Sam Graham sings in a chic tone about turmoil with boys, existential dread, and past trauma while adorning the entire sound field with a pristinely antiquated swooning method on his most recent EP, 'Cries for Attention.'
A lot of these themes are prevalent in "Humming Song," a sleek single from this independent songwriter.
"Humming Song" enters with smooth snaps as the lead rhythm before the hymn-like mantras in the backdrop establishes the link to the track's title as the intro dissolves into Sam's intoxicating swaggering croon. Then the drums drop in with a well-rounded thump on the kick, and a tape saturated texture, the tune begins to evolve as more tantalizing harmonics, and hooks are introduced.
Sam Graham steps forward with well-fought confidence and a very upfront pose, keeping listeners captivated as if you've been transported into the same speakeasy bar that our seductive Pop-amalgamating superstar bears reign over.
While the keys delicately add a subtle R&B coloration, the horn section begins making their debut as they pump shots of dopamine into our system with every lick. There is so much to uncover as the song seamlessly dives in and out of colluding wah-wah, electric guitars and reverb washed vocal harmonies that help widen the stereo field and introduces a new character of Pop music that borrows so effectively from past influencers in jazz, funk and contemporary.
Near the halfway mark the lyrics take a moment to grip us tight, "And just like smoke, I see you clear as day," Sam sings as the songs breaths a little slower, "and when I try to touch you, you just fade away," his harmonies callback as they decay back into the skeleton of his heartbreak. "The thought of you it echos, more and more and more...but I guess that's what forgetting is for," he cheekily snaps, as the tune serves a small taste of a trumpet's gleaming solo to serve as the bridge.
Sam Graham's lyrics only establish his complete comfort over the vulnerability of the themes found in his music. As the song comes to its final beats, we're already setting up the replay button to get another serving of Sam's intimate musical catalog.
Your new single, "Humming Song." transports us into a totally unique atmosphere as we dove in, and we're curious how you approached this single. What's the story behind the creation of this single?
Thank you so much! So this song was actually the first song I’ve ever written to completion. It started as some inane hum I would sing to myself while zoning out at a barista job I had back in Boston. From there, I added some harmony behind it to give it context.
One of my biggest musical inspirations is Amy Winehouse’s first album “Frank” and I listened repeatedly while writing “Humming Song" so that I could internalize her song movement and flow. I often go back to this album to listen for inspiration in all my writing. Because of my music conservatory background (I know, how gross), I often overcomplicate my music. It’s good to take a step back and start simple and then build from there, rather than go in guns-a-blazing with intense jazz harmony and complicated melodies. In the immortal words of one of my mentors “No one cares how smart you are on stage, they care if you make them feel something”.
The lyrical inspiration is based on the idea of “ghosts of boyfriends (and hook-ups) past”; romantic entanglements in which you forget the person, but not the experience. For me, intimacy is important in physical connections (I’m a Scorpio with a Pisces moon) so it’s hard not to get invested in some capacity.
The whole theme of my EP “Cries for Attention” is the simplified story of my coming-of-age as an adult and the two men who were the most formative of this experience. “Humming Song” is placed towards the end to help signify me severing ties with an abusive ex. I carry that experience with me every day of my life, but I choose to forget the man behind it, he’s simply not worth it.
Can you tell us more about how you accomplished such an enamoring texture in this track, particularly with fitting in so much vibe with the horns and your own sultry voice in one composition?
I describe my aesthetic as “Dap-King meets Drag Queen”. I love brassy horn sections with an air of camp to them. When writing horn parts, you need to think of them as a chorus of voices that add to your own personal choir.
My favorite part of the whole track is after the second verse during the mini-soli section. There’s this baroque-Esque horn line that sort of jumps out as this out-of-place texture that just fills me with so much joy and makes me give a little stank face. You know the one like you smelt something bad but it’s oh so good. I personally can’t imagine ever writing a new song and not having some sort of horn involved with it.
Do you have a producer that helps achieve some of the characters you want to enhance in your music?
My good friend Alex Yen co-produced the whole EP with me and I’m so thankful to have had him. He was the bad cop to my good cop in the studio. When I was too afraid to correct or criticize the players, I would whisper them to him and he would take the heat. God bless a man who doesn’t give a f*ck. Me? I give too many.
When we were talking shop, I would come to him with my horn and string parts and he would go “No, these are no good, try again”. So I would leave, take his critiques, and come to him with new ones. He really respected my vision for the whole EP and played the critical-sounding board that I needed. Over the last year, our friendship has really grown, and we even moved to New York together (as friends, but that would be a cute story if we got together). He’s my trusted confidant when I have new ideas about literally anything and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How did music introduce itself into your life? Was this something you've always had a passion for, or did it establish a means to your own self-expression later in life?
Music wasn’t my end goal in high school. Honestly? I didn’t have one. It was sort of something I stumbled into when I was thinking about colleges. I had always been good but nothing I thought about too seriously. I had decided to audition for Music Ed. programs in the North East, but for those, I needed to prepare repertoire. My first voice teacher Bill Hall after our first lesson was like, “You need to go for performance…” So I did!
I started as a classical voice major at the New England Conservatory of Music which really wasn’t my thing, but at 17, I didn’t realize you could study other types of music. After 3 semesters I somehow weaseled my way into the jazz department at the school. It was incredibly eye-opening, but I felt like I was always playing catch up with my peers. It wasn’t until I left that I realized what I wanted to do. After 2 years of soul searching, I returned to the school to study Contemporary Improvisation, which is sort of the Liberal Arts of music. I learned so much about myself, songwriting, and my love as a performer.
My whole musical journey has been wild, jumping from genre to genre, teacher to teacher… but it’s all been worth it. I try to take everything I’ve learned and applied it to my music. Whether it’s jazz harmony in my songwriting, classical technique in my singing, or just not being afraid to get weird with it all...
Thanks for joining us, it's been an absolute pleasure having you here. Can you give us any sneak peeks as to what you have planned for the next few months artistically?
I’m striving to release a bed-room pop EP by the end of the Summer with Alex as the producer. I say that now so that I have accountability to actually write and complete it. Deadlines are the only thing that keeps me productive so please hold me to it!