Armed with endless amounts of talent and a genuine personality, Sam Lambeth is an incredible artist. I sat down with the songwriter to chat about his latest EP, musical influences, the West Midlands music scene (thanks for the shoutout, Sam!) and more.
Tell us about your latest release.
I’m releasing my debut full-length solo EP, Love and Exile, on Friday 28 May. It was a record that by rights should never have been recorded. Basically, in early 2019 – after a decade of performing in bands with varied levels of success – I decided it was time to walk away. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. It had become a grind. The break did me the world of good, and by February 2020, I was writing songs again and considering recording them.
The world obviously ground to a halt a month later, but I was so incredibly lucky in that it did not affect me. I didn’t lose my job, and myself and my loved ones remained healthy. Over the next few months, I kept tinkering with my songs. This was a luxury I never had before. When I was in bands, it was very much ‘write song, rehearse song, play song’. It was all geared up to playing these songs live. With no band, no social media presence, no gigs or anything, I was able to just take my time and not impose any limits on myself…for example, before if I wanted to add a mandolin to a song, I’d think “but my band does not have a mandolin player.” This time I did not have to think like that. It was so liberating.
The result is a record I’m immensely proud of. I doubt I’d be performing and recording without lockdown happening, as I wouldn’t have been able to have saved the money and spent so much time practising. Love and Exile is my most mature, reflective and accomplished record to date. I’m really proud of it. It sounds like a lot of my heroes – Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, to name but three – and is more expansive and richer than anything I’ve done before.
Who are your main musical influences?
I’ve always loved melody and adventurism. I think a great artist or band is one that takes risks and expands their sound, while retaining the melodic gifts that made them great in the first place. So, to that end, people like Elvis Costello, Beck, St Vincent, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon have always been massive influences on me.
I grew up listening to the Eagles, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, so I think you can hear their imprints upon my songs – I love tracks that have a wistfulness and breeziness to them. As the years have gone on, I’ve also taken influence from acts such as Bruce Springsteen, The Band, Counting Crows, R.E.M., Teenage Fanclub, and Evan Dando and The Lemonheads.
What’s the music scene like where you’re from?
The West Midlands is such a fantastic melting pot of diverse acts. It’s amazing. I often tune into Brum Radio and Switch Radio, and am always blown away by the sheer eclecticism on display.
There’s a great singer-songwriter called Chloe Mogg who I would highly recommend, not sure if you’ve heard of her ;)(SAM STOP YOU’RE MAKING ME BLUSH!). There’s a fantastic, unique and wonderful performer called Ace Ambrose who embodies everything cool and fearless about the music industry. She’s supporting me at my headline gig in July, so that’ll be great.
I live in Wolverhampton and here we’re blessed with a batch of great singer-songwriters. Alex Ohm has been killing it for a number of years now, Jack Cattell has one hell of a voice, and then there are other fantastic people in and around Wolverhampton, such as Perry Manning, Jake Davey, Brains for Breakfast, Bryony Williams and Cariss Auburn.
However, there isn’t really anywhere for us to play locally. Birmingham is amazing and we’re very lucky to have such incredible spaces. In Wolverhampton, everywhere is too big. We used to have some fantastic small venues but they are all long gone. We still have The Slade Rooms and Newhampton Arts Centre, both wonderful venues run by dedicated people, but the venues are a little too big for performers of my size.
What’s the best advice you’d give to your younger self?
Stop being reactive. In the past, I would see a band – whether it be as a punter or maybe a group on the same bill as me – and if I was blown away by them, and the audience were too, I’d instantly think “I need to sound and act like this”, and start changing things. Tinkering with existing songs, changing the live setup, adding in parts, etc.
I now realise that this shouldn’t be the case. While you should definitely learn from other performers, you shouldn’t ape their style because you and the audience like it. Deviating from what makes you endearing, as well as all the practice and cultivation you’ve put in, will not yield the right results. You have to stay true to yourself, your style, your sound, even if a group has just been on before you and wowed the audience with a completely different style.
It goes for everything else, too. For example, one musician may adopt a style that works and seems popular, but it doesn’t mean you should follow suit just because it seems cool. In my case, I’m a terminally polite person, so writing tweets in the style of Liam Gallagher is just going to come across as forced and wrong. Be yourself.
What’s in store for the rest of the year?
Alongside my headline gig, I am doing a solo acoustic show supporting The Bluetones’ Mark Morriss on Friday 23 July at The Grey Lantern in Birmingham. There are tentative plans for more gigs up and down the country, but they’re yet to be confirmed. For me, I hope to play some gigs that will put me on the map and help me build a following. Aside from livestream gigs and a retirement gig back in the summer of 2019, I haven’t properly gigged for four years. I can’t wait to get back out there. I feel I’ve learned a lot about myself and improved as a performer since then, so I’m feeling ready to go back out.
I feel so incredibly lucky that I can play music. There are so many people out there that don’t get these opportunities, so I do not want to waste them. Just to be able to play a gig puts a smile on my face. I don’t mind who’s there. Even if it’s just the soundman I’ll be smiling and thanking my lucky stars I get to play. Aside from that, I’m releasing a CD that combines Love and Exile with seven older songs. Each CD will be unique and will feature an endangered animal hand drawn on the cover. Proceeds from these CDs will be donated to WWF to help conserve these endangered animals.
I hope to continue doing more humanitarian and charity work. It’s hard to devote a lot of time and money, sadly, but someone told me if I just spend five minutes of my day trying to make a difference, then I’ve at least made a contribution.