Samuel Howard, is a songwriter, guitarist, composer and vocalist from St Austell, Cornwall. He is currently a solo performer creating original music of all genres and styles.
Sam’s band career began in 2007 playing guitar in a cover band in pubs and clubs across Cornwall. He graduated from this to his first original band Hold The Sun in 2010 playing energetic alternative rock with Dave Kellaway (King Creature) and Matt Davy (Godstone) until 2014. This power trio proved very popular and got to record their debut album with a local legendary engineer and producer. Their debut album is available on ITUNES here: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/hold-the-sun/id562957741
Sam then began to develop his solo career, gigging in between times throughout 2015 and 2016 with Killer Car Junkies another original band. During this time he made the local BBC Introducing Artist of the Week, which scored him several great slots at festivals. Now, as a new dad, Sam is preparing to embark on a new adventure by embarking on a tour of America in 2018.
I Am Wander aims to take Sam’s music to a more varied and wider audience. Beginning in New York City and ending in Los Angeles, Sam plans to cross the United States in around 2 months – travelling only on the money earned from his music! There is no pre-determined route, no specific travel method. Just Sam, his guitar and his songs….
“I Am Wander” is a very bold and brave move – can you tell us more about the genesis of the idea? The how and whys behind it,..
The I Am Wander project is a collection of life goals all wrapped up into one neat package. I’ve always wanted to go to America and experience its cities, culture and countryside. I’ve always dreamed of touring America musically. I’ve always wanted to write a book too… You see all of these things can be achieved and answered by this endeavour. It’s been in the back of my mind for years now and I’ve finally committed to setting a date for this adventure. I am a people person. I love learning about characters and their back story. I also adore photography. I just think with all of these elements combined with my music fuelling me across that vast country, there’s no way that isn’t interesting.
You’ll be able to follow me step by step online through social media. I’ll be able to upload live performances, photographs and interviews of interesting people I meet. It’s the perfect cross between a 1960s beatnik freely travelling from town to town and modern day global interaction. I am equally anxious and excited for this incredible undertaking.
It sounds incredibly exciting! What support will you have during the trip?
I am hoping to set up a page to start generating some funds for the trip. From there I can offer my recorded material (Out Of The Shadows – my solo debut album) plus various singles and for a reasonable contribution I can offer to play a live acoustic set or private gig for the donators. If I can generate enough money to pay for plane tickets I’d be delighted. A part of the challenge is to achieve this all through my music. I don’t have the money to pay for this alone so I want to put my art to the test and see how far it gets me (hopefully at least to the airport!)
…Once I’m in the states it will very much rely on my story and how willing people are to help me on my way. Be it a place to sleep, a hot meal or dollars to get me down the road a little further.
Well I am sure we will all have our fingers crossed for this to be a success for you! As you are about to embark on a road trip, do you have any favourite/funny stories from your touring so far?
Well… I’ve been driven by a very drunk French man to a hippy commune where they brew their own alcohol and eat pork intestine sausages 😀 Also in France I sold an album to a chap in a pizzeria who could only say the word “fisherman” and paid me in handfuls of marijuana (despite repeatedly telling him €5)….. I’ve had a traffic warden chased away from our tour van by an aerosol snorting local from Hastings (while snorting aerosol may I add) …but one of my fondest chuckleworthy memories was driving Honey and Long Holiday on their tour around the U.K and Europe.
We were travelling from Munich to Berlin and happened to come across one of the most amazing musical instrument stores any of us had seen. It was vast! Hundreds of top quality master built instruments, worth thousands of pounds stacked as far as the eye could see. Breath taking. Like kids in a candy store we all eagerly meandered through the isles of muso-porno displays. An excitable clerk came up to me and introduced himself asking where we were from and what we were doing in Germany. We told him we were on tour and his eyes lit up and then he insisted on showing me his finest stock of guitars. Bearing in mind we had already seen the store, I agreed to the guided tour. As I followed my newly appointed musical curator, enjoying his informative ramblings in heavy abrasive Germanic English, he came to a sharp halt at the doorway to the back room. He turned to me and said “and in here is where we keep our finest instruments…” it’s at this point as he opened the door I need inform you, inside this room were masterbuilt, custom shop, fender Stratocasters and telecasters (around £3000+ each) they were displayed laying on top of their hardcases ON THE FLOOR!! As the clerk opened the door already in full informative flow and still facing me as he walked into the room, he stepped back smack on top of one of these guitars… and proceeded to trip and fall over many, many guitars – like the proverbial bull in a China shop! And he’s screeching NEIN NEIN, SCHEISSE!!! I simply couldn’t contain my British sense of slapstick humour…. I ran out the store, tears streaming down my face in fits of hysterical laughter. And so the legend known to us as Herr Klutz was born!
[Debi: I love that story! …still laughing!]
OK, I’d like to ask you a little bit about your writing…. Do you feel that growing up in Cornwall has marked your music and influenced you as a song writer?
In Cornwall we are incredibly fortunate to have many talented artists and musicians and this leads to a pretty high bar of musical standard. As a kid I was out every weekend with my parents watching live music. The bands I heard here at that time inspired and motivated me to fully pursue music. That’s about as far as Cornwall’s influence goes for me though. Despite it being a beautiful part of the world I haven’t referenced it or taken influence from it any more than simply the local artists I was listening to at that time. Musically I tend to disappear inward, so my locality has had very little to do with my songwriting.
So what are your biggest influences musically?
My influences are, in my opinion, unspoken heroes. My guitar playing and love of vocal harmony arrangements come straight from John Frusciante. My childhood was saturated in the sounds of Americana artists such as John Hiatt, Tom Waits and Leo Kottke. Beautifully produced, rich and layered music, albeit simple but perfectly executed. My ultimate hero though is Randy Newman. I share an empathy with him in the feeling that listeners of our type of music can misunderstand the context of the song. With that aside, Randy’s writing is powerful, tuneful and emotionally delicate. One minute he has me grooving in hysterics, yet the next song will leave me adrift on a beautifully haunting melodic ocean in tears. That’s what I am striving to achieve in my music.
Those are certainly big shoes to step into but your winklepickers seem up to the job [in joke]…. Which tend to come first for you – the words, or the music?
Most often the music first very quickly followed by a vocal melody and lyrics. When writing a song if I have a verse riff, I’ll write a vocal line with lyrics before getting to the chorus chords. This doesn’t always happen… but most of the time it’s something like that.
Are there any songs or specific lyrics you wished you’d written?
Absolutely there are songs I wish I wrote. ‘Feels like home to me’ by Randy Newman will always be me and Sarah in my kitchen holding each other after she first told me she was pregnant! That song has become home and become THAT moment. I wish they were my words, and in a way they are – Randy just said it for me.
“Something in your voice, makes my heart beat fast.
Hope this feeling lasts, the rest of my life”
With your own songs, do you find it easier to write alone, or to collaborate with others?
Alone, definitely alone. My mind moves a hundred miles a minute when writing and it’s hard for me to concentrate on what my emotions are trying to encapsulate. Any slight distraction and I lose that feeling and thought and the magic is gone. It’s a fluid and personal process that evolves quickly. Easy to conjure but equally easy to lose.
Can you tell me about one particular song you are proud of – what inspired it, how long did it take until you were happy with it? What was the creative / writing process ?
One that comes to mind would be an old Hold The Sun song called ‘Build Up’ from the first album…. I have written far better songs than this since, but at the time it captured me and who I was. It was energetic, rhythmic and fast paced, dynamically varied and honest. It captured my frustrations within myself and I felt good for writing it and better for recording and performing it….
I have always been frustrated musically….. always felt I could do better…. always somehow restricted by something. ‘Build Up’ was admitting those restrictions were me. Once I started writing it, it poured out very quickly and was instantly gratifying.
How about songs that refused to be written? Have you experienced the dark side of being a writer, and if so, how do you cope with negatives like writers block, or self doubt?
I’ve been very lucky with writing. It’s a simple process for me with endless subject matter and inspiration. I usually finish a song I start within a day. However… there have been exceptions.
One was a song called ‘Jackie’…. took me over 2 years to write and was incredibly difficult to word! The story behind it is a sad one and a really delicate subject. I had a friend suggestion online from an old school acquaintance, and when I checked his profile I learned he had passed away aged 20 years old. He had cystic fibrosis and a really hideous battle with this aggressive illness. His profile was decorated with hundreds of messages from his heartbroken mother. It was really painful to see all the history of this poor guy who passed away so very young. He didn’t have it easy in school as kids can be unkind. I just felt a huge sadness I wasn’t a positive contribution to his existence…
I could have been, but I was a nothing. Learning of his passing and seeing his mothers heartbreak taught me a valuable lesson and I wanted to tell him and his mother that I was sorry…. Sorry for what happened and sorry I wasn’t better. It was a hard song to write both musically and lyrically but I did finish it and sent a live version to Jackie, his mother. Waiting for a reply seemed like an eternity as she had no idea who I was and it’s a really odd thing for a stranger to do out of the blue. Especially singing about such a tender subject.
Thankfully she appreciated the song and its dedication to her son and I felt I let her know someone’s thinking about both of them. I’d like to record ‘Jackie’ properly one day, release it and donate some money earned to cystic fibrosis charities.
[Debi: well, I don’t know about you but I’m a mess now!]
Do you think you have to have experienced sadness or setbacks to write the best songs?
Yes I do. Some of the best songs ever written often come from heartbreak or tragedies. Beautiful songs can sometimes act as a silver lining, a partially respectful outcome to a horrid situation.
Thank you so much! This has been a really moving interview with some fascinating insights…. Just one more thing that I’m sure we’d all like to know: As a new father how are you managing the work/life/music balance?
Everyone says how hard parenting is and feel the need to throw cliches like “you’ll never sleep again” or “kiss goodbye to your social life” It’s all absolutely nonsense. The first few weeks, yes we were tired. But we were also overwhelmed with love and adoration for our beautiful little girl. We still are. I am blessed with Sarah being a perfect natural mum who loves and cares for our daughter while I work during the day. Then I get to come home to my family and experience a love I never knew existed. Like with all changes, we cope and we adapt.
As for music, I’ve never had a bigger source of inspiration than my own flesh and blood, sat smiling at me everyday. Me and Sarah are currently recording an album of lullabies for her. Life has been good to me!
Links and more information
Out Of The Shadows (2016): www.samuelhoward.bigcartel.com
Want to follow Sam’s journey? Like his Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/iamwandermusic