play.”
S.A.M. also explained that his early environment in the church had a profound influence on his musical journey. “Praise and worship songs have always been integral to my life,” he shared.
A Crossroads and a New Chapter
I then asked S.A.M. about the pivotal moment he decided to pursue a music career. He revealed, “I had been releasing music for about seven to eight years, but around my second year of university, I found myself at a crossroads, wondering whether I should complete my degree. Ultimately, I decided to finish school.”
During this period, S.A.M. discovered that his true passion lay in music. He described his commitment: "While some may prioritize their university studies as their main focus and music as a side hustle, I felt differently. My dedication to music was so profound that I found myself in the studio making songs the night before exams. Music had become my primary pursuit, overshadowing everything else.”
After completing university months later, the pandemic struck, and S.A.M. saw this as a blessing in disguise. He explained, “I took advantage of the situation to devote myself entirely to my craft. I had the opportunity to work on my music. And that's how I got to where I am today.”
The Artist's Struggle and Resilience
In our conversation, S.A.M. shed light on the challenges artists face. He emphasized, “If you want to make money, being an artist isn't the easiest path,” dispelling the misconception that success in music comes easily. He further explained, “I used to think talent alone could carry me, but then someone pointed out that my talent was like having one hand tied behind my back while fighting. I could still win, but it was risky. They told me working harder would be like having both hands in front, ensuring my success. So, in every artist's career, there comes a time when you have to overcome your stubbornness, counter-productivity, and laziness to commit to your craft fully.”
S.A.M. acknowledged that the journey of an artist is “pretty tough.” He stressed that even having a hit song doesn't guarantee a smooth journey. He viewed a hit song as a stepping stone and validation in his journey, similar to receiving a promotion in a corporate job after years of hard work. He highlights the importance of persistence and continued effort.
Championing Representation and Authenticity
S.A.M. shared his perspective on the importance of representation in the music industry. He observed, “As a person of South Asian descent, I've noticed that there isn't much representation in the Western music industry. I'm not trying to be a representative for anyone but myself. When I look around, I don't see many people who are like me. I grew up trying to find a role model or mentor who was a brown face in the music industry, and that was a challenge.”
He discussed the challenge of being a Sri Lankan artist making English music, where people sometimes struggle to categorize his music. S.A.M. emphasized, “People tend to think that unless you're performing in your mother tongue, you're not 'authentically' representing your culture. However, that's not true; my music draws inspiration from various aspects of my identity, and I've always believed in staying true to myself.”
He shared his goal to foster change by bringing more South Asians into the Western music industry without conforming to stereotypes. S.A.M emphasized, “I don't need to make my music 'more cultured' to be authentic. We must recognize the diversity within South Asian culture and the versatility of artists like me,” highlighting his mission to create music that reflects individual identity, not conforming to preconceived notions.
The Road Ahead: Undeniably Great
When asked about his vision for the future, S.A.M. expressed his ambition to tour as an artist worldwide, transcending geographical boundaries. He shared, “I often use a phrase that resonates with me, which I share with my friend Thiviyan, to be 'undeniably great.' For me, greatness means that even if someone dislikes me personally, they can't deny the quality of my music. You might not like me, but you can't call my music terrible because it's undeniably great.”
S.A.M. also stressed the importance of maintaining an underdog mentality and avoiding complacency. He stated, “I don't want to believe I'm too big or better than anyone because that's when one stops learning. When one stops learning, they become complacent, which isn't a good position. I value being humble and staying true to my values.”
The TikTok Breakthrough
I inquired about S.A.M.'s journey to signing with Sony Music during our discussion. He recounted how he used TikTok to his advantage to share his music and gain exposure. S.A.M. shared a song snippet, which will be his next single. He reflected, “I've always had a soft spot for this particular song, even though not everyone around me felt the same. So, I put out a snippet on TikTok, not expecting much, just doing what I usually do.”
To his surprise, the snippet gained immediate attention and went viral, piquing Sony's interest. S.A.M. described the progression as organic, saying, “It happened quite naturally, and I wouldn't say I was entirely surprised because I've always believed in my talent and felt I deserved it. However, knowing these opportunities were possible was a powerful validation, especially as a young brown artist. It's been an overwhelming and exciting journey.”
Words of Wisdom
Finally, I asked S.A.M. for advice he would offer others on a similar artistic journey. He shared, “It’s not an easy road, and it's not the kind of path where you can expect all your friends to share every single one of your songs. You might feel hurt, lose friendships, and take it personally, but preparing for this reality is essential. However, if you genuinely love what you do and what you create, that's the most crucial part.”
S.A.M. encouraged fellow artists to hone their craft and approach it with musical integrity, even if it takes more time for financial gain. He added, “You might invest a lot of money without breaking even, but if you truly believe in it and are strategic, it can be worthwhile.”
S.A.M.'s journey as a musician exemplifies the resilience, determination, and authenticity required to make a lasting impact in the ever-evolving music industry. As he continues his path to becoming "undeniably great," his story serves as an inspiration to emerging artists and a testament to the power of staying true to one's passion.