Sam Feldt meets me in his dressing room, a backstage portacabin reverberating at the walls with every sub drop and kick. With the summer sun streaming through its single window, his blue and yellow tropical t-shirt matches the cheer of his team, who eagerly share the exhilaration of their day accompanying Sam to his headline set at Mysterylands festival. Half way through our interview, his mom pops her head around the door. It sets off a chain reaction of hugs throughout his crew. As my first interview of the weekend, I could not have been more excited to discover that the genuine feel - good energy of Sam Feldt’s music infuses his entire career and team.
Known for his award winning Tropical and Deep House summer anthems ‘Post-Malone’ featuring RANI and ‘Show Me Love’ featuring Kimberly Anne, Sam already has an impressive collection of uplifting chart hits, a double album, high profile remixes and residencies under his belt. But, as becomes clear throughout our interview, the most important ingredient in his music is emotion. Specifically emotion conveyed through a ‘catchy and emotional’ melody. Combining electronic and live instruments during his set, Sam’s creativity and curiosity also expands to his passion for sustainability and entrepreneurialism.
Alongside his unique sound, Sam is the co-founder and CEO of the market leader in fan engagement in the markets of music and fitness: Fangage. It sparked from his desire to connect with fans better. He employs methods such as unlocking mixtapes, free tracks, participating in contests and more to boost his following. If you’re interested in diving into his world, check out the links at the bottom of this article.
But first, we dove deep into his production process, discovering his views on a ‘good’ bass, kick, hook and more.
What inspired you to start your journey?
The DJing was different than the producing - I started DJing I was 11. I saved up money from my birthday to buy my first CD players and mixers. I basically played birthday parties with my friends for 6 hours straight! I just loved to entertain. Then I stopped for a while but when I was 17 I went to my first club. It was then that I decided to become a club DJ. So I bought my first DJ controller, made some mixes and then put them up on Soundcloud. Then a year later, at 18, I decided to take producing seriously, after doing it for some time as a hobby, in FL Studio.
Were you totally self-taught?
I learnt music theory through piano lessons for 7 years, but that was a while ago, so I don’t play that well anymore. I learnt to use the software and plug-ins via experimenting, learning from tutorials or sitting in the studio with other people.
Who has really influenced you?
A good friend of mine, who’s DJ name is Jay Hardway, used to live in the same building. He is a better producer than me, technically, so I learned a lot from him when I was first starting out. He taught me a lot of cool tips and tricks in FL Studio. That really helped me to grow as an artist.
What were his production tips?
One thing he taught me is to never add another element, sample or layer to your song until you’re completely satisfied with everything you have so far. If you continue to add stuff on top of things that you don’t love, it’s very hard to fix. So always make sure that whenever you put a new sample in, everything up until that point makes you completely satisfied. I also rarely mix after producing, as I mix during production.
What’s your process?
Usually my tracks start with a vocal. I either get a top line in or go into the studio with a writer or singer and start building chords around that, to make the foundation of the track. Usually the drop comes last. A lot of producers who produce more EDM or Big Room work on the drop first and treat the rest as secondary.
But my music is all about melodies and the rest is just extra, like the decorations you put on a Christmas tree. So the tree, in my case, is the vocal, the chord progressions, the main instrumental hook or lead sound. Once I have those three elements I usually arrange it pretty quickly. Like I said, samples are important but the most important part is the melody. It has to be catchy and emotional.
Sometimes you don’t even need an instrumental drop as you can use the chorus in the drop as the main hook. It’s similar to the remix process. You always start with the vocal. Maybe you chop it up a little bit, but it remains the main anchor.
What makes a great kick?
In my style of music it is not as important as it is in hard style EDM or Big Room. For me, it’s important that it’s punchy, snappy and works well on radio. When you’re doing the club mixes that’s a different story, but when I do an original, the kick can be very minimal.
When you do a club or festival oriented song, the kick needs to be louder, fatter, and more bass heavy. When you’re producing for radio, like I said, it can be very minimal. It can be almost a little snap. It doesn’t need to have that punch, and it doesn’t need to have that ‘hands in the air’ danceability. If you look at the Hard Style acts playing at Mysteryland, the kick is the most important thing in their music. For my style of music it’s the vocal, not the kick or any specific sample.
A great hook?
Sometimes I just follow the melody of the vocal chorus. Sometimes the vocal is great but it doesn’t have the right hook. So I’ll play around with the notes of the chorus to find a cool melody. There are also some plug-ins that I use, like Captain Chords. I know it’s cheating, but it helps to create progressions I normally wouldn’t think about.
A good bass?
It really depends on the track. Some tracks ask for a more outspoken bass line or sound. But a lot of my tracks have a simple side-chained sine wave which works just as well. For me it really depends on the track.
How often do you create new sounds?
Many producers are synth based. But if you look at my live set, you’ll see a lot of instruments. I’m lucky to have a great band who help me in the studio. They record live horns, piano, drums, and guitar. That helps me to create fresh sounds, because it’s mine and not from a sample pack. That’s usually how my process of creating new interesting sounds goes - I just use a live band and then mess around in the studio. Although I do play piano, I use the ‘piano roll’ to type it in, as it’s easier in the production process.
How do you balance your signature sound and with making fresh sounds?
I have a folder of signature Sam Feldt sounds that I use a lot, but I’ll manipulate and add effects to make them more unique for each song. I’m currently working on a cool project with Splice, where I’m making my own sample pack, with a lot of the Sam Feldt signature sounds in. I think it’s just a matter of tweaking those sounds to the track to make sure they fit well.
Are you currently working on any exciting projects?
Yes. I’ve got a couple new songs to play at the main stage today. I also finished a new project with Sigma. I’m working on an Ed Sheeran remix. There’s about 10 tracks finished. We’re also launching my own label later this year, called Heartfeldt records! It’s an extension of the Heartfeldt brand, but a new platform to get all that music out.
Sam’s currently on tour. You can check out the dates HERE.
We also found a great Sam Feldt FL Studio sample pack to check out HERE.