Sam Way

19 February 2019

Photographer Jade Danielle Smith
Fashion Abena Ofei
Interview Amy-Jo Breach
Grooming Masayoshi N Fujita

"To be alive in 2019 means we have to save the world, irrespective of gender."

Dunking into frigid waters, feeling a glacial chill shoot up the spine as a numbing sensation bites into flesh is the method singer-songwriter Sam Way at Models 1 uses to feel alive. Frequently sharing snapshots with his Instagram followers, including his water-jumping escapades, Sam defines pursuing a passion and living his best life while doing so. In between a love for chocolate milk and Japanese anime, Sam can be found dancing around a room with strangers in Vauxhall on a Thursday night. However, Sam also has a serious side with wise observations on how men grow up with and react to the limitations and changes in masculine roles.

Photographer Jade Danielle Smith and Sam connect instantly through the lens and early on fall into the behaviour of old friends hanging out. Sam’s model background works in Jade’s favour as the two ease into their photoshoot constantly cutting in with jokes and anecdotes. Self-aware and thoughtful, Sam thinks before he speaks to offer clear and honest answers, and even uses an analogy he and stylist Abena Ofei draw during the photo shoot, using clothes to explain the differences between his modelling and his music.

Moving to London from Crediton at age twenty after modelling for four years, a chance encounter set Sam on a path that allowed him to realise and follow his dreams, introducing a smooth, melting voice with undertones of a longing pain to the music scene. Now with an album, a series of singles, and a couple of music videos under his belt - including his newest sensual single Vampire Appetite - Sam is ramping it up in 2019 with his first release of this year on 15th February.

Who is Sam?
I find that question of ‘who are you?’, philosophically always a very challenging question. It’s something I’ve asked myself over and over again throughout different stages of my life and I’ve always found that there is a fluidity about who that is, and I can only really answer truthfully. I’m a singer-songwriter, I’m a model, I’m a friend, I love chocolate milk and Japanese anime, I live in Bethnal Green, and music is like magic to me and that’s what I want to do with my life. That’s kind of who I feel I might be today.

What makes you happy?
Friends and doing the things I love. Sometimes I’m a bit of a thrill seeker and even though I really like peace and contentedness, I really value that as a way to tap into happiness. I also really like the thrill and the ecstasy of ecstatic things, like I love dancing until I fall over - that makes me happy. And the cold water as well, that makes me happy. I think for me an ideal holiday would be escaping and going somewhere quite wild. Somewhere a bit more off the beaten track. Somewhere where culturally I’m going to feel like ‘oh this is really new’ and maybe a bit out of my comfort zone. I’d love to go to Japan. And I think through watching all the Japanese cartoons, I’m picking up a few words. So, I’d love to go to Japan and I’ve always wanted to go to the Amazon as well - the Amazon jungle would be sick!

How did you get your start in music?
I met a man in a café - in my local café up here in Bethnal Green - and I got chatting to him and he expressed an interest in what I was doing and asked lots of questions. Eventually, I was just like, 'yeah, I’m modelling at the moment', and he asked, "Are you interested in anything else?". I replied that I was going to go to drama school the next year, and he said; "Well, what about music? Do you do anything with music?", and I said, 'well, actually yeah, funnily enough, I’ve written music', and I had at the time, purely, organically just from a place of moving to London and not really having any mates, not really having too many friends, and not really knowing how to fill my free time. I’d written like three songs.

My dad encouraged me to pick up the guitar - I come from a very musical family, both mum and dad wrote their own songs and I grew up around that. And this guy wanted to hear my songs. So there I was playing my songs for this relative stranger, who turned out to be Eric Hall and who was the manager of Marc Bolan and the Sex Pistols - a big deal. I played him these songs and he shed a tear because of the rawness of these songs. They were very heartfelt at the time - songs about my ex - always good ones to get the tears going. And that was the beginning, that was all I needed, someone else outside your immediate circle of family and friends to go "Hey, this is good!". That was all I needed to go, 'I’m going to explore this more'. That was the inception of music - why I pursue it now, today. It’s been a massive journey but that’s how it all began.

Have there been any hardships or best moments in your journey?
Touring is amazing. For me, I found hardships at the beginning slightly when I got signed with a very small label and they just didn’t want to put anything in. Life is too short to let anyone hold you back with these things, so that was frustrating, but largely I’ve always stayed connected to doing it because I love it and that’s enough.

You also come from a model background. How are the two different?
Modelling for me is like I’ve been given a look to go and change into, whereas music is like going and choosing your look, in the sense that music is something I have been compulsively drawn towards and can’t help in a way. I just found this creative voice and it’s something that I pursue with passion and hard work, and modelling is something that I never thought I would be doing. It’s a door that opened when I was quite young - sixteen - and I decided to try and walk through it and found this aspect of performance that exists within both fields. Modelling is something that happened to me, whereas music is something I am making happen. But there is an interplay between them, there’s a real dynamic and I really value both parts of my life and my career.

You're from Crediton in Devon, is there much of a music scene there?
No, not really. We do have St. Boniface in Crediton; he’s meant to be like the patron saint of Christmas trees or something… So yeah, putting Crediton on the map! But some really amazing talent has come out of my school. Some actors, some really talented musicians who are all up here in London doing really great things. There is something in the water down there!

Do you ever perform in any venues down there?
I haven’t been down there in a while but normally when I go on tour I’ll always stop by and do a gig there, which is always well received. It’s wonderful, I love Devon. There are massive venues but it’s just finding the time to plot everything in and plan it - I’m still largely doing everything myself. There are factors and other players involved but I’m playing the chess game, so it takes a lot of time and effort to orchestrate those things. It’s not always easy to balance the two careers.

Can you describe your songwriting process?
It’s always different. Sometimes it starts with words or a sentence that I like, or maybe a need to or desire to say something and question myself with, 'what are you actually saying with this song? what’s the point of it?'. So, to know what you’re writing about is really helpful! But then some exercises in randomness - finding random words and seeing how you can put them together, playing around with melodies on the guitar or on the piano, doing some vocal rifts, and then slowly out of this process of meandering and coming back, you start to put together the basis of a song.

Have you ever had writer's block? And how do you get over it?
Yeah sure, and just stop. Stop, do something else and come back. Sometimes I’m really disciplined and I’m like, 'right, I’m going to write every day for an hour'. Sometimes I don’t write for a long time. Months can go by, and it’s like, okay, there’s not any songs coming and that’s fine and then suddenly there will be a need and an urge, and a song will come out in an hour and it’s the best song. I think you can help creativity, but you can’t impose too much. I don’t know, it’s probably different for everyone - some people work well all the time. It’s always good to flesh out ideas just to keep that consistency.

What do you want to tell the world with your music?
It’s a really tricky question because I know that for me, music is like medicine. It has really helped me get through some emotionally difficult and powerful times in life. I think my message, as just Sam, is that music is a beautiful medicine - it’s powerful. Also, to do something that you really love, if you can try and find it. Just try to find something to do that you really love. My songs are human stories and I want the stories themselves to be meaningful to me in the writing process and also to other people when they listen to them. I want to imbue people’s lives with connectedness and meaning through my music

Let's talk about feelings. Are you an emotional person?
Yeah, sure. I’m just open, talking about emotions very frankly, very openly. I'm not really scared of emotions - I feel like they pass through you often; let them come. That has always been a space that I’ve been comfortable with.

Do you think that helps the songwriting process?
Yeah, I think it does because you get to tap into that raw emotion when something is really hurting or when something is really great. Just to be like, 'okay right, I can try and bottle that'.

Do you have a muse?
Yes, I think I’ve probably written about an album’s worth of material about one person. She knows. This person has been with me on a journey for a long time.

Your new single Vampire Appetite was released recently, what was the inspiration behind it?
Vampire Appetite
is an exploration into what it means to have desire and hunger for something. In the song, it comes across as if it’s sort of a compulsive thing. For me, doing music - or cheesecake, so if you hear the song and you think about cheesecake or your favourite food or I don’t know - someone else’s lips. It’s that sort of song - like I just want to eat you. But also, that slightly dark side of desire that we’re not so comfortable admitting to. We can get pulled in lots of different ways and there are lots of things we can be hungry for but they’re not actually feeding us.

Your music video for Hard Feelings features some stunning choreography, how do you think it works with the song?
I really think the choreography makes the song more moving. I loved doing it, it was great. My mum was a dancer and took me to see loads of dance when I was a kid and I was like: 'mum, I’m not doing this anymore! It’s so silly and all the other boys will laugh at me!'. But dancing is very much in my blood and I really enjoyed doing the choreography. That was my vision - to see a couple or a girl dancing. I had a very talented director, Tom Cubis help me put it together and it’s exactly how I imagined it would be. It’s better than I thought it would be.

Do you dance regularly?
I do yeah, I go to a dance meditation every Thursday - well not every Thursday but as many Thursdays as I can make it to. There’s a big dancing community and it’s a way to get whatever’s going on with you by shaking it out. Basically, if you’ve ever seen the episode of Peep Show where they go to Rainbow Rhythm, it’s that fast and everyone’s like a hippie. It’s totally twenty billion per cent not like that and its epic but it is dancing around a room for two and a half hours. You come out of it with the best energy and feeling like you’ve sweated your heart out - it’s great.

Do you have a favourite music video?
I like Share Your Stone - that was a fun one and I like the concept of giving something simple as a gift to people, but Hard Feelings is the latest video, which I’m really proud of. And I love black and white, it just gave it something a bit more special - just a bit more classic. I’ve got a new song coming out on 15 February called Heroes and I’m trying to think of a way to engage the fan base but it’s coming around real soon so I need to either get on with it or not bother.

What does an average day look like for you?
Every day is different. Yesterday I had a gig, so I was doing lots of practising at home, then we all went out afterwards so lots of tidying needs to be done! And then today we were doing an amazing shoot, so sometimes it’s more fashion-led and sometimes it’s more music-led and in between it’s that every day managing both sides of that and social life and friends, family, exercise, yoga.

What do you do for fun?
One of my new year’s resolutions has been to hit yoga three times a week. I’ve just paid for a membership, so I’ve just got to rinse it! It’s like January: 'let’s all make some good resolutions!'. Jumping into cold water - getting really cold. Walking - I like to exercise, climbing, music - like writing, getting lost in a song, seeing friends, seeing family, dogs. I don’t have a dog, but I really want a dog. Yeah, those are some things I like to do for fun.

What are your views on modern masculinity?
The modern man is a man of the times. For me, I see masculinity as something fluid, emotionally more literate. There is a culture encouraging men to have access to their feelings and be able to express them. For it to be safe for men to feel. Perhaps masculinity is in a more balanced place than it was before. I still think mature grounded masculinity is a rare trait, there is a lot of boyishness in male culture, we resist growing up. I think fatherhood, or real self-care, brings that out in a man, but when the lads are together, we can easily encourage each other. I also feel that masculinity is being asked to redefine itself, and because of that, I think a lot of men feel a bit lost or disempowered. There is a lot of misunderstanding I feel about what it actually means to ‘man up.’ We all have to help develop what mature, healthy, positive masculinity is, in relation to the feminine both inside us and outside. I hope I can be a role model to young men out there - to inspire them to ask the hard questions for themselves and to be able to find their balance. It’s our responsibility. We need a kick up the ass sometimes, some tough love or hard truths, some guidance too, but girls, trust us, we’re working on it.

What do you think it means to be a man in 2019?
In 2019 it means we have to save the world, irrespective of gender. That’s what it means. In our actions, our life choices, and what we say. We have to find the kind in mankind. To be heroes. Listen to my new single on the 15 February, you’ll understand how I feel.

Do you feel like you connect with your followers on social media?
Yeah, I try to, as much as sometimes I hate it - not connecting with people, but just the whole putting so much time into a digital platform where people are usernames instead of actually connecting. It’s just what was so nice about yesterday at the gig, afterwards everyone got together, some of the other artists and other people who are interested in music, we all just had a drink and chatted like, 'who are you? What’s going on?', and actually being able to engage in what they’re doing as well is important.

What are your plans for 2019?
We’ve got a new single coming out on the 15 February, then we’ve got six new singles coming out this year alone, loads of new music - just ramping it up, doing some really cool brand collaborations this year and hopefully another tour and lots more live shows, lots more gigging, lots more relating. I want to do a big headline show here in London, get on tour, play some festivals, get my new music out there. I’m really, really proud of it, it’s music that comes with a message, I can’t wait for you to hear it!

Are there any titles you can reveal to your fans?
Yeah, so one is called Little Titan which is coming out in June. One is called Reflections, and that’s all you get for now!

Sam's single Heroes is out now!

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Above: Shirt by MARNI and Trousers by HUGO

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Above: Sam wears T-shirt by NEIL BARRETT, Track Pants by DSQUARED2

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Above left: Shirt by PS PAUL SMITH, T-shirt by HUGO
Above right: Lightweight Coat by NEIL BARRETT, Jumper by PS PAUL SMITH, and Trousers by CORNELIANI

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Above: Lightweight Coat by NEIL BARRETT, Jumper by PS PAUL SMITH, Trousers by CORNELIANI, and Trainers by HUGO

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Above left: Lightweight Coat by NEIL BARRETT, Jumper by PS PAUL SMITH, and Glasses by MOSCOT
Above right: Shirt by MARNI, Trousers by HUGO, Necklace stylist archive, and Sneakers by SALVATORE FERRAGAMO

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Above: Sam wears Tshirt by NEIL BARRETT Track Pants by DSQUARED2

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Above Sam wears Shirt and Track Pants by STELLA MCCARTNEY

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