MEAWW's Basement Tapes: Samuel Jack's 'Empty Pockets, Crowded Heart' narrates his love, loss and heartbreak
London-born singer-songwriter Samuel Jack has spent his life soaking up the sounds of blues, Motown, soul, and roots music that surrounded him in Johannesburg. Combining the genres that shaped him with his new-found love for hip-hop and pop, the artist has created his own style and has been slowly building and refining his sound over the last few years.
And now, he's ready for his upcoming project, 'Empty Pockets, Crowded Heart', to be released in three volumes, starting March 27. The album is a collection of songs that narrate the singer's journey thus far, including "the adventure, the romance, the loss, the heartbreak." For Jack, this is an honest record that serves as an ode to the one thing that has always been there when he needed it most: His music.
MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) got to chat with Samuel Jack about his latest single 'Gonna Be Alright', his upcoming album, future projects and how he's coping with the current world situation.
‘Empty Pockets, Crowded Heart Vol. 1’ is your big debut! Are you excited, or perhaps nervous?
Oh yes. To both. Lots of all of that. I’m so so excited and hugely nervous. All the feels.
What has the journey been like, going from growing up around such a huge variety of musical influences in your life to finding your own sound and creating something that really reflects the journey you’ve had so far?
My journey has thus been crazy. Up and down, wonderful and terrifying and a massive learning curve in some ways. I’ve learnt about myself, my industry, my craft and I still am every day.
I’ve been blessed in some ways that I and my team have had the luxury of time in some respects to really feel out the sound and what I want to say, and that’s been really amazing for me to experience. All the stories and memories made along the way have helped shape something that I’m really proud of. And all of my musical influences are the glue that has brought it all together.
Q. You’ve got an interestingly wide range of musical influences. Which artists would you say have had the greatest influence on your musical style and songwriting?
Not one in particular, the greats like Sam Cooke, Etta James, through to tribe called quest, Paul Simon, KRS ONE, the Chilli Peppers. I’ve loved and listened to so much music growing up they’ve all shaped the way I think, live, play, and write music now.
Q. ‘Gonna Be Alright’ has a powerful message of resilience and recovery, touching on some very heavy subjects like mental health. Was it difficult to sit down and pen a song about an experience that can be just as painful to relive as it is empowering to overcome? Is it difficult to perform songs like these?
Great question. Sometimes when I’m writing it kinda hurts. You’ve got to dig up stuff that isn’t always emotionally easy - in fact, really really hard sometimes, but when the message is that of ‘gonna be alright’ the song came become therapeutic, a cathartic experience in itself.
You've gotta be brave as a songwriter, you need to be willing to stand in front of a lot of people and open up about all sorts of sh*t about yourself. It really is the greatest feeling in the world when you find out that your audience really relates to those same feelings as you.
I wrote [Gonna Be Alright] to celebrate recovery and I feel better every time I sing it. I just hope the listeners feel the same.
Q. What else can we expect to hear on ‘Empty Pockets, Crowded Heart Vol. 1’? Are there any tracks in particular that you are really excited to have people listen to, perhaps a personal favourite song?
Woahhhh. Erm. That’s too tough to call. I’m excited about every song...I know I love performing a song called ‘Red’ - I feel four stone lighter every time I sing that. That will be coming on Vol.2. But you can expect big stomping soul and pop, emotional ballads, all sorts of heavy-hitting lyrics.
Q. What can we expect next from Samuel Jack?
The ‘Empty Pockets Crowded Heart’ album is being released as 3 volumes. Vol.1 is out March 27th, and then early May there will be new singles in the lead up to Vol.2 in June. We had scheduled Vol.3 for September / October release after a summer of live shows and festivals, but in the last 10 days due to Covid-19 virus the entire touring and festival industry has just evaporated around the world. So we shall see how my release schedule might change.
I’m constantly writing and working on new music so hopefully, the release flow will continue.
Q. Speaking of the coronavirus and cancelled shows, could you give us an update on where fans would be able to see you perform next?
It goes without saying due to the Coronavirus all touring schedule and live dates are all on hold at the moment. I’m hugely gutted, we were starting the year strong and lining up some exciting shows. I want to be on the road ASAP!! The nightmare with this virus we’re fighting now has had such a huge effect on us all and I can’t wait to get back to doing what I love most, playing for you all.
'MEAWW's Basement Tapes' is a weekly column that shines a spotlight on undiscovered/underrated musical gems.