"I was beginning to see the real sacrifices that have to be made as a touring artist in order to be successful. The loved ones you leave behind. Losing a dear friend of mine a few months prior to a stroke was a shotgun blast to the heart… It was a blatant reminder that none of us are invincible and you never know when your time is up."
I went on a roadtrip with my best friend recently, and this was the soundtrack. Sam Brittain's Stab in the Dark is a love-at-first-listen song, and its a song that you'll happy fall in love with every time it's played. Sam Brittain is an artist that'll take you along for the ride. And trust me, it's a ride that'll want to strap in for.
First off, thank you for making music! Your new track Stab in the Dark has been on high rotation, can you share a little bit about the story behind it?
Yeah I guess the song came about after a quite a long few years slogging out busking and touring Australia and heading to Europe for the first time. I was all set to play a few festivals over there and busk in Ireland which had for a long time been a dream of mine. During the making of my previous album a dear friend passed away, a friend I had planned to tour Europe with, a fellow musician. To deal with the grief I threw myself into my work 150% and just avoided facing the reality of what had happened for a long time. 2014 was a tumultuous year, one that brought extreme highs and lows my way but also allowed me to meet some incredible people.
I felt this insane pressure to keep pushing so hard and work every second of the day whilst those around me in Europe really were encouraging me to slow down, take stock and put some fuel back in the tank rather than always running on fumes. Stab in the Dark is a song that came about after some serious self-reflection. I was burned out, worn down and didn’t know why I kept doing the things to myself that I knew were the cause for my exhaustion. I think it’s really easy to bury your head in the sand and pretend there is not an issue, or in kind to pass the blame onto someone or something else. It’s a much harder thing to face the fact that perhaps the things that hurt you are your own doing and all you have to do is take control, turn the sails and head in a new direction.
You’ve toured with some well-known names; how do you compare this to working on your own show?
I’ve been really fortunate over the last few years to play some big shows, performances I will never forget and am extremely grateful to have been a part of. I think it has given me a great work ethic and perception of what is really required to be part of that top 1% of artists who get to headline big venues. I think is also taught me to be really grateful to the people who do come out and listen to my music, buy my records and support what I do. I have met a lot of people in the industry who seem to think they are owed something or playing a small noisy bar is somehow beneath them. I mean I understand you want people to listen to your music, I get that, but it’s your job to make them want to listen. Not every single night is going to be like stepping on stage to a full room of people whom immediately hush when the room goes dark, I mean it’s great when that happens but you have to know how to deal with both ends of the spectrum and stay positive.
I think the minute you lose the love for playing music regardless of its its to five people or five thousand you may as well hang up the boots. They have paid their money to get in, the thing you owe those five people talking at the bar is the same performance you would give the five thousand. I like to take this work ethic into my own shows, regardless of the venue size give it everything I have got and perform to a small room or a big theatre with exactly the same approach and energy.
The album release is fast approaching; how would you describe it to anyone eager for a sneaky preview?
I’m really excited for everyone to be able to hear this new record. We went into the studio with one focus in mind, recording the best songs we had as a band…live to tape. There is a certain organic quality that inherently comes with that. There’s nowhere to hide, good songs work and lesser songs don’t. Your forced to make creative decisions really quickly. The end result is something we are all really proud of and sounds authentic. Sonically I guess it’s a blend of styles somewhere between Jason Isbell, Passenger & Ryan Adams…Our record falls somewhere in that world I guess, or at least fans of that alternative country/folk Americana style should enjoy it…hopefully.
How do you go about the process of writing an album? Where do you write?
That’s a hard one to answer. For me there is no real formula or procedure to writing. It just happens when it happens. When I sit down to write a song intentionally, nine of ten times it is absolute shit. I find most of my writing just happens haphazardly when I am on the road, touring and travelling, generally just doing other things and experiencing new places and meeting new people.
After I have made a record and put it out I like to tour for as long as possible, see as many new places and meet as many new people as I can until I feel like I have the next bunch of experiences and stories to write about.
Is there a song on the album that you’re particularly proud of?
Slàinte is a very special song for me that I am really proud of. It came about from one of the most beautiful moments of human connection I have ever experienced. I walked into a bar after a long day busking on Grafton Street in Dublin to get a pint of Guinness and unwind for a while. I just happened to sit next to a gentleman with a story to tell and no one to tell it to. I think about Jim often, the things that he shared with me about his life and the horribly challenging time he was going through…I think about it often. I really hope he is doing ok and I hope to see him again one day…I don’t know if it’s a weird thing to say but the song I am proudest of on the album is one I don’t really feel as if I wrote at all. It’s his story, I was just lucky enough to be there to hear it.
What should any new fans know about you?
Well. I’m an Aquarius who enjoys flower arranging, lives for brunch with girlfriends on the weekends and finds solace in long walks on the beach…Is that the kind of thing you were after? HA
I don’t know I guess one thing that seems to come as a surprise to people who have just heard my music but never met me is that I come from a far heavier background musically. I grew up jumping around the living room to everything from Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin to The Clash. Eventually as a teenager finding my first musical niche in bands emulating the sounds of of Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Piolets and Nirvana.
I believe there are only two kinds of music, good music and bad music. That’s it…And I think artists, writers and musicians have a lot to gain by listening to music outside of their immediate genre or generation. There’s great lessons to learn within heavier music melodically and harmonically that can really add something unique within acoustic music. A deeper understanding of all music will inherently lead to you writing better stuff, the only thing you have to do is listen to it with open ears. Then when you come to writing keep one rule in mind...What would Bruce Springsteen do? Somewhere in that tremendous back catalogue are the ties that bind it all together…