With comparisons ranging from Bright Eyes to Damian Rice, London-based songsmith Sam Isaac is tipped by many for great things. Gigwise caught up with the flame haired singer ahead of the release of his new 5-track EP 'Sticker, Star and Tape' to discuss all.
Gigwise: You're always playing gigs in people's living rooms and at bbq's but what is the least rock'n'roll venue you've played?
Sam Isaac: In February and March of this year I went on tour supporting Kate Walsh at a series of posh theatres all over the country. They were the least rock and roll places I've played in that everyone was dressed nicely, sitting in complete silence watching us with their absolute attention. In these lovely theatres. It was great though. It was a challenge to play so well, because I felt that if made a single mistake it would be the most obvious thing ever.
G: Why are you so opposed to playing the traditional venues apart from the fact the don't have sofas or nice well-kept carpets?
S: I don't think I'm opposed to playing traditional venues. In fact I seem to be playing more of those at the moment. It's just that when I was starting out and getting out on the road, playing people's living rooms and houses and kitchens and gardens was the only way to constantly tour. I had no booking agent or management or anything, so it was a case of contacting fans direct and playing at their houses. I did it for months on end. It was so nice to arrive at someone's house and get food and a nice sit down and stuff rather than end up in another dingy pub or club.
G: You're always collaborating with buddies like Luke Leighfield – does that ever cause friction or is it all just happy families?
S: Collaboration is key for any musician that's learning his trade. Whether its playing shows together, playing on each other's records or performing together on stage, you learn things of other musicians and friends. If you did everything yourself, you'd be in your own little bubble where you thought everything you did was perfect. Also, collaboration is fun!
G: You've been compared to Bright Eyes and Damien Rice. Are you happy about being placed in such company or are you worried about being labelled an over sensitive guy who cries a bit too much?
S: Well, I think for the last 2 years, I've mostly toured solo and acoustic, and played mostly my slower, sadder songs. So I can see how I'd get compared to those musicians. It's still a massive compliment though. I'm just finishing recording my debut album at the moment, and its sounding big and upbeat. I don't think it sounds like artists like Bright Eyes or Damien Rice. Maybe people will have to find some new comparisons!
G: You do quite a few covers - what is the key to pulling off a successful one and what makes a real stinker?
S: I definitely think doing songs that are important to you is good. You really need to be singing the words like you mean them, rather than thinking that its something cool that everything will do. Also, you've got to put your own take, rather than just playing it like the original. That's just boring. Finally, the best covers I've heard are of quite obscure songs, not big hits. They're just obvious and no-one wants to hear them again. I've done covers of Tellison and Hope of the States in the past, and that helps other people get into those bands.
G: You've had quite few friends do your artwork etc...what's the strangest favour you've been asked in return?
S: Occasionally I get asked to help someone move house or give them a floor for a night when they're in town, but I haven't had any really strange favours. I probably get more favours than I give out, I think I'd prefer it to be the other way round.
G: What are your plans for the future? Are you going to stick to song writing or maybe stop Russia from starting another cold war?
S: For a start I've got to get my first album out. Then promote that for a few months. Then I think its back to the drawing board - a clean slate for album number two. I think I'd like to go travelling again, get back over to Canada and maybe America too. I feel quite stuck in London at the moment and it would be great to get away for a few months until I start needing it again. I'd also like to some more work for White Ribbon Alliance. They're a great charity promoting safer motherhood in the 3rd World and I went to South Africa with them earlier this summer. Doing some more stuff for them would be good.
G: You've played some big gigs recently like the Electric Proms - how do you make the transition from someone's patio onto a massive big stage?
S: Um, I don't know really. It's a weird feeling playing on a big stage. I kind of feel like I want to perform more, rather than stay really still like I used to at people's houses. This summer at the festivals I've kind of generally been getting into it a bit more, and that has felt good, and helped the crowd get into it too.
G: There's a big debate in my house about who is a bigger bad guy Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men or Heath Ledger in Batman. What do you reckon?
S: Literally what does this even mean? I've been holed up in a studio for the last 2 months. Have I missed out on life? What's been going on?
G: I'm undergoing some serious olympic withdrawal - if you were a world class athlete (assuming you're not) what sport would you most like to win gold in?
S: Boxing. I watched one boxing match in the Olympics. I hated it as it was pretty violent. And then 30 seconds later I was like, "come on, hit him hard!" I loved watching the boxing. I've just realised what the question is. Um, not boxing please.
Sam Isaac will be playing the Tuborg Hometown Festival at O’Neill’s in High Wycombe on 14 September.