pre-festival interview: soul-stirring singer sam dew on his first solo tour & afropunk fest brooklyn

August 12, 2015

The trajectory of Sam Dew’s career has seen a steady progression; now reaching the stratosphere of a fully formed artist. There was his five-year stint as lead vocalist with Atlanta-based alternative rock collective Cloudeater. Then there was his feature on Wale’s “Love-Hate Thing,” an infectious track that highlights Sam’s creamy and sensual vocals. Since then, Sam has kept busy doing features here and there on a number of genre blending tracks such as “Shell Shock” with Alice Smith and various other EDM leaning tracks. On his most recent body of work, a six track EP produced by Dave Sitek, “Damn Sue”, Dew weaves together perfectly what you loved about those intense and soul-stirring 60’s tracks all while infusing fresh synth beats, chock-full of melancholic goodness. With standout tracks like the hazy and pinning “Desperately” and lyrical soberness on “Victor,” it’s easy to see why Sam’s fan base is ever expanding. We caught up with the singer-songwriter and upcoming performer at our AFROPUNK Fest in Brooklyn, New York while he was busy at work catching some West Coast vibes.

Interview by Andrea Dwyer, AFROPUNK Contributor

On touring with Ryn Weaver: It was really cool. It was my first tour and I think it was her first tour too, apparently.  It was definitely a learning experience for both of us. We had a lot of really good shows and people reacted really well to the music. Just playing for new people, you know, whether you’re aware of it or not, being a brand new artist your circle of influence is much smaller. So just being able to work with Ryan and getting our music out through that platform every night was great; reaching people in the audience who wouldn’t have otherwise heard our music.

Evolution of musical style from Cloudeater to Damn Sue: Honesty, I had a pretty interesting talk with Pharrell. Back when he was in N.E.R.D, I guess a lot of what I was doing in Cloudeater reminded him of the differences in writing; the way he would write for other people versus how he would write for N.E.R.D. ..Transitioning to working with Dave, he showed me that it’s cool to have a vocal up out front and just let the music be what it is.  We just decided to go in a new direction for a while.

Working with Dave Sitek [TV On The Radio] & Lianne La Havas: With Dave, we basically just smoked a bunch of weed and started writing songs. Dave wasn’t super close in the writing process. For him, it was more about production and making sure the vibe of the room was right for us to get the best possible outcome. I just let inspiration hit; what you hear is just what came out—it all comes from being in a good place.

Lianne and I did a song called “What You Don’t Do.” Working with her was dope. Lianne is one of those artists that you just kinda go in with. You don’t wanna stretch too hard because she’s all about a certain vibe. If the vibe in the room is right then she’s ready to work.

The idea behind EP, Damn Sue: Damn Sue is just this idea of not being able to function with this awareness of this significant other that you don’t have. You know, it’s kinda like that search for the one that people seem to have—kinda like the joy and pain that comes with not knowing if you’ll even be ready for the one you think you should have.

The inspiration behind track “Desperately”: The song isn’t about anyone in particular. It’s a conceptual track.

Performing at AFROPUNK fest, Brooklyn: I got word, like I normally do from my manager. I had just done a Red Bull Sound Select show that went extremely well and we were just hoping we’d be able to work with AFROPUNK and Red Bull some more. AFROPUNK seems to be really down with what we’re doing; I enjoy working with those guys.

Catching Lenny Kravitz live at the upcoming AFROPUNK Fest: I’ve never seen Lenny live—that’s gonna be a crazy moment to actually be able to see him live.

Upcoming gigs: I’ll be opening up for D’Angelo out in Vegas at the Chelsea. I’m pretty stoked about that.

– Sam Dew is set to perform August, 23 at the AFROPUNK Festival in New York:

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* Andrea Dwyer is a freelance writer based in Atlanta. She’s a writer at Superselected and you can follow her on Twitter @musingandrea.