- Words Saskia Postema
Demi Lovato and Sam Fischer sit down for an exclusive chat with Notion to talk all about their new single "What Other People Say".
Sam Fischer and Demi Lovato have only been on the set of their new music video for “What Other People Say” for three hours when they sit down for an exclusive interview with Notion.
“I walked into this trailer just now, and this is actually the first time I gave him a hug ever,” Lovato jokes. It’s indicative of how COVID-19 has certainly changed the way in which music is being made. Fischer and Lovato have been working on their collaboration for a while. In fact, in May 2020, Fischer first mentioned that he had a song with “the queen”, as he affectionately refers to Demi Lovato.
Fischer feels like it just took a while for the stars to align for the track. “We wrote this song in a session that was originally for another artist, but didn’t show up,” he says. “We kind of ‘hail Mary’ed the song because we felt we had something to say. This was before anything had happened for me, but it was just something that was weighing on our hearts that session.”
“This queen heard it and connected with it, and the story is – we’ve had two very different lives, but there is such a human moment in this song which is why I think it connected. And when I heard her vocal – I just – Demi’s one of the best vocalists in the world. It felt like it was meant to be,” Fischer gushes.
Lovato is quick to return the compliment, emphasizing that Fischer’s vocals are just as phenomenal. She got involved in the song after she was given an early cut. “Hearing the song for the first time, I really resonated with it. You know, there are certain songs you hear and even if you wrote on them or not you just connect with them. I felt an immediate gravitational pull towards this song, and – it actually was the first song that Scooter [Braun] pushed my way, right after I signed with him!”
He certainly delivered, Lovato says with a smile, making Fischer quickly give a shoutout to Scooter himself. “Obviously I fell in love with it, and when I heard your [Sam’s] voice on it, I felt – yes, this feels complete. It feels really great.”
The one thing they really want to convey with the song is a message of connection, and that is exactly what made them so excited about this track being a collaboration. It only highlights how you’re able to feel a bond even if you don’t exactly know each other’s background – you still recognize a kindred experience in the lyrics.
Lovato explains that “we’re still getting to know each other, funnily enough. I feel like we met as artists first on a project, and we vibed really well. And so now we’re becoming friends, but I still have yet to learn a lot about your path. And I’m sure you have a lot to learn about mine too. It’s interesting that – I still don’t know his story totally. Regardless, we still connected to the song just the same.”
Fischer adds that this is what he believes makes the track stand out. “It’s wild, because Demi is Demi, and I’m kind of fresh to the world as an artist and public person. I’ve been through some shit, and we’ll get into that later – maybe not in this interview, though. I just think this is powerful in that this duet is not two people in love or two people singing to each other, necessarily. But it’s two people being alone together in the song, and knowing there is someone out there who feels that – regardless of whatever makes up that emotion in them, they feel that and hear that in the song.”
In a way, their own backward process of first reading someone’s story and only meeting the person after is very reminiscent of how fans experience listening to their favourite artist’s music. They get to know someone through song, rather than in person. “I didn’t realize, that’s actually cool,” Demi marvels. “I never thought about it like that, but yeah we will have the same experience as our fans, who’ll be hearing the song for the first time and get to know us through the lyrics. That’s cool.”
Fischer nods along, then jokes that he’s actually even a bit jealous of the fans. “They’ll get to hear that song for the first time and get to feel that emotion and get to experience the power, really the power of humanity through a song and connecting. It kind of levels the playing field there. It humanizes us, it humanizes our fans to us. And even though we can’t all be together right now, it’s just a message to share and live in and revel in and feel.”
Especially the times in which we live right now, with the ongoing pandemic that has made many people feel isolated and alone, calls for understanding and a feeling of connection. Lovato mentions that she learned something similar from being in and out of treatment. “The opposite of addiction is connection and that has always stayed with me. What’s really refreshing about this song is that it’s not a straight couple singing a love song together. It’s two humans coming together to connect, and find solutions to their problems and bad habits, and that’s what’s really beautiful about this.”
Fischer echoes that most of all, he believes that “What Other People Say” is delivering a message that a lot of people can hopefully put themselves in the song. “We’ve all been locked inside. There’s talk on the news, on social media more than ever,” he starts. Lovato interjects that being on social media certainly isn’t healthy for anyone’s mental health. “It isn’t,” Fischer concurs, “however I’ve also learned a lot of great TikTok hacks. But seriously, away from that, this last year – these last couple of months politically in this country have been pretty intense, pretty charged. I didn’t think I’d live through a coup,” he surmises dryly. “But here we are. There’s a lot of voices out there and a lot of opinions that might push people to act a certain way or feel a certain way. I’ve been affected by it. This world is so full of, I don’t know, intense emotions that need to be unleashed, and I hope they get to do that when they hear this song.”
The video concept draws heavily on the idea of people having the same experiences in parallel, without realizing it. “As we said, it’s not a love song where we’re singing to each other. The video features couples who are experiencing their own emotions and we’re all together on a train car but we don’t know that each of us is going through the same thing. In that, we’re alone together,” Fischer explains. “I guess that’s where the video meets its emotion, it’s that realization that we’re all in this together. As alone as you might feel – you’re not.”
Lovato reiterates that the song is really trying to “embody connection, and the video is doing that as well. We’re trying to get the point across that you’re not alone, and that you feel connected to someone out there that’s going through the same thing you’re going through. It’s a message I think people really need right now.”
Aside from being able to contribute to supporting such a message, Lovato shares that she’s also just generally excited about the fact they’re even able to film a video right now. “I feel like last year was a forced year off for all of us in the music industry, I’ve missed this a lot.”
And as much as on the one hand it’s a sign of normality, Fischer reveals that having a train car on set was in and of itself a bit of an experience. “I haven’t been for a train ride in at least a year,” he says, to which Lovato snorts and tells him she hasn’t been on a train since forever. “Trains aren’t really an American thing, or at least not an LA thing,” she explains to a perplexed Fischer.
Talking of LA, the city gets a special shoutout in the track – and seems a bit of a recurring theme in Fischer’s music specifically, though Lovato has also sung about the ‘La La Land machine’. Yet Fischer insists that mentioning the city was not a deliberate choice, actually.
“In a sense, people can feel the emotion of the song wherever you live. I think being in the music industry and living in LA is an experience in and of itself. And I guess a lot of my songs touch upon that city and how shitty it’s been to me. But you know, I’m sitting next to Demi Lovato and we’re shooting a music video so I can’t complain. I think the emotion of being in LA and struggling to find my way, and figuring out who I am and putting my best foot forward – it gets lonely for sure. I don’t think this song has so much to do with the city, specifically.”
“The song is so much – it’s like waking up one day and feeling like you’re maybe not the person that you thought you would be when you got here, when you realize you’re there. And for me that was a feeling that left me feeling really alone,” he adds, highlighting the importance of finding connection.
Lovato agrees. “I learned, and I guess maybe it’s because I moved out to LA when I was so young – I was 15 when I moved here, I feel like it’s less about LA being the city where it’s hard to deal with stuff. You just have to find your tribe, when you find your people you’re good. Then you realize you could be anywhere dealing with the same issues, regardless of where you are.”
One of the people that the song references as part of your tribe, as Lovato calls it, is a mother figure. When asked if they’ve taken their own advice in the song, Fischer laughs. “I should call my mom more, that’s for sure. I’m a work in progress, we all are. My mom’s a hero, she’s doing amazing things in Australia. Shoutout to my mom. Call your mum, people! It’s important. I need to call her more.”
Lovato is on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to her relationship with her mom. She says she’s so close with her mom, “we should probably create distance. We have a family group chat that my whole immediate family is on, I have my own separate chat with my mom, a group chat with my mum and sisters, like a girl chat, and then we also constantly DM each other memes back and forth on Instagram. If we’re not calling, or texting, we’re Facetiming, it’s something.”
Fischer jokingly tells her he wouldn’t know what that’s like. “No I mean, I love my family – they’re just all over the world. My mom and brother are in Australia, my other brother’s in Germany, dad’s in Canada.”
As part of their baby steps into friendship, Lovato generously offers up her own mom. “You can borrow my mom, she can be your US mom, she’s everybody’s US mom!”
“Alright, Demi’s mum! Here we go – let’s invite her on an Instagram live,” Fischer enthuses, right before they are called back to set.
The music video for “What People Say” is due next week. Stay tuned.