SAM TOMPKINS; KEEPING IT REAL
words and fashion Sophie Emmett - photography Eva Pentel
Sam Tompkins is one of those musicians that doesn’t fit into any particular male musician mould, yet, he is a young confident performer who challenges male masculinity with lyrics that talks of suicide and mental health. Hard-hitting lyrics like, ” I've been depressive for far too long - Man, this shit is heavy - I’m no detective but writing these songs it's evidently - So reflective of every feeling I've ever had” make Sam's music contemporary and fresh to an ever-growing ever-changing audience. By using such personal truths and reflection to connect to his listeners, it would appear nothing is off-limits and he is on a quest to build a real kinship between himself and them.
Whilst on set, I was taken aback by his unpretentious approach to the shoot, jumping in with both feet to try it all on and chat about his career thus far. His humility and unprecedented talent (highly recommend you watch one of his busking videos on YouTube) will have his name on yours and everyone else’s lips sooner than later.
Buy/Stream Sam Tompkins' Valentine’s-inspired single‘You’re The Love Of My Life’
OPENING IMAGE: Sam wears top STUSSY; vest URBAN OUTFITTERS; hat HUF; ring and necklace ICE ROCKS
Sophie Emmett: Hi Sam, How are you?
Sam Tompkins: Hey! Yes, I’m great thanks for asking.
S.E: Before the year ended you released “Not So Grey” whose lyrics are raw and appear very personal to you; is it hard to release songs that are so revealing, knowing that lots of people are listening and knowing your truth?
S.T: I quite like questions like this because I think the fact that people have to ask it shows why I make music the way I do. Music has always been and should always be a form of expression. I don’t think anyone should keep things to themselves if it’s making them uncomfortable to do so. The societal norm, especially in men of keeping thoughts and feelings suppressed, is why a lot of people struggle. So I don’t feel nervous or find it hard or anything like that to write about it and then release it into the world. If you’re being true to yourself and writing about real stuff, it always resonates much more. I could never be worried about that.
S.E: I saw your Instagram post shortly after the release where you said; “isn’t an apology, cos I’m not apologizing for this, just a public service announcement!” explaining that you are not going to apologise for discussing issues like mental health. Why do you think it’s important to discuss it in your music and why do you personally think people have an issue with mental illness being discussed?
S.T: I think similarly to my last answer, the people need it because there are too many people feeling lonely in a world full of others who feel the same. Having an artist or song or album or project or whatever to listen to that gets you and how you feel can at least trigger the person to reach out for help and that’s why I find so much peace in what I do. I think the reason people have an issue with it being discussed is that fundamentally for years, people have been brought up to think that that is normal when, in fact, is not. At all. We should always discuss things. So many discoveries have been made through open discussion in society and awareness.
S.E: Last October you released your EP “From My Sleeve To The World”, it feels like a combination of personal reflection and commentary on your mindfulness and heartfelt feelings. Would you agree?
S.T: Yes, 100% would agree. The whole point of its title is that I’m taking the whole form of expression of “wearing your heart on your sleeve” and using it in a literal sense where I’m giving the people who feel like giving my music a chance my heart and it’s contents for them to take it in as they wish.
S.E: Your song 'Follow Suit' is also hard-hitting with it being about your close friend’s suicide, the lyrics ‘’Still question, if I could have pulled you through” are captivating to anyone who has been exposed to suicide. What do you think needs to happen for male mental health to be addressed and discussed more in mainstream media?
S.T: I think we are slowly getting there, however, I think that having more public figures talking about it is helping with the whole issue. It’s a massive topic of discussion these days. I love the idea of changing the meaning of the term “man up” into a thing where you can say it to tell someone to open up rather than push what you’re feeling back down. I think we are genuinely getting there though.
Sam wears jacket BAND OF OUTSIDERS at URBAN OUTFITTERS; trousers CARHARTT at MRPORTER.COM; hat URBAN OUTFITTERS; shocks ELLESSE; shoes TALENT'S OWN
S.E: Also, I have to say that this song is so beautiful and it’s important that we have male musicians, like yourself discussing these issues and feelings.
S.T: Thank you that means a lot.
S.E: If you can, describe the EP in one emotion?
S.T: I actually don’t think I can. There’s too many in there.
S.E: Which song on the EP was the hardest to let go of?
S.T: Follow Suit. That felt like it was my song and only for me for a long time as a recovery thing. I played it to my manager one day and he was just blown away and alarmed me that people needed to hear it.
S.E: Why was “Not So Grey” a later release to the EP?
S.T: Not so grey was for the fans. It came at a time where I couldn’t seem to write anything and then I wrote it and was just so proud of it so wanted to end the year with something hopeful for the new one coming in.
S.E: What would you say you enjoy writing about more, love or life?
S.T: I think I enjoy writing about love more than life, however, I think I am better at writing about life than love.
S.E: When you are putting songs together do you start with the lyrics or do you find yourself strumming the bars on your guitar first?
S.T: I mostly come up with the melody first and then I know by the sound of it and the music what kind of song it’s going to be and the concept I want to run with.
S.E: “You broke my heart so gently” from the EP, has a very potent video with it, I read that you created the concept for it and worked with director Jack Bowden to see it through, is being a part of the process important to you?
S.T: Yes, I wrote the concept and came up with the ideas and jack just brilliantly brought that all to life with his O own spin. It’s important for me to be across everything otherwise I can find myself feeling a bit useless. I love doing everything cos it’s all a form of expression to me and another way of conveying how I feel.
S.E: With your songs being like diary entries, in their truthfulness. Do you struggle to perform any of them to any audience?
S.T: 'Follow Suit' can sometimes be difficult but if I’m in a room of my fans, they get me through it by singing along with me.
Sam wears jumper VETEMENTS at MRPORTER.COM; hat HUF; necklace ICE ROCKS
S.E: Do the people that your songs are about, know who they are?
S.T: Yes, absolutely. If not before, definitely after.
S.E: I interviewed an American musician who would busk outside the big arena shows to introduce new people to his music. I found this so interesting as the people would be there, for musicians that were completely unlike his own music, but it made me think that’s what busking is, it’s an alienating way in which to perform as it's only sometimes that you can get hype and crowd around you. As someone who has also done their fair share of busking, starting at the young age of 15, what was it about this way of sharing your music that you were drawn to?
S.T: I like the fact that I potentially never had to see the people watching me again regardless if they liked me or not. I was always nervous singing in front of people and especially people I know. I was scared of opinions good and bad because I just liked doing it and didn’t want anyone to change how I felt about it, so the idea of busking to random strangers who I would most likely never see again was perfect.
S.E: What did you prefer creating YouTube videos or busking?
S.T: I don’t have a preference. I just love making music in whatever form that is.
S.E: What I find so fascinating about your Instagram, is just how open you are, so many musicians take a very business approach to the platform, but you’re so authentic, why do feel that it’s important to have this transparency with your fans?
S.T: I think if I wasn’t transparent it would feel fake. I like feeling super in touch with my fans. It makes us stronger as a unit.
S.E: I feel like by being so open with your listeners, you show courage in your vulnerabilities. I really enjoyed your post about #Bradyrunsamerica, what a compelling story about the power of human kindness, in the most unlikely places. What was the biggest lesson you took away from that experience?
S.T: The biggest lesson from that was just how powerful friendship and belief in your peers can be.
S.E: My favourite song from your EP is 'Critical' because I think everyone feels the thought-provoking lyrics like; “people are way too critical like they can define my life” and “the comment section is like a game to you”; would you say you ever struggle or second guess your posts on socials?
S.T: Yes, all the time. Sometimes I will post a pic with my top off to show how much better I feel about my body after years of being insecure and then take it down straight away and realise I still have work to do in that department (loving myself a little more).
S.E: What has been your biggest career highlight thus far?
S.T: I think playing 02 Academy Islington to 800 people was the highlight. That was the best night of my life.
Sam wears t-shirt HUF; denim and hat URBAN OUTFITTERS; necklace ICE ROCKS
S.E: You drop a lot of looks on your feed; is fashion or shall we say “looking cool” important to you?
S.T: Fashion is important to me because the way I dress is another form of self-expression and it always makes me feel good when I put something on and I like the way it looks.
S.E: Is there a venue or a festival that, you performing within, will make you feel like I’ve made it?
S.T: Brixton Academy. I don’t know why but that venue is just so sick.
S.E: Going forth into a new decade what would you like to achieve personally and career-wise?
S.T: I want to just stay happy. Maybe towards the end have a family or something. I also want to sell out Wembley stadium.
S.E: Can you share with us a childhood memory or story that is significant to you?
S.T: I always remember my mum singing “you are my sunshine” when I used to get out the bath as a kid and that always makes me smile.
Sam wears top and hat HUF; trousers and sneakers NIKE; socks ELLESSE; necklace ICE ROCKS
S.E: What are the “must haves” in your rider?
S.T: Honey, ginger and lemon tea by pukka. Unreal stuff that.
S.E: Favourite f-word?
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