We’ve had a few incredible pairings for these interviews in the past, but none more so than having our friend Tkay Madiza taking to the other side of the microphone for a 20 minute chat with Sampha! As one of the UK’s most enigmatic young artists, Sampha previously lent his vocal, production and songwriting talents to a whole range of standout releases, from homegrown UK contemporaries such as SBTRKT, FKA twigs, Lil Silva and Jessie Ware to world-renowned superstars like Drake, Beyonce, Kanye West, Frank Ocean and most recently on Solange’s A Seat At The Table album. Now, on Process – which also features previous singles ‘Timmy’s Prayer’ and ‘Blood On Me’ – it’s time for Sampha to tell his own story. A big shout out to Tkay for taking the time and for getting out of bed at 2am in her Paris hotel room for the cause! An incredibly prolific artist in her own right, we were thrilled to get Tkay onboard and to gain a new perspective on the creative process behind one of 2017’s most talked about artists. Enjoy!
Tkay- Hey Sampha, How are you!?
Sampha- Yea I’m not bad how are you doing?
T- I’m good! Hopefully you’re enjoying your time here so far..
S- Yeah, yes, I’m in Melbourne. It’s been really nice, I was in Sydney before which was very brief and sweet and now in the weather has been its perfect. There’s something about this place which I really like.
T- OK awesome! So I have some questions to ask you. I’ve actually never done an interview before because this is an artist on artist type thing so please bear with me!
S- Not a problem at all! I had some warning! Fire away *laughs*.
T- So were you born in South London or did you move over?
S- Yeah I was born in Leighton in South London but I’ve been back (to Sierra Leone) about four or five times which has been quite important I think.
T- Oh OK well I’m actually from Zimbabwe, so I just found that pretty cool. I’ve always really loved your collaboration with Jessie Ware on Valentine. It was the first song I heard of yours, and I heard it again the other day on my phone and remembered how amazing it was! That came out back in 2011. How would you describe your journey since then?
S- Yeah Its been really cool I. I have really just gone with the flow, maybe a little to much at first.. Now I’m trying to assert myself and a little bit more and be more confident. It feels good to be in the driving seat in my career but yeah I’ve definitely done a lot of growing. On my musical journey there has definitely been a lot of action and I didn’t think anything would really develop the way it has. I thought everything would just kind of pan out after a while, and then everything started happening with me being a full fledged vocalist or solo artist so yeah has been kind of cool to kind of see that transpire.[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oM1DFL43Lk[/youtube]
T- You know when sometimes something happens quicker than you expect and you feel like you’re just reacting to it? Is that how you’re solo career really kicked off, or were you quite prepared at the time?
S- I think its incredible how some people see their plans come to fruition, like some people are just so confident and can create a plan to follow and that works for them. But with me it has to feel right at the time. I have like a musical moral code that I try and follow. I’m not pursuing something it if I’m not feeling it, which is what I’m trying to stay true to…. Not compromising for me is hard but important, so yeah I guess my approach is kind of reactionary.
T- Growing up who did you listen to? What did you listen to that is still surprisingly relevant to you?
S- Growing up I listened to a bunch of people. Things that hit me the hardest, well there were certain things that I listened to when I was younger that I didn’t really know was that good at the time. Like there is music from back in the VHS days Jack and the Beanstalk. I was watching that and there’s like psychedelic ambient music I remember from when I was like five and I tripping out *laughs*. There is also Tracey Chapman, Stevie Wonder, a lot of grime music, K’naan, Newari, Skepta, Jamie (T) and also poppy songs like Semisonic’s Secret Smile, so yeah heaps of different kind of stuff. I think it’s important to have a bit of a range!
T- Yea cool! I’m a huge fan of your production, I really like the rhythms, the drum programing and the sound selection that you have, what influences the your choices and the sounds that you choose?
S- I definitely need something with a rhythm. Like I love a bit of funk….. but yeah when it comes to sound I just love playing around and listening. Also just being experimental and just try and find something that really moves me and that will hopefully move my fans as well.
T- Yea that’s cool I’m totally like that as well. It’s good to experiment and find something you haven’t heard before.
T- So your album has just come out as of last Friday! Does it feel like it’s been a long time coming for you?
S- Yeah it feels somewhat right for me just because I wouldn’t like too much commotion when releasing an album…. For me it’s what I’m able to deal with, if I can deal with I then it will be somewhat great on a personal level if that makes sense *laughs*.
T- It really sounds like you’ve learned to develop and feel comfortable with your surroundings. Did working with Jessie Ware and Drake, SBTRKT and Solange change or influence the way you approach your album? It would have been really cool to have those people behind you or even just having the notion that they really believe in what you do.
S- Um yes I think somewhat, I mean not like consciously. I reckon like all of that life experience seep in to the environment you’re working in… I mean I think naturally when people are encouraging it kind of helps plays into the way you write. On the flip-side it just builds your confidence so you can relax into your work.
I saw in an interview you said that your album was about growing pains… when you finished writing it did you feel you had a weight lifted off your shoulders?
S- Um not necessarily I have definitely had my moments, like I love like playing but I actually don’t have time to go back and just relax. I want to keep working, and the album in a way is a kind of like a documentation of who I am, so yes I guess it does feel good to finish! I’m still piecing it all together..
Yea nice. Were there any messages you were trying to tell your listeners? Or was it mainly a documentation of what you have been up to?
Umm not necessarily lyrically, I guess a lot of the lyrics kind of came out in a freestyle but I spent a while making sure what came out felt right. There is more to it when it comes to production. I wanted to make sure that I conveyed everything in the music that I mixed. It’s important to me that I make the point I’m trying to make in regards to production.
When you were finalising Process, I saw that you had a lot of songs that were contenders for the final track listing. What were you looking for in those 10 songs that made you chose the ones you did?
Um yeah that was difficult. The album was quite emotionally intense, for me anyway. For other people it might be pain or just really intense but for me it’s just a lot of trial and error and testing things out and trying to ensure I have the right songs and that everything flows… I get a little worried that its too over powering…. Not even too overpowering, I want people to feel bad *laughs* or to feel the emotions that I’m trying to express.
T – Yeah well you can definitely feel all the emotions and. Some of the songs are really intense and you have moments that are really delicate. It’s a really great album. My friends watched you play in Melbourne the other night and they were sending me live feeds. It sounded really great, even just on the piano in solo mode. For anyone who wasn’t there, what can they expect from your live show?
S- It’s like a 5-piece. You can expect a lot of peaks and valleys… sometimes its quite smooth and intense and electric, yea its just me trying to relate it to the album and music. I’ve got a really great band and we try and make it sound like a real live experience without compromising on the electronic side of the show.
T- That sounds amazing. I think that’s everything I have for you. Thank you for the interview. Have fun in Australia!
S- Thanks a lot you were great.
Sampha’s album Process is out now via Remote Control/Young Turks. Grab a copy HERE.
Tkay Maidza’s debut TKAY is out now via Dew Process. Grab a copy HERE. Another big thanks to Tkay Maidza for putting this one together!
Sampha – 2017 AUNZ Tour Dates
24 . 05 – Auckland, New Zealand – Studio
25 . 05 – Brisbane, Australia – The Triffid SELLING FAST
27 . 05 – Sydney, Australia – Sydney Opera House SOLD OUT
28 . 05 – Sydney, Australia – Sydney Opera House SOLD OUT
29 . 05 – Melbourne, Australia – The Croxton Bandroom SOLD OUT
30. 05 – Melbourne, Australia – The Croxton Bandroom ON SALE NOW