*Check out our concert pics here*
*Read our review of Shea Rose’s opening performance here*
Article and Photos By: Lisa Occhino
Sam Sparro’s platinum break-out hit, “Black & Gold,” charted Top 20 in 14 countries, earned him a Grammy Nomination, and was covered by huge acts such as Adele and Katy Perry (read on to find out which version he likes better!). The Australian-born singer/songwriter’s self-titled album debuted Top 5 in the UK and earned Gold certification and further praise from the world’s media. He has collaborated with Basement Jaxx, Mark Ronson, DJ Mason & DMC, remixed Kimbra, OK Go, and Sky Ferriera, and has written songs for the likes of Adam Lambert and Natasha Bedingfield. He has appeared on stage at Glastonbury and Coachella, and has earned prestigious MTV and ARIA nominations in Australia.
On April 19th, Sam Sparro made his first-ever appearance in Boston at the Brighton Music Hall, during which Berklee alum Shea Rose gave an incredible opening performance (read our review of Shea’s performance here). After the show, The Groove got the opportunity to interview Sam about the path his music career took, his advice on songwriting and collaborating, and of course, whether he prefers Katy’s or Adele’s version of “Black & Gold”:
Berklee Groove: How did you get your start in music? Were you a performer or a songwriter first?
Sam Sparro: I started singing in church when I was really little. My dad’s a musician and my grandfather’s a musician. I started writing songs when I was about 14.
BG: Who are your musical influences?
SS: My favorite singer is Chaka Khan. I really love Prince and Aretha Franklin and Erykah Badu.
BG: Tell me about the path your music career took. What were the most important connections or events in your life that got you to where you are today?
SS: The internet, really. I was living in London and I was doing demos in my bedroom, and temping in the mailrooms at Universal and Sony. I was an intern making five pounds an hour. That wasn’t really working, so I moved back to L.A. and I lived with my parents and started recording and gigging. I put my stuff up on MySpace, of all places – the dinosaur days of MySpace – and from there, Radio 1 in England started playing my music. I signed the deal shortly after that. The internet was definitely really helpful.
BG: How would you describe your sound?
SS: I guess it sort of evolved. People called the first album ‘electro-pop.’ Whenever people ask me what kind of music I do, I always just say pop because it’s a way of not having to answer the question [laughs]. But I’m influenced by so much different stuff. This album, [Return to Paradise], is really influenced by 1978-1984 disco.
BG: Your song “Black and Gold” was covered by Katy Perry, Adele, and Ellie Goulding. How did that work out? Did it come as a surprise to you, or was that all part of the plan?
SS: Well, Adele and I are friends and we’ve done a lot of shows together. Both of our first albums came out around the same time. I opened for her in the U.K. Radio 1 has a live lounge where you have to do a current hit song as a cover, and I guess that was around the same time that Katy Perry and Adele did it. Katy and I are friends as well – she actually had my demo before her album came out.
BG: So did they ask if they could cover your song, or did they just do it?
SS: Nope, they just did it.
BG: Whose version do you like the most? Are you allowed to say?
BG: What’s your songwriting process like?
SS: It’s always different, really. I’m a lot better at collaborating than I used to be, and I enjoy collaborating more. My advice to anyone who wants to collaborate with other artists is to let go of their expectations and their own boundaries that they place on themselves. Be more open to letting things happen, because that’s how you get some amazing songs. I’ve worked with people that I didn’t think were right to work with, and you get an amazing song out of it.
BG: What advice do you have for aspiring songwriters and performers?
SS: Write as much as possible. I think I probably write 10 songs before I write a good one. Just write as much as you can, because then you have way more to choose from. Even for this new album, I wrote about 60 songs before I had an album that I really liked. It took two and a half years.
Want more Sam Sparro? Check out these links: