Singer Talks Upcoming Album & New Music – Hollywood Life

Sam James was moving when he spoke with HollywoodLife. It was symbolic – he had just released “Going Through It,” a song featuring Moneybag Yo and No Cap – since he was moving to the next phase of his career. It was also emblematic because he’s a man who doesn’t stay still long enough to let the grass grow under his feet. “I’ve spent like the whole pandemic building up the army online,” he says over the video call. “Releasing lots of covers and lots of stuff that people were into.” The new song, he says, has resonated deeply with people, with the most love coming from “the really loyal people that have been with me since day one on this project.”

Sam has been in the music game for a minute now. Spending his time between his native Central Massachusetts, Nashville, and Los Angeles, he worked behind the scenes as a songwriter, co-writing songs for BeBe Rexha (“Abominable”) and Dolly Parton (“Faith”), to name a few. As a solo artist, he’s stepped into the spotlight, signed with Universal Music Group, and dropped “Going Through It.”

The slogan is that “good things come to those who wait,” so why has success found Sam now? What is it about him that’s catching the ear of audiences? “I think honestly, I spent so many years, a long time, trying to find my own voice and my own sound, like who I was,” he explains to HollywoodLife. “I think I spent ten years in bars, playing four-hour long cover gigs. And when you do those things, you kind of morph into each artist as you do it, and you lose little pieces of yourself along the way.”

So it just took me a long time to be genuine and authentic to myself. I think once I started doing that, it really clicked. And then, people started following. People started resharing and reposting, and then it spiraled from there. But I think really what it was — some people get it so young. You know, you see some of these 16-year-old stars — I’m a writer too, so I work with a lot of these people — and they have it. They’re so confident in who they are. It just took me a long time to find who I was.

“Having been on this journey for a while, it definitely molds you and prepares you. It’s cliche, but everyone uses it now — “the 10,000 hours” [to become a master at anything.] Now, I think I’ve put in probably about 40,000.”

(Harry Klumpenaar)

“It’s one of those things, I think, that’s part of who I am and my story. I’m not afraid to tell people that. And, I want people to know if, if anything – you know, a couple of times, I’ve gotten messages in the last few weeks, you know, since the songs come out. ‘Wow, you really followed your dream, and you took it to where it needed to get to, and you didn’t give up on yourself.’ And I think that’s important in life. I want people to see my story and know that it’s okay. Not everybody’s gonna get to the destination at the same time or in the same way. No one’s story is the same, but if you stay at a course and keep moving.”

When we were speaking, Sam had some music in the pipe, and it promised to show the many sides of his creative voice. “It’s not all hip hop based,” he shares. “It’s all got tons of hip hop influence throughout it, but I’ve been influenced by many artists along the way. I think this is my amalgamation of all of that together.”

Are there any surprise ingredients in the mix, any influences that many wouldn’t clock when listening to or looking at Sam James? “My dad is a music head, so we constantly had music on at the house, and that shaped me a lot. There was a lot of REM Tons of REM, which is still one of my favorite bands ever. A lot of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Paul Simon, James Taylor. I’m from Boston, so if you don’t listen to James Taylor — come on, get outta here. Yeah. But, moving forward, I would say a huge influence for me was Rage Against The Machine.”

“I had so many influences. I was really heavy into Nas and Jay-Z. And then I would throw on Alanis Morrissette. My CD changer, if you remember those, had a ridiculous supply of a lot of crazy stuff. There was a while when I was into Charlie Parker. When I was really young, I played saxophone, and I was in a Charlie Parker tribute band.”

Sonically, the album is wide and cohesive. “Lyrically, the entire album –” says James. “We’re almost done with the record, and it’s just my story. The real things that happened to me. And a lot of reflection on the past decade of my life. On a lot of friends that I’ve lost along the way, and friends I’ve gained along the way and being in love and falling outta love and falling in love. And, I’m excited to share the project with everybody.”

Despite the unconventional nature of his journey, Sam tells Hollywood that he’s grateful that everything is happening to him at this point. “We’re living in a world where singles are king, you know what I mean? And people are releasing music at a rapid pace, which is awesome for me because that’s how I’ve always wanted to do it. But we’ve always been in this in the industry, in this box where for years, we were like, ‘you gotta release an album and it’s gotta be a body of work.’ This album, when you listen to it from start to finish, you do not feel like you’re in different genres. It all kind of blends together into one.”

“I don’t put myself in a box when I go into the studio,” he adds. “You feel different things at different times. Some days I’m going to be in my John Mayer [mood] like I wanna deliver that sultry lyric and, and melody. And sometimes — we have another the record, ‘Going Through it,’ that’s out now. It’s more angsty. That record is about finding the light at the end of the tunnel, believing in yourself, and going through a struggle, you know? I didn’t always have it easy for years and years, and I tapped back into those emotions of the angst of it all.”

“I think this album, its message is gonna be one body,” he says. “The message of this record is gonna be, — I’ve really pinpointed specific memories throughout my life, and they’re all around the same time. It’s not a concept album at all, but in the sense of things, it’s really pinpointing a few select years in my life where I, I felt I had a lot that I wanted to share from.”

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