Sam Himself currently lives in New York City by way of Switzerland. Long before he made the U.S. his home in 2010, he fell in love with soul, blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and country. Spending years creating his own style by merging these genres, the result is an eclectic Americana, unified by his distinct baritone and his guitar-based compositions.
“Boatman’s Song,” the first single off his debut LP, describes the individual experience of global injustice.
G— What is your relationship to music?
SH—Music is what brought me to the US. I grew up in Switzerland, where I immersed myself in American music from a young age. I always wanted to get to where that music’s from, and now that I’m here, I can’t wait to travel the country and see the places where the songs I love were born.
G—Can you tell us about “Boatman’s Song”?
Sam Himself—Last summer, I went to the beach in Italy. Around that time, news and images of the escalating refugee crisis started pouring in. The people in those photos arrived on beaches like the one I went to, though while I was on vacation, they were trapped in a nightmare. Out of despair, they had risked and, in many cases, lost everything. But instead of empathy, they were met with distrust and bigotry by some. That’s the experience I wanted to write about: the overwhelming sense of injustice when, after sacrificing all you have, you’re vilified for trying to save yourself.
G—There is a nice mix of male and female vocals on the single. Who accompanied you on the single?
SH—I worked with Lynn Thu Tun, an artist from New York and a student of minimalist pioneer La Monte Young, as a backup singer, and I was lucky enough to get Teeny and Lizzie of TEEN on board for the choir. Denitia Odigie, the force behind Adesuwa, added her magic.
G—Did you write the song together? How did the collaboration come about?
SH—I wrote the song on my own, but I wrote a very quiet version of it. When I brought it to the studio, my producer Daniel Schlett (one of the most talented people working in Brooklyn right now) pushed for the Springsteen-like crescendo that became the song’s dynamic. Lynn and I are good friends, and Daniel has worked with TEEN and Denitia in the past, so he reached out to them for their beautiful harmonies.
G—The opening lyrics are really striking, “I came to kill, I came to steal. Your wife, your job, your Sunday meal”. Can you talk about the idea behind the song’s narrative?
SH—The lyrics are written from the perspective of a refugee who reaches a new shore and finds himself confronted with all kinds of negative stereotypes. Incredulously, he takes on the roles and names this new place presents him with, a lot of which are mutually exclusive, and holds up a mirror to those who reject him out of ignorance and fear.
G—Will this single be featured on a full length debut album?
SH—”Boatman’s Song” is the first single off my forthcoming debut LP, “Songs In D”, which will be out early this summer. We’re currently mixing my album at Strange Weather Studios in Brooklyn.
G—Musically, what is the rest of 2016 looking like for Sam Himself?
SH—I’ll keep writing songs. I can’t help it, I have to or else I’ll explode. I’m also really looking forward to releasing my debut. I’ve been working on this for a long time, and I feel like I’m finally finding my voice. And I’m eager to take these songs on the road, both on my own and with a band, to see how people react to them. If there’s a better feeling in the world, I haven’t encountered it yet.
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