Interview: Sam Beeton
Sam Beeton was first discovered at the tender age of 14, meaning that the now 26 year old singer songwriter has significantly more experience than most musicians his age. It’s that very same maturity and intellect that marks out his new album In The Yard for particular praise: the record is a powerful work, that grows on you more with every single listen.
Beeton’s first album, No Definite Answer, released in 2008, is a similarly impressive work, and one that first set Beeton on his path to success: the lead single from the album, What You Look For, was named record of the week by radio personalities Jo Whiley and Scott Mills. A man of many talents, Beeton is also a model for burberry, and runs his own monthly record club. He has performed live with such heavy-hitters as The Script, James Morrison and Sandi Thom.
We spoke to Beeton about his new record, the power of Jeff Buckley, and momentary carpets. Nope, that’s not a spelling error: momentary carpets.
Joseph Earp: How are you and where in the world does our interview find you today?
Sam Beeton: In my underground bunker in Nottingham, England. I’ve just had some spaghetti.
JE: What is the prevailing emotion you want In the Yard to evoke in your listeners?
SB: I think there is an overall sense of “change” in this record, places and people passing on, lives moving into a different phase. For sure that’s the case lyrically. I’m not sure that I intended it that way, but listening back now, it evokes these feelings.
JE: How was the experience of recording the album?
SB: It was long but mostly enjoyable. I had so much material recorded, that it became a nightmare trying to keep it concise. I’ve never been a fan of overly long records. However, midway through the album sessions I changed tack and found an old Studer tape machine on ebay, myself and Chris Bucknall (producer) took a day out and travelled all the way to cornwall from Nottingham to pick it up. Then it broke almost immediately, but it was too late by then because I was hooked on the sound we were getting, so we waited a few weeks while it got fixed by a mystery studer expert I managed to track down in deepest darkest chesterfield. To cut a long story short, the machine came back and we effectively recorded and mastered a completely different record to the one we started with. I had a lot of fun with loads of different new sounds on this album, bizarre instruments like the optigan and “wobbly” mellotron were a mainstay of the sessions.
JE: For me personally, the title In The Yard implies a kind of homegrown, intimate tone. But what does the title mean to you?
SB: Yes, I took the title from the song Out In The Yard which is one of my favourites from the album. “In the yard” is my metaphor for not being present in the moment, a bit of a daydreamer, which can be a good thing, and a bad thing. I’m in the yard most of the time.
JE: Where do you find your inspiration when it comes to writing a song like the emotive Belong?
SB: The honest answer to this question is – I have no idea. Belong turned out to be about something unbelievably complex. It’s about how fast life moves, and kids grow up, but to the parents they’ll always be a little kid, that never stops. It’s the constant that never waivers amidst the uncertainty of everything else. I actually set out to write another song about pizza but, you win some, you lose some.
JE: Chris Bucknall, the co-producer of your first album, worked with you on In The Yard. How do you find the process of working with Chris? What was it like working with him a second time around?
SB: In many ways it was just the same as I remember from when I was 15. A lot of delirious silliness and laughter followed by an hour of intense focus and then back to the laughter again. He’s one of my favourite people on planet earth, first and foremost he has a great ear, TWO great ears in fact, he’s also an immensely talented musician. Most of all he has this effervescent quality that seems to lift you up if you’re down.
JE: When push comes to shove, what do you think is the best song you have recorded?
SB: Out In The Yard because it sounds like nobody else. It’s weird, like music from a half dream.
JE: Are you the kind of musician who will sit down for a set number of hours a week to write, or do you tend to compose your music off the cuff?
SB: I never really sit down and write. I remember stuff, play it live or record ideas straightaway, because it’s constant and that’s the only way to keep up with it. I never practice guitar playing either, maybe I should.
JE: What is your favorite record of all time?
SB: Grace by Jeff Buckley is one of them. I could never pick just one.
JE: “Always make your old folks proud” is a line from your song Good Natured Child. What do your old folks think about your music?
SB: They are more into Hardcore noise thrash-core annihilation music and Jazz. They still think I’m the worlds greatest though.
JE: You were discovered when you were 14 years old. What advice would you give to that young version of yourself, just about to embark on his musical career?
SB: None at all. Keep going, kid.
JE: You are well-known for your “Record Club”, whereby you wrote songs and sent personalized cds direct to fans. Where did the idea for the Record Club come from? What was the fan reaction you received for the project?
SB: I happened across this idea based on fan club cassettes that my older brother Paul used to receive through the post. It’s a monthly subscription service, where you receive what is effectively an EP a month through the post, of whatever I’ve been working on that month. You sign up for a year for £12. It must be a good idea ‘cus lots of artists have done the same since!
JE: Do you ever get nervous before shows?
JE: What is your favourite show out of those you have played?
SB: I think it’s the one where I’m hovering over the audience who are all wearing space suits and it’s 2034 and my music sounds like a thousand choirs and one very old piano. The venue is sort of an abandoned swimming pool on mars kind of place. Am I reading this question right?
JE: What should fans expect from your upcoming tour?
SB: Sam Beeton playing his songs – once more with feeling.
JE: Tell me something you’ve never told an interviewer before.
SB: Ok, Similar tomatoes, momentary carpets…
Sam’s new album In The Yard is out now.