Interview Kirk Truman
Photography Lauren Luxenberg
Sam Way and I first met in Hackney about a year ago, and it was immediately apparent to me that this familiar face on London’s menswear scene was a natural wordsmith and a musical talent. Sam is a musician and songwriter based in London’s East End who has made a name for himself both in style and in music – two worlds that complement one another perfectly. With a compelling dedication to his craft, writing music has become his root to reflection. As we meet up again, he shares his thoughts about music and talks about his relationship with our capital.
Tell me about your youth.
Youth to me felt like freedom – it felt like good friends and family, growing up with and alongside them. I moved around a lot with mum, but still there was a sense between us that wherever we were we would find ‘home’ together. Books always seemed to keep me company. Youth felt like… playing rugby every Sunday, covered in dirt, being addicted to video games, falling asleep every day after school in front of the TV. Devon was home; we spent as much time outside as we could. It was small-town life. It was a good time. I felt like anything was possible.
How did your career start out?
It was a random one – and I’ve spoken about it before in other interviews. I was 15, in London on a weekend trip with my mum and one of my best mates. A scout from Models1 just approached me and asked if I was interested. Mum threw it out, examining the flyer suspiciously and saying, ‘You know someone tried to scout me to be a model when I was in London in my 20s and he just tried to get me naked! I walked out. He wasn’t a photographer, he was just a pervert!’ It took a little while and a bit of research for us both to feel educated enough to see if this was something I should consider. Music, I carried close to me throughout my youth, and came to pursue much later. I moved to London to open up more opportunities, and music just started to come to me. It felt like an unfolding as much as an antidote to much of what I found hard to deal with in the modelling industry. A few people helped me on the way, but I didn’t need much of a push to throw myself into music with as much of myself as I could. I think I needed it. I needed something to put my heart into.
Tell me about the journey.
It’s been a lot of embracing the unknown. A fair amount of solitude, especially when travelling. To counter that, it’s been made up of ridiculous experiences in strange and amazing locations with some incredible humans at the top of their creative game. It’s taken me to the lowest lows, made me face my fears, and made me feel so lucky too. It’s been a whirlwind. Saying yes to opportunity has been a big part of it too. Music has had a massive grounding influence – something I truly love that has brought a different sort of richness to life, and something that’s caused me to settle more in London, to really find my friends and to stop just reacting to life the entire time.
How did you begin to start out as a musician/songwriter?
I was always writing little poems and raps as a kid. Hhaving piano lessons was the next step in developing my musicality, I guess; but because I hated my piano teacher I never went beyond grade 3. I think sometimes this concept of ‘getting it right’ in anything creative can kill the joy of it. So I’ve pretty much learned as I went along, grown into my musicianship through a process of discovery as opposed to learning. I didn’t know I had a voice. I didn’t want to be a singer/songwriter. It just happened because I followed what felt good, and stayed curious. My first songs were funny things; weird, unconventional, heartfelt ramblings set to melodic guitar plucks. I think meeting some people at the right time, having them outside my nucleus of family and friends, and hearing them say “you have something here… keep going” was kind of all I needed – to trust that I should give more of my time to developing this musical instinct.
Tell me about how you begin to write a song.
Sometimes it starts with an idea, sometimes a feeling. Sometimes you just need to find any way in – any way: a chord progression, some words you underlined in a book – just start somewhere and then feel it out. It might be awful, it might come quick; the best ones normally do. I often collect words from the things I’ve read, almost like a painter preparing his palette. When I’ve started writing a song, it goes with me everywhere. I look like a madman, humming the melody on the tube and scrawling and re-writing lyrics over and over, bent over my beat-up notepad.
What in your life inspires you to write?
People and their stories, this lived experience and all it brings. Pain is often a great motivator creatively for me, a way to transform the challenges into something good. Books and poems are often inspiring too, reading a lot will frequently inspire my writing.
Tell me about your relationship with our capital as your home?
London is the best city in the world. Sometimes I need to get out of it though. It’s that dance of balance for me, making sure it doesn’t get overwhelming, that I go back to Devon or get back outdoors and breathe in nature so I can come back to the hustle and grind – something I love too – with passion and tenacity. It’s a city that’s brought me so much, and with 10 years in the East End, it’s become home.
What are your future aspirations?
I hope I can contribute something of value to others with my art, and keep on deepening that connection with my own work too. I want to take things as far as they can go with music, for my songs to sit in people’s hearts and fulfil or speak to some part of them. The rest of life is important too: I always come back to the word balance. If I can find that, I trust the rest will be there. On a very practical level though (with myself so prone to drifting into philosophical vagueness), there are some people and brands I’d still really love to work with, festival stages I’d love to grace, and things to strike-off the bucket list. I’m pretty sure getting lost in the Amazon is at odds with recording an album, but maybe there will be time for both.