Sam Tompkins is destined for big things and it’s not hard to understand why.
The Brighton-born singer first got his start-up by sharing covers to YouTube and busking on the street. Since those early days, he has built himself a loyal fanbase after releasing his own material. Those who have followed Tompkins’ journey will be well aware of his raw and honest songwriting skills that have gone on to captivate listeners around the world. His most recent sold-out UK tour this year was a massive success and showcased a promising future for the 24-year-old. To top it all off, Justin Bieber invited him to join his Instagram Live earlier this year to express how much of a fan he is of the rising star, stating Tompkins is his “favourite new artist.”
In February, Tompkins will release his mini-album, who do you pray to?, via Island Records, which will be promoted by his biggest tour that will see him play all over Europe. His latest single from the project, “Bloodline,” is among one of his very best and is resonating with listeners on a personal level. Ahead of our chat, Tompkins proved to be in demand as he explained he was preparing for a work trip in LA. Since his time there, he has taken his relationship with Bieber to the next level and secured himself studio sessions with the Grammy Award winner as well as rap star Ty Dolla Sign.
During our interview with Tompkins, he reminisced over his latest tour, the creative process of his upcoming body of work, his debut album, and where Tompkins would like to see himself this time next year.
You recently got off tour and performed at a number of sold-out shows across the UK. How was that experience?
It was magical man, it was the closest thing to true euphoria. It’s the peak of my happiness when I’m on stage and there are all those people looking at me. There were times in lockdown where I didn’t know how to visualise that particular tour. I didn’t know if it was going to be a socially distanced one. Everyone went through the motions of wondering what live shows going to be after covid, it makes your mind wonder and you think if you’ll enjoy it the same if it’s done in any other way.
You performed your latest single “Bloodline” on tour before it was released, which went down really well with the crowd at the London gig I went to. How long ago did you write that song and were you always confident about dropping a song so personal?
I wrote it I think on February 18th of this year, I wrote it a few days after my papa had passed. In terms of being nervous about what the songs are about and stuff, I don’t really get nervous because I’ve been releasing songs that are personal to me for at least the last three years. I’ve created a group of people who seek that when they’re listening to music, so I never feel worried about it. I honestly think if something truly comes from the heart, people can’t really say anything about it. I rarely get negative comments on my music, I don’t know if that’s because I’m not big enough yet. If I get negative comments, it’s never about the music which is quite nice but I think that’s because people can see it’s coming from a really good and honest place.
The song is taken from your upcoming mini-album, who do you pray to? Was there any song that was challenging to create?
There’s a song on the project called “My Brother,” which has had a lot of production back and forths. Even now, we’re still going back and forth with it, which is quite funny. It’s because we want the best for the art. I don’t want to put anything out that doesn’t sit we;; with me. Getting that song right is really important. That’s the beauty of music, I think Kanye is a good example of that with those listening parties he was doing. That was almost like surveys as he was giving the album for people to listen to and listening to what people liked making sure people won’t hear the album until every person is satisfied. The album came out and it was brilliant. I think that’s how music should be made in a way, it should be going back and forth as it means so much.
How fresh is this project? Are there some songs that are quite old that you’ve been saving?
The first song I wrote was in November of 2018, it’s called “Hero.” That’s a really special song. I never knew that it was going to be for this project but that came a long long time ago before I wrote a lot of the songs I’ve released. That’s another one I’ve been going back and forth with for three years until now to get it to the point where I’m really pleased with it.
Did the pandemic help your writing process in any way?
It totally helped me embrace the songwriting process as a whole and embrace writer’s block. Before, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be constantly creative, and if I wasn’t creative I guess I’d punish myself in ways and beat myself up about stuff. Lockdown taught me if you’re left with nothing else but time, sometimes you’ve gotta go through the motions man. Some weeks I’ll be fiery out a song or two a day and other weeks I’ll write nothing for about a month. In those periods of writing nothing for a month, eventually, when I came back I’d be a better songwriter because I would have taken in everything that had gone on. I’ve realised that my creativity and my songwriting ability come in waves and I’ve grown to appreciate that. Now, I don’t put any pressure on myself.
How does this mini-album differ from your EP released in 2019?
This next one, I think is conceptually more mature. Production-wise, lyrically, and the way I’m utilizing my voice as an artist has changed. I’m still writing these emotional songs but it’s slightly more mature and all-rounded now. A lot of the songs that were written for the 2019 EP, a lot of them were written before I was signed. I was doing more melodic rapping on the first project, which sat really well with me at the time but as you get older I realised I was a singer and I wanted to sing. I guess that’s what this project is about, it’s about me being a singer and that I can sing and write as well as anyone else.
Looking back at your early material, do you feel like you were still discovering your sound, or was that very much you at the time?
Massively discovering my sound man. I genuinely think I’ve found it now. I kind of go into the studio with a vision now, rather than before where I knew what I wanted to write about but I didn’t know how I wanted it to sound. It would come out quite fragmented, the songs wouldn’t always make sense. I don’t think I made sense to people a lot of the time. I think I made sense to my core fanbase who have been stuck with me and they’ve been fantastic but I think I thought I knew what my sound was but not sure looking back that I really did as I didn’t really know who I was. I’ve gone through a lot of introspective reflection over the last couple of years and discovered who I am a little bit better, which helps me navigate and translate that into my music.
You very recently teamed up with producer Sonny Fodera for the song “You.” How did that all come about?
I think Sonny discovered me from one of my covers that I dropped on Instagram and I think his manager might have hit up mine or something. I remember going to the studio and writing this song with a lovely woman called Jin Jin, who is a fantastic songwriter, and we all just got on and we had a good day, and the song reflected that. I had a bit of a bunged-up nose and we recorded the song, and I was sure that was just going to be the demo vocal. But, it ended up being the actual song because we all just liked it. That song was so easy man, it took us a few hours. We were just chatting, I started playing the guitar, and I thought it would be cool to hear the guitar on one of his records. That’s not the type of music I’d usually make ever really but I think it’s so important to broaden your horizons. Especially in this industry, things are constantly moving around because sounds are changing and people want different things. As long as I’m writing songs that mean something to me, it doesn’t matter what they sound like because it means they can reach other people.
You mentioned at the beginning of our chat that you’re off to LA to create some new music, does that mean you’re now in album mode?
Oh yeah, I’m working on my proper debut album, my first full-length album. I’m totally in the process of it right now. I haven’t got a name for it yet, it’s still early days. There’s a bunch of songs that are going to go on there but I’m going to focus the next three or four months solely on writing new music so when I’m ready to release an album, it’s all just there.
Now that everything is happening for you, what is a goal you would like to achieve this time next year?
Sell out Brixton Academy, that’s like my dream. That’s the pinnacle of my career. That’s as far as I can imagine my career going, so if I do that, everything else is a bonus. By the end of next year, to have sold out Brixton Academy and played the show is my goal.
Pre order ‘who do you pray to?’ at www.samtompkins.com
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