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Sami Sumner - Interview

  by Julie Cruickshank

published: 4 / 5 / 2024

Sami Sumner - Interview

Multi-talented multi-instrumentalist Sami Sumner from London marries soul and funk with devastatingly beautiful ballads and up-tempo dance tracks, most notably in his recent album ‘Lost in the Noise’. An accomplished live performer, Sami is gaining a reputation as one of the foremost solo artists on the UK circuit. Pennyblackmusic caught up with Sami to discuss his songwriting process and achievement of releasing twelve albums in one year. PB: Sami, your musical output is prodigious. When did you start to write and perform music, and what were your influences growing up? SAMI SUMNER: I still remember being 9 years old and writing my first song in the classroom at school! I think I might (or my Mum might) still have that in my old work books - but I would shudder to read that now! I have been playing piano since I was 3, singing and writing since 9 and saxophone since 11...my main inspirations growing up in the early 90s with MTV, the BOX and VH1 on rotation were Michael Jackson, Prince, George Michael, MC Hammer, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross. As I got a bit older, I began gravitating to the singer/pianists and became massively influenced by the genius of Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Lionel Richie just as much! I had then steadily composed music and written songs in my formative musical years but at age 15 everything changed when at school, I was taught some of the basics of producing on 'Cubase' - an old musical production software programme. This was my new obsession and I would spent every lunch time and hours after school staying in the one practice room at school that had the computer and Cubase on it, making song after song, beat after beat! When I when to BRIT School just after, my studio skills were improved upon further and I was able to fully record myself - writing, productions, singing, mixing and mastering. I was then determined to have my own home studio, so while I was working weekends during my college years I saved up and put together my own home studio by age 18! Fully able to record whole pieces of music and songs, this formed the basis of my musical work pads for the decades to follow and I have constantly improved, modernised and maintained it. All 15 of my albums to date have been recorded there! So I owe a great deal to the influences and education I had coming up!! PB: You play saxophone and piano, and all of your songs are self-produced. Which other instruments do you play, and could you tell us which are your preferred brands and why? SS: I can play a bit of guitar and bass but only to the playing-at-home-for-fun standard!! Of the saxes, I have an alto and a soprano and used to also have a tenor and have several pianos and keyboards! Brand-wise I do enjoy mostly the classics of Yamaha and Roland - they are just some of the heavyweights that never let you down - and the sounds are great. I also use the programme Logic for recording. PB: Your songs explore the ups and downs of relationships of the heart, as well as a general plea for a better world. Talk us through your songwriting and recording process - for example when you are writing a song do the lyrics come first or the music? Do you improvise a lot in the studio or are your songs always fully-formed and ready to go? SS: I love these type of questions! The creative process is truly unique to every artist and I love talking about it!...so...for me, most of my songs start by sitting at the piano. I normally just start playing, improvising and seeing what happens. Like I mentioned, I have been playing piano since I was 3 years old and it really is musical 'home' for me. If I feel inspired, before long a composition or a song start to form and I enjoy the organic nature of that. Usually the music will inspire lyrics and subject matter, but sometimes they can come at the same time. However, there are times when the creative process is so seamless and it doesn't require a great deal of work and digging to come up with something. Some of my best songs have been written and composed in 5-10 minutes when I feel that I am really in the zone that it feels that I am more just relaying or receiving the creation than actually painstakingly coming up with it. That's that best way I can describe that, and for some of those songs that have been formed instantaneously I can't actually remember composing them when I look back at times. Weird, but I like it! PB: Michael Jackson is your favourite artist and a huge influence on you. How has he shaped the way you write and perform? SS: In terms of pure creativity, Michael Jackson paved the way in pop music for self expression without rules or constraints. He often spoke of love and compassion and a positive message for change in the world. Both of these things are imbedded in me due to me being such a big fan my whole life and I largely have him to thank for that. When creating, it's great to be free and be open to explore new sounds and genres. This approach was vital when I was doing my album a month project last year, as I released 12 albums in 2023, exploring pop, r&b, synth wave, house, trance, classical and jazz! As a performer, it is quite similar, but in the sense that really 'letting go' and getting 'in the zone' are absolutely crucial and key to expressing your music in the best way. It's the only way. And again, Michael Jackson was a performer that truly committed every cell in his body to his performances and really left it all out there on the stage - something I have aspired to do myself in my career. PB: Tell us about other interests which inform your work - for example books and other media, hobbies. For the first album I released last year 'Lost in the Noise' especially, I was heavily influenced by old school video game music and actually bought a Sega Mega Drive sound card emulator to use sounds from some of those classic games that formed a huge part of my early years. That way, while creating the synth wave sound I so love, I can add a layer of personal nostalgia to the project. I feel this worked a treat and I am very proud of that. I am also heavily influenced by a lot of the beautiful music and especially piano music found on films and tv shows, as heard across my two piano albums I released last year '88 Friends' and 'Peace'. PB: What are your future plans for writing, recording and performing? SS: I am getting into composing for film, tv and adverts. This is really the direction I am headed and my full passion is behind. I can hear lots of my compositions - again namely from my piano albums or similar - featured in these mediums. It's a hard industry to crack, but I am making inroads. Stay tuned and listen out for my compositions in films, tv shows, adverts and your favourite streaming platform soon! I played a few shows last year after some time away from live performing and it felt amazing. I do have plans to play live again soon and there are some exciting venues I have yet to explore, which will be coming soon! Thank you so much for the chance to have a chat with you about my passion and life of music, all 15 of albums can be found on all the streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music! Last year was a real labour of love, releasing 12 albums and committing to my album-a-month challenge. I am proud of my achievements and explored many genres and sounds. Enjoy and I look forward to bringing you even more! PB: Thank you.

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Sami Sumner - Interview

Sami Sumner - Interview

Sami Sumner - Interview

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