Name: Will Samson
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, producer
Nationality: British
Recent release: Will Samson's Active Imagination, featuring Beatrijs De Klerck, David Allred and Herone Alexander, is out via Wichita.
Recommendations: Anis Mojgani – Here I Am (Poem); Masayoshi Fujita – Bird Ambience (Album)

[Read our David Allred interview]
[Read out Masayoshi Fujita interview]

If you enjoyed this interview with Will Samson and would like to find out more about his work, visit his official homepage. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I started recording sounds when I was 4-5 on those childrens' cassette recorders that were popular in the 90s. I loved that machine and still remember it vividly.

My first instrument is the drums, and the only one I took lessons in. There was something very attractive about being able to make such loud, expressive, dominant sounds but still be hidden away behind the kit too.

I think I grew up learning to often not fully express how I was feeling. So discovering that music was a completely free space for self expression was a very special and important thing indeed.

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

I remember that there's a sense of magic in the world that words can never fully express. I feel more alive, connected, seen and heard – even if just listening alone – and perhaps even more so with instrumental music.

Listening to my favourite albums simply reminds me to keep my mind out of the creative process and just trust whatever is asking to be expressed.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

I can't say that there's been a specific breakthrough, but rather a gradual process of learning / unlearning and growing inner confidence.

The discovery of recording with a RE-501 (but not for its delay) definitely became a fundamental sound when starting. There's a little trick I use it for that has been on every solo LP since Balance.

More than anything, the development has just come from finding the sounds and textures that excite me, and honouring them. I have always had a soft spot for things that seem as though they could have been created underwater. I am also always very drawn to warm, natural, organic sounds – more importantly so within the context of electronic music.

I have always typically been very out of the loop with music trends, so usually find inspiration from the music that friends and peers are making.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

The album is largely about that sense of identity and belonging, so it's something I thought a great deal about. It's difficult to answer without speaking in depth about the topic.

Since a kid, I have been perceived as white British, Spanish/Portuguese, Israeli, Middle Eastern – but also curiously quizzed on my ethnicity when I've visited India & Nepal. In some ways, I feel very British, but in other ways I never felt completely at home there. I suppose I have just enough Indian blood in me to create some subtle ethnic ambiguity.

Then with my music, people are often unsure where to place it. It is sometimes too electronic for the folk fans, and too folky for electronic music fans. A close friend and former booking agent once said to me: “the problem is, you're not really in a particular music scene”. I suppose that mirrors this feeling of never having a solid home base.

But I am comfortable with the ambiguity (infact, it deserves to be embraced!) and exploring those grey areas is the exciting part for me. It does not mean vagueness or indecision. There can be great clarity in the exploration of those spaces between. Life is complex and experience is so subjective. We shouldn't need to fit everything neatly into a box or a label. Labels can often just limit our experiences.

I'm very grateful to have found a small audience of listeners who enjoy that exploration too.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

You just have to honour & trust whatever is asking to be expressed and resonates with / excites you. Your emotions are valid and are worthy of expression,  no matter how they are received. Trust whatever creative spark makes you feel free.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

I love simple, raw folk music but also certain modern, electronic music too. But I guess it's the space between those two that is where my attention has always been drawn to.

It's all just about feeling (for both listening and creating) so I don't place much attention on that.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

Up until 2020, I had a very old laptop with an even older version of Cubase. It often used to overheat and crash, which was no fun.

I unexpectely received a little bit of money from a small sync, so was finally able to buy a better refurbished laptop and then upgrade to a new version of Cubase. It looked like spaceship controls for the first week, but as I got used to it, this new technology helped enormously with making the album.

I used to resent looking at a screen to make music, but my old tape machines often break too, so they're no angels. There's a happy medium between both of them these days. Anything that helps makes the creative process more enjoyable and flowing is the path to follow.

My little Watkins IC400 copicat and Laney tube amp (which got re-soldered by a great little shop in guitar Bristol and now sings like a dream) are a perfect duo and haven't left my side since I bought them in my early 20's.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

It's obviously changed radicially over past years, since we haven't been able to tour for so long. Right now, since founding this new label, Human Chorus, I feel as though all I do is send emails and prepare documents.

During the making of Active Imagination, I had a very disciplined routine (aside from the times where lockdown didn't allow it). I rented a little studio space, about 20 minutes bike ride away, which was the first time in my life I had a dedicated studio space outside of my home. It was an absolute blessing for my mental well-being to have that separation.

I'd usually arrive at 10 each morning (sometimes earlier) and work solidly until I needed to eat dinner (around 19:00 usually). It was mostly Monday-Friday, but at times I was going in 7 days a week!

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

I had been putting a huge amount of time and energy into various aspects of producing the album, and one day felt the strong urge to write something super simple and short as a counter balance.

I started by recording some simple, open tuning guitar chords that excited my ears - without much thought as to where they would lead.

At the time, I was really struggling to get over a 2020 heartache. So I just thought, I'm going to sing whatever comes out and stick with that. The key was just not to overthink anything.

By the end of that same afternoon, “Shun” was practically done!

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

I've done a few different collaboration projects, and they have generally all felt very easy (with only one exception). When you are used to self-producing, it's a lot of fun to only focus on writing and performing, without thinking about mic placements or anything like that.

Perhaps that has been the biggest influence of collaborating: making records should be fun!

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

I'd say the role of music is to connect us to each other and the parts of ourselves (individially and as a society) that cannot quite be expressed in any other way.

I could not say exactly how my music relates to the world ... but I have had various messages over the years from people who've said that certain songs or albums have helped bring them some peace or emotional release during difficult times. If the music is here to help in that way, then I will be very content indeed.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

A friend once said that music should be a celebration. I agree, but to the extent that we must also acknowledge, express and celebrate all that is asking to come into song.

My Dad and I were very close, and he died suddenly of cancer just before Balance was released in 2012. Creating music over the following years provided a very important tool to help me process something as difficult as that – as well as all of life's joyful moments too, of course.

How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?  

That's a difficult one. I'll need to have a long think and come back to you!

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

For a long time, music felt like the only place I could fully express myself.

But, for the first time, I was making this album whilst simaltenously going to therapy sessions - so everything that was unravelling ended up turning into songs. It's basically about my whole life (even if the lyrics are somewhat cryptic) and I could not have made any other album than this one.

I really enjoy cooking for friends, for example, but simply could not have had the same therapeutic experience in doing so, compared to music.

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

I like to think that each person vibrates at a frequency the same way a musical note does. Two people can meet and their two notes harmonise beautifully, or perhaps there is some dissonance.

When a piece of music resonates with us, it's almost as if we are swept up in its waves and become a part of the music itself.