It’s always exciting to welcome a new artist to the world of pop! Sam Taylor first appeared on DontStopthePop a few months ago and with the little snippets appearing on his myspace, soundtracks and official site the boy sure does have one hundred percent musicality. It was his brave cover of I Don't Know How To Love Him that has confirmed his position as one to watch out for next year. On a number of critical sociologlical levels. As such it seemed only right to do an interview on Dontstopthepop. We talked everything from Mean Girls, Bonnie Langford, his alter-ego and most importantly his new album! This kid is gonna go far. Personally, I find it a breath of fresh air. Unlike so many other male pop stars Sam Taylor tells it like it is and refuses to run the pace but instead set it. Welcome to planet pop!
I am a big, big fan of pop. Same Difference, Robyn, Girls Aloud, Coldplay, Dana International: for me…. if its passionate pop, its quite alright by me. I love it. What is your earliest memory of pop music?
I’ve always been a huge pop fan…I was a huge Spice Girls, S Club 7 fan when I was younger. I think I went to all their concerts. I love a good pop song. Girls Aloud know how to make a good one… I think the best pop songs are immediate… they grab you straight away for whatever reason… whether it’s a ‘La la la’ style hook or whatever, they just draw you in. I think the great thing about pop, which is something I always talk about with my manager Will is that in a way it is such a powerful music form because of its ability to do so many things: inspire, lift your mood or just indulge it, or just entertain u for three minutes. He is much more into pop stars than pop songs in that pop stars and the mediums they work in can be so creative and inspiring. He was always a big ‘fan’ and part of being a fan is getting something beyond the music from the star or artist, which is so important as pop music can actually help people deal with issues as well. So I love that it works on so many different levels and people can take so many things from a song.
My first memory of music was listening to Dionne Warwick. I used to have her playing to and from primary school! I just loved her voice and the power of it. I didn’t know that at the time… then I just knew I loved her. But I always seemed to like on one hand total throwaway trashy pop and on the other hand people that can really sing… ‘singers’ more than pop stars. Having said that I did go through a huge Britney phase that I’m probably still in. And Christina…
There was one tape I had as a tiny kid and it was called “Sam”… u know like one of those key rings or pens that you buy with your name on it. This was a musical version. Of that. I thought I was extra special because they sang Sam in every song LOL but I can still sadly remember the words. I think my brother tried to step on it a few times! That for me in a strange way was pop. Not in my house though. Think they got tired of the same song every day.
What made you want to enter the weird and wonderful realm of pop?
How could I resist? I’ve always wanted to sing for as long as I can remember. I love everything about it…singing, and the chance to be creative visually and to inspire people and just to get something out of my system. I think I am actually really shy and quite a quiet person. I find it really hard to open up to people and to talk… its just a lot easier to do it in a song and to connect to lyrics as a way of expressing whatever I’m feeling. And those lyrics don’t have to be my own or written by me, but sometimes other people can say something much more eloquently than I ever could yet somehow they capture my emotions or feelings… that’s what grabs me really. What would you like to contribute to it? A bit of a different take on things I guess. Something new and fresh and something very me. I don’t know … ask my manager! He’s much better at justifying things like this. I just want to sing. It’s what I’ve always done and what I always will do. But want it to be something more honest and real than something throwaway. I guess more exposed as I'm exposing myself through the songs I sing and I like that. That I can be myself. I think being ‘manufactured’ always gets slated as being kind of dishonest or not important. Throwaway but I don’t think of myself as someone that is being manufactured, just someone who is really lucky to be doing what I do with people who are really inspiring and are actually helping me discover who I am. I want to show what I’m about in my music.
What led you to this current path to music? Had you some experience in some other creative field like acting?
Yeah. I was a West End Wendy LOL. I did a few shows as a kid in the west end, and then trained at Sylvia Young Theatre School then onto a dance college. Straight from college I was in Mary Poppins for a year and I’ve done lots of dance jobs but singing has always been what I wanted to do. I met Will when I was in Mary Poppins and he encouraged me to make it a priority as it always just seemed like a bit of a dream. And people always slag stage school kids off. I think they think I’m gonna be like Bonnie Langford but I love the West End , I love musicals and I love theatre and that is something that pervades what im doing now. I love quite theatrical songs and performers. Steve Anderson and Terry Ronald who I’ve been working with are always trying to bring something theatrical out of me. It’s a way of escaping and I don’t think that pop should always be about real life. Isn’t that the point? To escape real life? Its all been part of the same thing for me. And I love a good drama LOL.
Can you say who is helping you on your album?
At the moment we are just playing with different songs and exploring different styles and paths. William, Steve and Terry are all working on it. Ian Masterson and Terry wrote and produced the two Beautiful people tracks. I've also been working with an LA based songwriter called Simon Petty whose songs are amazing. There are some really exciting people/ ‘names’ who are in the pipeline as well but I don’t really want to say who in case it doesn’t happen. At the moment we are working towards an EP with videos as I haven’t got a deal yet and we are trying to figure out if we should release it ourselves or go to a record company as everything in music has changed so much these days and the response on the internet has been amazing. An album is probably at least a good six months away. Maybe even a year. Its gotta be just right.
So favourite songs so far and why?
So far I’ve done the two Beautiful People songs which are obviously special to me… then there’s a new song I did with Simon Petty and Steve called ‘So Long Soho’ that I love because its based around Soho and is really theatrical. I’ve just recorded ‘Out Of Fashion’ written by Boy George that I’m so happy with, hi-drama and gospel choirs and I think he is amazing. He might be writing some other stuff too. Then ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him’ which is obviously really personal and im so happy people like it and its gone down so well as we were all a little apprehensive about it, and “The Cardigan's” song called ‘Communication’ that you may have heard.
What are the general sounds of the impending album?
I guess theatrical electronic, orchestral pop. With a bit of acoustic guitar thrown in. it all sounds quite rich and moody. mid tempo and ballads seem to come naturally to me but we are all working on some more up-tempo dance stuff.
You’ve worked so far with pop legends Ian Masterson and Terry Ronald. What was that like?
Amazing! As you said they are both legends. Terry is so good at getting the best out of me, like he does for so many artists, and just helps me know how to place the note or what sounds good where. Ian’s production is beautiful and I heard the song they wrote and fell in love with it, it was like nothing I have heard before. Just to work with people who have such amazing history is amazing and they are both lovely people too, which made the experience even better.
Now the songs were very emotional and quite epic. Will the album be more of the same (something of which would be utterly amazing!) or will bend towards different genres on the long player?
I love a big epic song and there will be a few on the album, but also some modern tracks: we are getting a few of the tracks remixed, and going to continue until we are all 100 per cent happy, but we have found the sound we are going for. And I’m really happy with it.
Will we hear you throwing down a big throbbing disco-electro anthem tucked away as a hidden track perchance?
Do you even have to ask?
What and who is your greatest influence?
I have so many…. I wouldn’t know where to begin…
When I was a kid I'd sing Kylie b-sides into my hairbrush. The world is slowly forgetting the brilliance of the b-side! Will you have some b-sides up your sleeve?
Yeah of course! We aren’t really approaching it in terms of a sides or b-sides jut doing stuff that works. But some songs are obviously more commercial than others for whatever reason. Initially we thought that ‘I Don’t Know How to Love him’ would be more a ‘b side’ as you call it but response has been so good. The great thing about the Internet is that it does away with that need for a hit single being the whole purpose and raison d’etre for making an album. We wanna create a piece of work that is a musical journey, that goes somewhere, so all the songs are linked in someway and are as important as each other rather than focus on “ oh this isn’t gonna be a hit” or “this is really gonna freak people out” lets not do it. That’s the luxury of doing it this way without a record company or anyone telling us what we can and cant do. It’s purely creative which I know is the hugest luxury. And I think it is purely creative for everyone involved: for Will, for Steve for Terry and Ian who have all those pressures associated with success with all the various people they work with.
If there was any other male pop star would you duet with who. And why?
Conner Reeves, I love his voice, his earthbound album is constantly playing on my i-pod, I think it would be a cool duo.
When you go into the recording studio, armed with lyrics and a melody to score what runs through your head?
I just do it. It’s hard to explain. Just connect with the lyrics and go. I think that is the benefit of my training. I wouldn’t, couldn’t record something in a studio though that I didn’t connect to emotionally. That’s a difference between being in the studio and being on stage in a show. Being in the studio is my time and is much more personal as to get a good performance I have to push myself hard emotionally and that can be quite exposing especially in front of people who have had years and years of experience working with the best around. So it is a bit nerve wracking too.
Do you become someone else? An alter ego perhaps. Beyonce has got one. Sasha Fierce! You got one?
Yeah!! Sammy Stardust!! Terry is always calling me “Rihanna” Taylor cos I keep putting riffs in! I don’t think so; I kinda just let go and be myself. In person, well until you get to know me i am quite quiet and don’t talk that much, but when I sing that goes and just let everything out, its all about meaning and truth, there has to be that in music I think.?
I jest. But as an listener and observer of music I am always interested as to what influences and constructs your artistry. For you, where does it come from?
From my heart. As I said I m not a good talker. It’s a way of getting things of my chest and saying what I wanna say and being different people.
You were involved in the Beautiful People soundtrack. How did that come about?
Well all that was all in production was when I first went into the studio. Steve, Will, Terry and Ian all obviously know each other through working with Kylie and Dannii, and we were walking back from lunch and Terry asked me if I’d like to come and try this song. Run Away was originally written for a female vocal, but Terry thought I would sound good on the track. I of course said yes, I would love to. And it all then went on from there. Recording it was actually really quick as we were well into our stride by then. I was in the studio for about 4 hours and got both the songs done. And then was in shock to see who else was on the album!
Where there parts of the young Simon Doonans story that you related to you?
Haha indeed, isn’t there a part of him in all of us?
Run Away is a bit of a belter. Where did that song come from?
Well it was written for the show in mind and the story of how they want to be with the “beautiful people” and get away from it all.
I really love Sometimes I Need You. It has elements of Des'rees Kissing You from the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack. I think its just piano rift in the chorus. What were your motives behind that recording?
I just thought of a past experience and let it come out, it’s sometimes hard to do that because you get emotional but its good if you really mean it.
How important are strings in a pop song?
The best pop has orchestral elements I think. It gives it a power and grandiosity. A drama.
What will be your first single be? And when can we expect to see the video?
I’m not sure on the first single yet, we have a few tracks down, and we are going to do videos for a few of them. A video will be up late Jan.
It’s an interesting time to be a male young pop singer. Where do you see yourself fitting in-between Will Young, Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake?
I’m not sure, I think I would be in-between them all. A bit of something old, something borrowed, something blue and something new. I enjoy all those artists music and can only aspire to be amongst them.
On Britney's last big record Pieces of Me, she sung "there's panic in the industry". With the return of Top Of the Pops and huge potential of my space and the Internet what do you make of the shifting foundations?
In a way I think its good that there’s such a strong creative arena for new artists to get discovered and people to listen to their music. I don’t think people are buying cd’s as much anymore, with Itunes and sites like that. A bad thing is the piracy, that’s what I think is the panic, if people appreciate what the artist has done and paid for and created, by basically stealing the music how can they continue to make more? There is also the fact that the Internet has meant that suddenly everyone has a voice and is a critic, which can be really poisonous as much as it is a blessing. It is the definition of a double-edged sword. It’s not for the weak-hearted that’s for sure.
What makes pop!?
The people who listen to it. Pop is short for popular so any music I think is pop, if it has a following and people love it But then most people class pop as the bubblegum kind, fun filled and happy and bound to make you smile or bop along.
So with this new album, will you delve into your darker moments?
Yes definitely there’s nothing more better then hearing someone’s dark moments makes the whole thing more real.
If so then how much do you give yourself on the music. Or, are you pretty guarded?
No on my music I'm not guarded at all, which could be a good thing, or bad depending on your point of view I guess. All music comes from somewhere; some story a person has had, a struggle, or success, whether that be simplified into an upbeat catchy pop song or an emotional downpour in a more serious singer songwriter/country song. Either way they could both come from the same story, or same experience.
Friday?? I'm cheating and used google, oops!
Smash Hits? Or Big!?
Smash hits all the way.
Which member of the current line-up of Sugababes was originally in Atomic Kitten?
Heidi Range again I didn’t know it so cheated and Googled.
Have you seen Mean Girls? If so which character are you?
Omg! That is my favourite film!! “YOU CANT SIT WITH US” I love it, I could go on quoting it all day, I think I would be more towards Karen not that I’m dumb just cause she’s my favourite. But I would say there are part of all of them in me. I can be mean when people aren’t nice to me, and stupid when I want to be. “On Wednesdays we wear pink”
So would you consider yourself and your new material fetch?
“Stop trying to make fetch happen!!”
No I would. It is fetch well I think so, and hopefully everyone else will!
What is a Scooch?
Are they flying the flag! Our representative for the Eurovision?
We should of won! Although I think Jordan should have been allowed to enter. Isn’t it a drink? Or is that Hooch?