Sam Brookes headlined at the Loft Live Sessions in Exeter recently, after his performance we managed to grab 10 minutes with Sam Brookes to talk about being an unsigned artist, his passion for gilding and most importantly, the new album which is in the pipeline....
I can't believe that you're an unsigned artist....
Yes, I chose to remain unsigned for the last record that I released because I was signed to a small indie label in Bath for the first release and I just decided that the whole industry seemed to be in flux and I decided to keep my options open, I had a fan base and had an opportunity to deliver a record to them and see if I could actually make some money, well, enough money to make another album. I did it through Pledge Music, the whole connection with the people who are actually into my music is great and really inspired me to make another record. As far as labels are concerned, I'd love to work with a label but they'd really have to have some like minded individuals who were as passionate about my music as I am instead of a major one with bags of money to throw at you, I'm just looking for people who want to push me in the right direction!
What do you think a label would ultimately be able to do for you?
I think it's a case of widening my network, we live in a world that is so well connected via the internet but I feel that having a label behind me would open a few doors, allow me to work with more artists, collaborate when creating music, I'm always looking at acts which I'd love to work with, usually artists that are completely different to what I do, I guess it's just me wanting to widen my horizon and spread my wings a little more.
You're based in London, what do you LOVE about being there?
Good question, hmmm, what DO I love about it, museums, exhibitions, that's probably about it! I've been there for about 7 years now and I'm starting to think that I need a change, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time there and I recall when I first arrived, I didn't know any other musicians, I started my own nights and found that was a great way of widening the network, I feel that I have sort of done this and would like to have a go at doing the same in another city.
Anywhere in particular?
Berlin, America but that would be a bigger move, depends on what offers there were on the table at the time I guess. I love Bristol and Manchester too....
Bristol is a really creative place, loads of acts have come out of there and it has a certain cool confidence about it!
It is a very creative place, with London, I was listening to an A&R man called Chris Briggs who has been in the business for years, he signed bands like Thin Lizzy and The Clash, he was talking about watching The Clash back in the day and said that you could go to a different part of London back in the 70's and you'd know that you'd see a different type of band, there was just so much talent out there, I could be wrong but I don't think that this is happening right now, from the roots up, people living in the environments that they do....
I think back in the late 70's it was a different beast, you had punk rock that had just burst onto the scene, bringing with it anarchy and rebellion, that soon passed and post punk and new wave took over, looking back at the punk era, people lived in squats, the sound that came out of them was from being pissed off, upset at what Thatcher had brought about....
London is SO expensive these days, you're not going to find groups of young people living in squats anymore as the rents are through the roof! Back then, the suburbs such as Finsbury Park or South of the river were REAL suburbs that brought with them a different take on life, you don't get that anymore, it's a real shame as London is a great city to live in but I feel that it is pushing that culture further out of it
My next question was what do you HATE about London but I think we'll gloss over that one!
(excessive laughter from Sam Brookes)
You trained as a gilder, do you still 'gild' if that is the right terminology?
Every now and then, I do it to keep my hand in, it's my other trade and I guess I grew up with it, my Dad is a hand finished picture frame maker and that's how I got involved with gilding in the first place. i worked with him and did music alongside that for many years, a few years ago, I went full time with the music but I still dip in now and again to the gilding.
Did you have to do an apprenticeship or a course?
No, my Dad just taught me, he was around me all the time so I sort of learnt the business really well!
London, as a city is a really big pond, how is your genre of music doing at the moment?
I guess you could say I'm an alternative folk singer songwriter, I think I touched on the 'scene' in London earlier, it's awash with musicians and I don't really know that there is a 'scene' for what I do, I watch a LOT of gigs in London as there are so many, people coming through all the time, I guess my interests at the moment are acts from America and Scandinavia, I love that 'Nordic Noir' style of music at the moment
Your songs are about familiar subject matter, are they based on your own experiences or characters that you may create when writing them?
I don't necessarily create characters but I would say that this is definitely something that is developing and you'll see a lot more of it on the next record. The songs kind of develop as you get more involved with it and I see a lot of the songs as films in my head, like a music video in the film and this kind of leads to characters that I use in order to get my point across. It definitely never started like that, back along, all my songs were about relationships, girlfriends, heartache etc... Now, I'm developing this and I doubt that I'll ever go to the extremes that someone like Nick Cave has done, I really admire people who write like that, I think it's fascinating how they create a world around them and that consumes them and their songs are so interesting.
Have you heard Nick Cave's new album yet?
Not yet but it's on my list....
It's a VERY heavy listen, very rewarding and certainly one that you can't just have on in the background, it really demands your attention and I found that I was transported to some really dark places throughout the record and the final track sort of cleanses you, it lifts you out of the place that you were and ends on a bit more of a high note (if you can say that about a Nick Cave album!)
I'm really excited about it now....
Chris Hughes worked with you to produce your self titled releases, what did you learn from him?
Chris was awesome, he's still around in my creative process quite often, it was the first time I'd ever been in a studio to record and after spending so long just gigging around all over the place, it was nice to actually do that! He allowed me that space to 'explore' and really look into what different production techniques would do to my music, almost in an old school kind of way where people would spend months in a studio, just messing about with sounds and styles, experimenting and I'm so thankful to him for that, if I didn't work with him, I'd not have that element of creativity, I guess I'm not scared of trying things out now having had him show me that it's good to do just that, you don't have a budget to do that in a massive famous studio so it was great that it happened!
The freedom to experiment....
Yeah and to know that the possibilities aren't limited, he really opened my mind to go and try something.
Ray Davies was amazing, song wise, he's absolutely incredible, it was basically watching a legendary person just do what he does, I kind of grew up listening to Joan Armatrading so she was almost part of my life from a very early age and Newton Faulkner from a younger perspective was great, as far as an entertainer goes, he's just that, he just makes sure that EVERYONE has such a great time and I think that he just gets the fact that he's playing for them and it's great to see that his music attracts families and people of every age to his shows, he really bridges the gap and spans generations which is great to see.
I saw a picture of a small building next to the sea, it might have been on the Isle of Skye? Tell me what was going on there....
I had recently started writing some new material and I was chatting to the guy about getting away for a few days to start to piece it all together and he suggested spending some time on the Isle of Skye so we did just that, it was such an amazing place, it's been in Rob's (drummer/Keyboard player) for years, it was a small boat house which is right by the sea and it was really atmospheric, the weather was all over the place, changing at the drop of a hat and it was actually quite scary at times! We did loads of mountain walks and I'd say that there is definitely some elements of the island wrapper up in the new material! I've never seen a place that looks so beautifully grim, it's desolate but so picturesque at the same time (he's clearly never been to Rhyl in North Wales which is just 'grim'). When the sun comes out, it's such an amazingly beautiful place!
A far cry from London....
So, you've told me about the new material, you've played a couple of the tracks tonight, when can we expect to see the finished product on the shelves?
Definitely 2017, I think I'm going to release a single in Feb/March, probably looking at an Autumn release realistically, I'd love to have it out before then but I want to allow time for it to reach as many people as possible, so yeah, next Autumn is the target date!
What are your plans for the rest of this year?
I've got a few gigs in November, then just getting the record finished, ready to hit the ground running for 2017!
Please can you give me three names of acts or bands that I should be checking out?
I've been listening to the new record by Margaret Glaspy, she's from America and her album is called 'Emotions and Math', it's such a cool record, you should definitely check that out, I've always been a massive fan of Ane Brun, there's an album of hers called 'It all Starts With One' and she's also released another record called 'Directions' which are WELL worth hearing and finally, you should also check out a band called Hot Feet (featuring Sam's drummer Rob), they're an alt folk band, their female singer is really reminiscent of Sandie Denny and they have really moved on from the first time I saw them, it really is interesting stuff, they're from Stroud and are about to change their name to 'Low Chimes' so if you want to check them out as 'Hot Feet' before they change the name!
Sam, thank you so much for chatting to us, hope the November gigs go well and I'm really looking forward to hearing the new album next year
No problem, great to meet you!
Sam's most recent album 'Kairos' is available now and you can check it out HERE