Sam Sparro Interview
‘Local Produce’ is bringing you an exclusive set from another one of our top homegrown talents – Sam Sparro!
The Aussie superstar’s single ‘Black And Gold’ stormed the charts back in 2008, and he’s been nominated for five ‘ARIA Awards’ and received a Grammy Award nomination for ‘Best Dance Recording’ for the hit track.
Now, with a brand new album ‘Return To Paradise’ out next month, MTV Australia caught up with the singer to talk musical inspirations, nabbing collaborations through Twitter and his dreams of working with Kylie Minogue..
MTV: Hi Sam! You grew up in a very musical family, how deeply were you involved in music growing up?
Sam: There was always music around. My grandfather was a musician. He used to play on the Today show in Australia . My father was a minister who was like a gospel musician, and I grew up singing in church, playing the piano, singing in choirs. There was always lots of music around as a child.
MTV: Was singing in church a good training ground for you?
Sam: Singing in church gave me a great background in vocal training. That was the only vocal training I really ever had, but I learned how to blend with other singers, how to control my voice, and I think that’s why today my music has so many vocal harmonies on it. I really love recording background vocal - that idea of harmonizing and blending voices together has always been really interesting to me.
MTV: When you first started recording it was very much a bedroom set up and now you’re working in some amazing recording studios. Does that affect your writing style?
Sam: I started in the bedroom recording on my laptop and a microphone, trying to be quiet so the neighbours wouldn’t complain, and now I get to go into a studio and make as much noise as I want. Its changed the scope of how I think about recording. For my first album I was using a lot of samples, I was playing synths, drum machines, it was more inside the box, and this record has a lot of live strings and horns and piano and bass and live drums. I always fantasized about working in those mediums with those instruments and I had the chance to do it so I was like ‘Yep! Definitely!’
MTV: ‘Black And Gold’ was a major break for you - did you ever think it would be so successful?
Sam: When I was writing ‘Black And Gold’ it felt like I was writing something that was special to me, that I felt was a real creative achievement, but it wasn’t something I thought was going to be a pop success. I was pretty surprised to be honest, because I’m not good at gauging, there’s stuff that I think ‘that’s brilliant’ all the time that nobody likes, so I have no idea if something’s going to be a hit or not. But people seemed to gravitate towards it - who knows, it’s one of those things that I’ll never be able to figure out!
MTV: You seem to have been missing in action since the release of your first album - what have you been up to the last couple of years?
Sam: Well, the last few years I have been writing and recording mostly my new album ‘Return To Paradise’ and with other artists. I’ve just been taking some time out for myself really. I got a house, I got a couple of dogs and I’ve been doing domestic things that you don’t get to do when you’re an artist on the road. So, it’s definitely taken a little longer than I had planned.
MTV: Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind ‘Return To Paradise ’.
Sam: This record, I was going through personally one of the hardest times of my life and I went through a really bad break-up. I know I was writing a lot about that, it was just a lot of heartbreak. And that makes for good work apparently. I mean ask Adele - she just sold 80 billion records writing about her heartbreak!
MTV: And are you happy with the way it turned out?
Sam: I love this album. I can’t believe I’m saying this because I am my own worst critic. I’m very critical, but I love this album and I’ve worked very hard on it. When I hear it back I just hear a lot of honesty, myself being real. Even those songs about heart break, it’s very cathartic to sing them and perform them, and hopefully people will relate to them and connect to them and they’ll be able to get them through a hard time.
MTV: Is it true you asked Nile Rodgers and Adam Lambert to work with you through Twitter?
Sam: It is true, and you know it’s brilliant. I love that you can do that. Twitter is a really great way to connect people, and who knows, it probably would never have happened if it wasn’t for Twitter. And now Nile and I are email friends…it was so cool that we all could get together on the track.
MTV: Have you got any other collaborations on the new album?
Sam: I did more writing with other artists. Erik Hassle from Sweden, Beth from Best Coast, Jono Sloan who is working on the new ‘Empire Of The Sun’ record and Greg Kurstin from L.A. who’s worked with Kelly Clarkson, Kylie Minogue and Lily Allen in the past. And I’m working with Stuart Zender who is the founding bass player for Jamiroquai. My brother is playing on the record and my Dad too. It’s quite a collaborative album.
MTV: You performed at Mardi Gras – Kylie did as well - would you like to work with her one day?
Sam: I love Kylie! I saw her play at the Fish Bowl when she was in L.A. and went backstage to meet her, which was crazy. She is so lovely, she’s a sweetheart. I think collaborating with her would be brilliant, it would be really fun.
Don’t Miss ‘Local Produce’ with Sam Sparro this Friday (May 25) @ 7pm on MTV!