So, why music?
Reclining in an armchair at the Sony Music offices in central London, soul singer Sam Dew chews over the question.
â€œI didnâ€™t have a choiceâ€ he answers with a smile.
Itâ€™s no question the inventive Chicago native has talent. Before he dropped his debut EP, Damn Sue, in April of this year he was writing tracks for some of the worldâ€™s hottest R&B artists (Mary J. Blige, Jessie Ware and Rihanna just to name a few). He has a wide assortment of collaborations varying from Waleâ€™s R&B hook â€œLoveHate Thingâ€ to Skrillexâ€™s bouncing brostep track â€œStranger.â€
But now Sam has stepped into the solo light with Damn Sue. The soul EP showcases his velvety vocals and was produced by a member of the indie rock band TV on the Radio, Dave Sitek.
â€œItâ€™s a concept album,â€ Sam says. â€œItâ€™s about this ongoing question we all have about partnership. You never know if itâ€™s funny or completely sad. Itâ€™s about Sue becoming more of an obsession rather than a goal of love.â€
The six track EP is a testament to Samâ€™s genre blending abilities, from the ethereal opener â€œDesperatelyâ€ to synth-beats and soaring vocals of â€œLies.â€ Sam describes the EPâ€™s influences as â€œlayers.â€
â€œI always want those (influences) to be part of the music,â€ he says. â€œItâ€™s just about finding the pieces that work together in any given work.â€
Samâ€™s variation of influences is apparent when you look at the progression of his music. Before he was an up-and-coming soul singer, he was the front man of the indie art rock band Cloudeater in Atlanta. The band had mild success with two albums from 2011 â€“ 2013, but it was ultimately a clothing store that would give Samâ€™s vocal chops the big break they needed.
â€œIt was this place called Wish,â€ Sam says. â€œWale used to go in all the time to shop, and our music would be playing. Thatâ€™s how he found out about me for the first time.â€
After Waleâ€™s outreach, Sam came on to help write the song â€œLotus Flower Bombâ€ from Waleâ€™s 2011 album Ambition. After that Samâ€™s songwriting spark caught fire. He started writing tracks for pop R&B queens Rita Ora and Jessie Ware among others.
But now, itâ€™s time for Sam to pen his own songs. Since the disbanding of Cloudeater, Sam says little of the â€œindie-rockâ€ influence made it to Damn Sue.
â€œFor the EP I wanted it to be a little bit clearer,â€ he says. â€œwhat Dave produces â€“ it makes a lot of sense for this. Dave is a huge part of the sound. It felt natural, and I didnâ€™t want to push it any further.â€
But how does a Chicago crooner form a collaboration with a post-punk rocker?
â€œI was listening to TV on the Radio for a few years, but working with any of the members never crossed my mind,â€ Sam muses as he strokes his impressive facial hair. â€œAfter the first day I showed up at (Daveâ€™s) house it felt like I never left. Three months went by and we had this giant pile of music, but we just kept making more and more.â€
A select amount of this music is set to appear on Samâ€™s first full-length album â€“ set to be released later this year. But the milestone of his first album doesnâ€™t mean Sam is ready to settle in. He says heâ€™s still trying to find his music identity, and heâ€™s comfortable with the idea of never having the â€œanswerâ€ to success.
â€œItâ€™s about learning how to live with those lack of answers,â€ he says. â€œIt never really feels like itâ€™s over. You just have to accept that whatever youâ€™re presenting to the public isnâ€™t a final form; itâ€™s where youâ€™re at in the moment. And thatâ€™s not a bad thing. Thatâ€™s the hardest thing about being an artist, knowing that youâ€™re not perfect.â€
With that, Sam says his goodbyes. A surprisingly humble and personable guy, heâ€™s off to his show with Miguel at XOYO.