An amazingly accomplished live performer, songwriter and recording artist who released his first single at age 10, Sam Levin, now 17, is trying something new on his 3rd album, A General Air of Regret.
Rather than writing songs about himself and the details of his life and relationships, or a free flow of thoughts and abstract images, Sam is looking for an elusive middle ground of ambiguity, where songs aren’t about feelings – they are feelings.
The suburban New York based singer-songwriter shares this multitude of those feelings via acoustic guitar, synthesizer and piano driven songs on his latest full length album A General Air of Regret. Its focal track, the soulful and hypnotic “Bookmark,” is a compelling acoustic tune that by design, Sam says, “people can experience as it relates to them, not me. The song allows me to showcase my guitar work, and it’s also a good introduction to the sometimes offbeat way I write lyrics, with dreamlike words and situations that people can attach their own feelings to. To me, ‘Bookmark’ embodies the feeling of being somewhere new, but where you’re not alone – so it’s not a scary new, it’s just new. Like the experience of looking at art or trying a food for the first time.”
Now emerging from his “prodigy” stage, Sam started his career in music when he was five years old, pointing to a Fender Mini Strat on the wall of a local music store and declaring, “I want to do that!” He began playing piano and guitar at 5, wrote his first song at 7 and released his first single and video (“I Sure Hope Not”) at 10. Earning solid critical acclaim for his previous albums I Am and Frame of Mind, he’s been called “one of the most eclectic and innovative artists in the current scene right now.” Sam’s music has been described as “modern folktronica,” “touching, ornate chamber pop” and “smart indie rock,” earning comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, LCD Soundsystem and Courtney Barnett. His uniquely eclectic music fuses electronic sensibilities, acoustic experimentation and a varied background in rock, jazz and alternative music to create an unconventional and engaging sound like no other.
IndiePulse Music Magazine Interviewed Sam Levin about himself, his music and all things Sam, and here is the whole story…
IPM: What inspires you to write music the way you do?
That’s a great question, I always either have a notebook or some sort of technology to write down poetry in; my poetry is always inspired by the things that happen during my day, and then I take the poems that I write and turn them into songs, using the general energy of the piece to determine the instrumentation and the mood of the song. I’ve played the guitar for a long time, so I can usually come up with lines and chord progressions pretty quickly, although the songs that take longer to write are usually the most fun. But this is just how some of it is made! Sometimes pieces of songs will slowly formulate, sometimes they come out of nowhere fast, sometimes I write at the piano. Songwriting is such a cool practice, and I learn new things about my writing process every day.
IPM: What are or were some of the challenges you have faced producing or performing while keeping true to your vision of your music?
I tend to make most of my music with live instruments, but as a side hobby I like to experiment with electronic music (in all sorts of genres). If I ever wind up with a fully fleshed out song after messing around on Ableton (for example, Bye For Now and The Fourth One) I find it extremely difficult to perform those live. In that case, I either come up with an acoustic version of the song, or I just don’t perform it at all, which makes me sad :(. I am a HUGE fan of when performers don’t rely on backing tracks to perform, so I always focus my rehearsal time on actual performance and live technique.
IPM: Tell us about some of your recent performances.
I was on tour a few weeks ago! Drove all the way down the west coast from Vancouver to L.A. playing shows! It was an awesome experience with tons of amazing views and some really fun shows. Every performance gets me excited for the next! During one long stretch of highway, I wasn’t driving so I got out my guitar and came up with this finger-picking chord progression that had a really cool vibe and energy. We stopped at a rest stop and I noticed this girl in passing, fell in love, bought something to drink, and then they gave me my change all in nickels. Back in the car that song almost wrote itself. “Dairy Queen Queen” was born and I performed it that night 2 hours after I wrote it.
IPM: Tell us about your recent releases or upcoming release?
I just put out my 3rd album, A General Air of Regret! It’s a semi-concept album. I say “semi” because I had the idea, mapped out the whole album/story, wrote some of the songs, abandoned the concept completely to free myself up, continued to make the album it had evolved into, and then realized that I pretty much made the concept album after all. It’s in there. If you listen hard enough, maybe quint a little, you can catch pieces of it; situations, stories within stories, and especially feelings. It’s like telling a story using mostly just the feelings of the characters. The plot might be missing, but it’s there in spirit.
IPM: Any “strange tales” or things that may have happened during a show that seemed too weird to be true?
There was one coffee shop that I played at last year where the stage was in this super hip back room. I set up all of my equipment and when it was time to play I was sad to see that no one had showed up the whole hip room was empty. But I figured “Maybe this is a good opportunity to get in some constructive practice” and I played my whole set. Since there was no one there, I was joking around and had a lot of fun on stage. I even improvised a silly made up song called “The Full Audience Blues” about how I couldn’t find my girlfriend in the crowd because it was just SO packed. And when all was said and done, I packed up and started to head out. That’s when I realized that the main room was hearing everything I had just played, and it was pretty full. People told me they enjoyed my set, so I felt pretty good about it, but it was kind of odd, felt like everyone just heard me singing in the shower.
IPM: Where do you see your music going, where would you like to be in the near future, goals, dreams and passions?
I have no idea where my music is going, and I love that! I’m always trying different genres and styles of playing. And I am always discovering new and old artists doing something truly unique, and I hope I’m doing something like that too. Every day I see my number of listeners rise, and it warms my heart! I get DMs from people who tell me that my music is their jam or helps them get through tough times, and that is really humbling. I’m excited to continue releasing music and gaining an audience, and my goal is to play bigger and bigger venues! Maybe even hear an audience singing along to one of my songs. That would be something.
IPM: What would you like our readers to know about you?
I’m very present on social media! A number of people who listen to my music have reached out and it’s been the coolest thing in the whole world to respond to fans and stay connected. You can follow me on Instagram @thesamlevin and other links can be found on my website which is thesamlevin.com.
IPM: Where can our readers find your music?
I’m on Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, pretty much wherever music is streamed or sold. You can also listen to my music, watch videos, and find CDs and merch available at my website (thesamlevin.com).
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