Sam Sparro - Play It Again, Sam
Author: Sasha Perera
Monday, 14 July 2008
Sam Sparro is the new enfant terrible of the dancefloor; a young soul rebel whose brand of dance grooves is setting the globe alight. His debut single, the Goldfrapp-meets Prince soul explosion of Black & Gold is already a certified smash hit, rising to the top of the UK charts, and mingling with the likes of old-timers like Madonna, and gathering momentum from clubs to radios in the US and Australia. Proving that he’s no one-trick pony, Sparro’s debut album is a buoyant explosion of self-styled funky electro-dance that draws upon ’80s and ’90s classic club references, and restyles them into a futuristic collection of undeniable ass shakin’ anthems.
So who exactly is this Aussie boy-wonder, who seemingly out of nowhere has been propelled to one of the hottest properties of 2008- We recently followed the bubbling bass lines, the sweaty beats, and the sexy soulful tones of his vocals to track down Sam Sparro in London, ahead of his upcoming Australian tour, to get some answers.
First things first, make no mistake about it, Sam Sparro is an Aussie Boy – a Sydney-boy to be exact. Growing up down under, the singer went on to travel overseas in his formative years with his family, as well as on his own, and over the years has collected a number of global towns – Sydney, LA, and London – that he’s called home. We began by asking Sparro how he became accustomed to such a nomadic lifestyle.
“It’s because I really like traveling,” he answers quite simply with a shrug. “I think it was because I wasn’t quite gelling anywhere I was living, so I was still looking for where my home was going to be, I think. Ultimately I think it was a career-thing – I was looking for where would be a good place for my career to start from.
“I was in a band in Sydney for a while, and we were gigging but it just wasn’t really going very well so I just decided to go back to LA and do some songwriting by myself.”
Sparro’s debut album ain’t just funky, it’s ultra-funky; a supersonic mirrorball reflection of glitzy and sweaty club culture. Is it pop, soul, RNB or dance- Style and substance come together for a party record that’s hard to deny for its quality and infectious melodies and production.
“I think of myself as a soul singer; certainly the album that I’ve done is a pop record in a sense… pop meaning it’s very broad in its styles, and it’s got a fairly large appeal. A lot of the stuff I was doing before was classic soul stuff, and probably one day I’ll do a record like that.
“I was a big fan of that type of ’90s house music,” the chiselled-featured singer says. “When I was nine or 10 I was doing the running man in my living room listening to BlackBox, C&C Music Factory and CeCe Penniston and all of that kind of stuff. I still really like all of that sound – I think that sound is going to come back in a big way in the next few years.”
Not that it adds or detracts to anything on the album, but it is interesting that Sam Sparro is an openly gay singer/songwriter, which some may not realise is relatively rare in today’s industry – the illusion that the music industry is liberal is pure fiction. Being ‘out’ as a pop singer was something that wasn’t a particular concern for Sparro; whilst he was aware that it could affect some opportunities or doors opening for him, the 25-year-old is proud of who is and what he’s achieved as a musician to let anything else get in the way of his creative expression.
“I think when I was a bit younger it was always a concern of mine,” he says of public opinion. “I think just being a gay teenager you just think, ‘Everyone hates me, I’m a freak’, and that there’s no place for me you in this world, and then you grow up and meet all these other people and you grow out of that and realise that actually, ‘I’m really proud of myself, I love who I am’, and if other people don’t, then that’s their loss, really. As I become a bit older and a bit more mature, it become just a case of who I am, I’m proud of myself – take it or leave it.”
Sparro crushes stereotypes left, right, and centre. White-boy soul singer – are you sure- Gay-boy without muscley-oiled dancers on stage – are you sure- What the earth is going on- Sam Sparro’s keeping it real – that’s what’s going on.
“That would be bad – I couldn’t ever do that,” he laughs, when I suggest that some may expect his show to be filled with glitter, sequins, dancing twinks, and DAT recordings. “It’s all about the music – coming from a musical family where it’s about musicianship, I always tend to prefer music that comes from musicality. It’s about the composition; it’s about the performance, the skill, and just the joy of playing live instruments, live on stage. I could never get up there and do a choreographed, miming-type of performance… that would just be shocking. I’d never do it,” he says firmly. Recent shows supporting Adele and Mark Ronson, confirm Sparro’s commitment to live music and real instrumentation… with touches of DJ/producer synth sounds thrown into the mix.
Aussie audiences will get to experience Sam Sparro’s musicality, as the singer makes a triumphant return home down under, to show off what the rest of the world has already confirmed – Sam Sparro is the sound of Australia’s nu-breed of urban renegades. He’s worldly, but he’s ours – don’t let him go Australia!
“I go back to Australia as often as I can,” the singer says, reflecting on his Australian roots. “I was just there for Christmas and New Year’s – I spent two weeks there just catching up with friends and family. I’ve got a lot of friends back home who are really supportive and have been waiting for this to happen for years, so most of the feedback I’m getting from my mates in Sydney is really positive and they’re all really stoked. I can’t wait to go back to Sydney and play a proper show with all of my friends in the audience.”
WHO: Sam Sparro
WHAT: Plays Oxford Art Factory / Self-titled album through Island/Universal
WHEN: Wednesday 16 July / Thursday 17 / Out now
MORE: jammusic.com.au / samsparro.com