Sam Calver

Monday 30 April 2018
Words Lucy Shanker

Sam Calver has been proving his musical abilities for decades, and it all started with glow-in-the-dark stars stuck to his bedroom ceiling. The incandescent pieces of plastic inspired him to write his first song, Bedroom Stars, when he was just a kid. It’s safe to say that Calver has come a long way since then.

The Hastings-native is fresh off the release of his latest single, Don’t Tell Me You Love Me which was mixed by Grammy-winner Josh Gudwin. We caught up with the up-and-coming singer to discuss signing to Island Records, writing about one night stands and more…

So how did you get into music?

I started playing music when I was a kid; my dad plays guitar, and he got me playing that. Then I started a band when I was about 13, and from there just kind of kept it up. Really just doing gigs and writing my music. So yeah, I started from quite an early age.

What was the first song you ever wrote?

I think it was called Bedroom Stars… Do you remember those glow-in-the-dark star things? When I was a kid I had a bunch of those all over my ceiling. A little random, but I think it was about that.

You’re from Hastings — How did that shape your career/music?

The music scene in Hastings is really good and really varied; there’s a lot of blues, rock and jazz. Because it was so varied, I was always around lots of different types of music. I joined a rock band, but then I sang with old blues guys when I was younger. Plus there were the nightclubs. My friend owned one, so we were around a lot of dance music, too. Hastings really just opened my eyes to all types of music, which definitely influenced my music.

What has the response to your success been like back home?

Really supportive. The town’s been great! Every year I do a big Christmas concert, and it has just grown and grown. Last year after we finished a year of concerts, we sold out with 1,500 people. Everyone’s rooting for me.

Your music is pretty electronic. How did you get into that scene?

Well the guys who produced the songs that I’ve released so far were originally quite big on dubstep. They’ve done some official remixes for Ed Sheeran, so some pretty big stuff. Their roots were in dubstep and house, so it was the sound I had – the rock and R&B side – and mixed with their style.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I’ve just had the Miguel album on, but I listen to everything really. I love the new 30 Seconds to Mars album… I listen to everything to be honest. When I was younger I listened to a lot of Rage Against the Machine and Linkin Park; it was kind of like the new metal scene. Now, I listen to a lot of hip-hop as well. I try not to be too single minded. I think some people are too single minded and just listen to one genre, which I try not to do.

What was signing to Island Records like?

It was amazing. We had had our eye on trying to sign with them anyway because they’ve always been a great label for accepting different styles. I didn’t want to sign to a label and have them say, ‘You need to be a clean cut pop act’, or tell me what to do. I wanted them to take me as I am. They’ve got quite a track record already; they had acts like Mumford & Sons, U2, Drake — people who have their own kind of styles. So it was amazing to get signed by them. Their history is great, too; they worked with Bob Marley back in the day and Amy Winehouse, so I’m definitely in good company.

How do you feel like your career changed after that?  

It was almost like being verified. It felt like getting the ‘okay’ to get to work. It’s been a long battle to get heard, and this was kind of the acceptance. It was like, ‘Okay, now the real work starts’. Because of that, there was a team built around me to help with styling and stuff, so everything just looked a lot more professional. It was definitely a big step.

You recently released Don’t Tell Me You Love Me. What’s the inspiration behind that song?

It’s basically about a one night stand. The guys sent me an instrumental for a song they called Tell Me You Love Me so  I was writing lyrics around that. It was a really nice love song, but then I was like, ‘okay, I think it might be cool to switch it backwards’. So we switched it Don’t Tell Me You Love Me and I started working it around that instead. But it’s not really about anyone specific.

How was making this song different than your older stuff?

It was the first song that we were like ‘Holy s***, this is a really cool tune’. I love all the other stuff, but this is the one song I can listen to over and over and not get bored. Every time I hear it it makes me feel good. Every now and then you’ll find a song you really connect with,  and to have it be one of your songs is really cool. It’s the one song that I’ve really been listening to a lot.

You played a sold out gig at The Waiting Room in London earlier this year. What was that show like?

It was great. It was the first time I’ve done a show in London in a while, and it was a nice venue. It was quite small, around 120 capacity, so it had a real intimate vibe. It was lots of friends and family and the label, so it was kind of like a showcase night.

What’s in store for the rest of the 2018?

Hopefully a lot more new music. I’m doing lots of writing — I’m on the way to a session now. I’m also doing a track with a guy called Feed Me, who was on tour with Skrillex and Deadmau5; we’re working and molding our styles out. And hopefully we’ll be able to get to to America to do some shows, too.

Get a taste of his Sam’s live performances below.