Autumn Music Preview 08 - Sam Sparro
He may be a globe-traversing, pop sprite who gifted us one of the finest pop songs of the summer in ‘Black and Gold’ but Sam Sparro still has time to don his wellies and get down and dirty with the best of us. David Pollock reports
Oh dear. It’s not like the summer hasn’t been one long string of achievements for Sam Sparro, aka 25-year-old singer Sam Falson, whose ‘Black and Gold’ will be remembered as one of the sleekest dancefloor anthems of 2008, but more or less the first thing he says in interview prophesies an imminent slide downhill. Quite literally.
‘Where am I? I’m on a tour bus on my way to the Isle of Wight, to Bestival. I’m playing at midnight tonight, it’s going to be very rainy apparently. I’ve got my wellies, but fortunately I’m going to be in a tent.’ Two days later this went up on his MySpace blog: ‘DAMN! What a crap load of rain! We were all set for our first show in a while and our last festival of the season. But due to torrential rains which turned the whole event into a complete swamp our stage started sinking and we had to pull the show.’
Oh dear, indeed. We can only hope the experience won’t spoil Falson’s summer; after all, he’s crammed more into the last few months than many people manage in their lives. ‘I’ve been doing a lot of festivals in Europe,’ he says, ‘and I’ve just spent the last four weeks in LA, doing promo and working in the studio, and Australia’s been really receptive to what I’m doing as well. Yeah, I’ve been very, very busy.’
From the gasp in his voice during that last sentence, he might actually have been glad to find himself with a night off later on.
It’s no surprise that Falson has succeeded in these three locations: he was born in Sydney, raised in Los Angeles, and lived in London for a time during his late teens. He now keeps homes in both LA and London, although his speech pattern is largely Australian, with a little English thrown in. His interest in music also dates just as far back as the accent.
‘I guess it runs in the blood,’ he says, ‘because I’m the fifth musical generation in my family, my grandfather was a great jazz trumpet player, my dad sang gospel, so I was always around it. I think my parents would have loved me to be into something a little more practical, but I always knew I wanted to make music.’
His first paid singing gig was at the age of 12, as part of a choir on the soundtrack to US soap General Hospital, and he was already producing what he describes as ‘avant garde electro-pop’ at the age of 16.
‘I was really into Björk at the time,’ he says, ‘and then I took an interest in old-school jazz and funk, although when I tried that style it all just sounded like it had been done before. Then when I was about 21, I started blending both styles together, and it all came together from there.’
In many ways, Sam Sparro is the bold onstage alter ego of the more reclusive Falson. His uncle gave him the nickname when he was 16, although in many ways, the character is still a work in progress. Album tracks like ‘Sally’ and ‘Too Many Questions’ were written during his funk and soul phase, inspired by artists like Stevie Wonder, The Roots and Erykah Badu, whereas the breathless disco style of ‘Black and Gold’ is a result of Falson’s rediscovery of pop.
‘For a long time,’ he says, ‘pop’ was a dirty word. After the late 90s it stood for something that was very cheesy and insincere, but I’ve learned to rediscover the fun in it lately. People like Hot Chip and Timbaland have all the right ingredients for the best pop music: it’s got to have great melody, great production and great lyrics. That’s what I aim for, anyway.’
ABC, Glasgow, Tue 23 Sep.