This year has been a lot different than planned for Sam Himself. The NY based, Switzerland native was on tour in Europe when the pandemic hit, thus canceling the rest of the dates. He’s remained in Switzerland since quarantine, which will make the span of time the longest he has been out of NYC since he moved about 10 years ago. 

Similar to many dreaming artists, Sam Himself first ventured to NYC in order to be around the music scene and play music. He wanted to get there by any means possible and start his career. After about five or six years, he had finished school and was really focusing professionally on music. 

Photography Stefan Tschumi

The transition from college to music full time was a lot more difficult than he had imagined it would be. The process of exiting a structured and predictable environment to being on his own and navigating a career was challenging.

“Especially being in New York. It’s pretty saturated there. No one is really waiting for you. No one really cares”

There are so many people trying to make it in the city, that it can feel like your chance is far from reach. However, Sam had great work friendships he developed for so long that he felt the support of other creatives when pursuing his career.

“The scene in NYC is huge but it can feel tight-knit, intimate, and mutually supported.“

When developing those friendships, it wasn’t about name dropping or bragging. Credentials weren’t shown and he worked creatively with people without feeling pressured. These relationships matured well before the Sam Himself project began. Sam experimented in different bands and duo groups, before landing on the alias he creates music under today.

 Through his developed connections in the industry, he has formed a team that he hopes to perform live with again in the future. Sam recalls the differences in touring across the world and believes it was smart that he started performing in the United States first because Europe would have spoiled him.

Photography Harry Griffin

There’s a huge difference in the standard of luxury. Food and backstage are different. Expresso machines, ironing boards, and vegetarian food in Europe. Wild luxury. The audiences are super respectful in Europe.” 

The material appreciation for an artist on tour manifests differently in Europe versus the US. In the United States, unless you are on a really high level you have to kinda fucking rough it because no one is gonna pay a lot for a ticket or backstage.

Even though touring extensively has been put on hold, Sam has released an EP and is in the process of finishing up his debut album, due 2021. Slow Drugs dropped in May of this year and has accumulated 162,000+ streams on Spotify alone. 

From a musical standpoint, he was looking for simplicity. Not obvious but intuitive. Striving for songs that felt composed and planned but not complicated, which he hit right on the nail. Much of the EP draws on an effortless daydream and his visuals are just as cinematic as his songs sound. 

Creating an art form that is simple, but leaving it up for interpretation to the listener. Providing works that are “accessible on different levels, whether listening for the first time or the tenth time.” Less is more in his case, and it’s quite obvious that he is deliberate in his ideas and themes in his songs. 

The title track, “Slow Drugs,” was the first of the five songs written. It set the tone lyrically and influenced the way the rest of the songs were written. The idea of the song is “feeling like you are somewhere you can’t stay and you can’t last. On one end you are wondering why and on the other end you are wondering how you can get out of it.” 

The behind scenes of artist creation is sometimes overlooked by consumers, as today’s technology has spoiled society to have constant content. Sam Himself reworked songs and spent a lot of time thinking about what the sound of the project would be, so it took some time since his 2018 release. 

On the flip side, Sam Himself’s newest single, “Cry,” was the fastest turnaround of a song he’s ever done. Completing the track in a 6 month period, it was written in the spring during the lockdown and then recorded in the summer. 

Sam recorded “Cry” in a Switzerland AirBnB with what little equipment he had packed for his then canceled tour. He finished working on it with his producer who was based in NYC, and they had it all done within that time frame. 

“I was in lockdown and I was just kinda on my own. I felt displaced. This relationship I was in kinda ended at the beginning of the pandemic. Tour was canceled. I didn’t know when I could go back to NYC. I was like fuck this feels real and I wanted to put it out close to the period that it was inspired by. I wanted to keep that proximity. Also, because of that experience with the EP where it was such a span of time. I wanted to go the other way and put out something that maybe I had to compromise for. Ya know? I couldn’t record it in NYC and I wasn’t in the room with Daniel but I got this closeness and immediacy out of it. It was more relevant to release it at the time it was released. The quarantine song.

Quarantine songs have touched upon the things that we don’t have anymore and/or the things that we are grateful for, both of which are addressed in Sam Himself’s new single. It’s a farewell to his life he had in NYC and the blessings he is fortunate to have amidst everything. Putting out the song within its relevance period also preserves its authenticity when hearing the song in years to come. A pocket reminder of what life felt like at the time. Sam explains further what the song is about:

“I was trying to do two things I guess. I was overwhelmed and was driving on a highway before dawn. I know this is going to sound cliche. I was on my way to shoot the rest of the video for “Like a Friend” which is on the EP. My tour was canceled. I was listening to the radio and they were talking about the pandemic. I was like holy shit the world is spiraling out of control. Having a panic attack. 

“The person I was in a relationship with at the time, called me while I was driving. We talked for a while and kinda just broke up, on the phone. All this stuff was very different like a week prior. It was over. My world kinda ended.”

“I was feeling that and at the same time, I was also like who the fuck am I to be sitting here pitting myself, crying about these small misfortunes. I’m alive and healthy, while the world is ending for all these people. Literally, people are dying and I’m sitting here fucking heartbroken. So, I tried to do both. To express the actual emotion and confusion and pain of it and also be like just grow up.”

We may not know what 2021 will bring, but rest assure that Sam Himself will capture this year vulnerably and truthfully. “Cry” is a snip of the reflection which will be showcased on Sam’s debut album out next year. We may not know what the future holds and what each person’s circumstances are, but we can turn to music to connect with others.

Listen to Cry HERE