- Words Cal McIntyre
- Photography Juan Ortiz-Arenas
- Styling Ella Tyson
- Grooming Aimee Twist @ Creatives Agency
- Production Studio Notion
Multi-hyphenate creative Sam Tompkins sings from the soul whilst his heart delivers up his writing. We caught up with Brighton-based star to talk about the power of vulnerability...
Growing up in a small town wasn’t a suburban dream for young Sam Tompkins. Sure, some people strive for the quietness of small-town neighbourhoods and the traditional ideals that are problematic for a number of reasons. For Sam Tompkins, recognising that his heart and his talent was bigger than the high-street was the origins of how he became who is he today.
However, Brighton, a place much broader in its culture and array of all walks of life, Sam immediately knew this was home. It’s really a cinematic tale when you think about it – a boy looking to escape into a great unknown with no plan, only knowing that something within him and the universe is pushing him to do it.
That’s where the story really kicks off; with a skate shop and a beanie. After eyeing up a now-signature hat for some time, and without the money to buy it, Sam had to use his initiative. After the persuasion of his mates, Sam began busking on The Lanes in Brighton and within no time he was walking out of the skate shop with the beanie.
Fast forward to 2020 (pre-Coronavirus when we met up with the alt-pop prince) and Sam Tompkins is certainly on a roll (with said Coronavirus not gonna slow him down, thankfully). With a string of highly successful EPs, singles and tours, Sam Tompkins has certainly cemented his place as one of the greatest young storytellers to come out of the UK. The idiosyncratic soundscape Tompkins has crafted himself over the years is built upon a foundation of raw, vulnerable and prolific honesty.
It’s this honesty that has millions of streams of listeners coming back to the boy wonder for more as when you listen to a Sam Tompkins track it feels like he is singing directly to you, pouring the entirety of his heart out in hopes that you can relate to the tender lyricism. Tompkins work may seem heavy at times, but that’s really the beauty of it. His perspective, the hardships he has faced and his attitude always has a light in the dark places waiting to help.
With an effortless ability to weaver from singing, rap, spoken-word and bars is undoubtedly a gift itself. However, it’s Tompkins’ writing that really captivates you whilst his beautiful and emotive vocals leave you coming back for more. ‘You’re The Love Of My Life’, Sam Tompkins most recent release, is the perfect embodiment of who Tompkins is as an artist, the growth he has had over the years and the sheer talent he encapsulates. To us, it looks like Sam Tompkins is just getting started, and we can’t wait to see what comes next for the small-town boy done good.
Dive into the world of Sam Tompkins and let him serenade you on a journey that you won’t regret.
- Jacket M.C Overalls
- Jacket M.C Overalls
So, what is the Sam Tompkins story?
The Sam Tompkins story… I grew up in a small town in Eastbourne and not a lot went on. As much as it’s a great to grow up in and you’re kind of free and it’s a nice neighbourhood and people are genuinely quite nice and everyone gets on, well not everyone. It was a bit hard for me to express myself, so it took me until I was about 16 years old, and I got a little bit of money from my mum for my birthday, and I went to Brighton, which is much more multicultural so you can be who you want to be in Brighton.
I went there with how much money I had, it wasn’t loads, but I spent it all really quickly. I went into a skate shop called ‘Route One’ in The Lanes and I really liked this hat in there, and all my friends said they have heard me sing in bits and bobs so why don’t I go sing on the street to earn the money? I was like ‘Ah, I’m not sure about that’. Eventually, they coerced me into putting my current hat that I already had down on the floor right outside the ‘Route One’ shop and just sing, no amp or mic just me and my voice. In maybe 20 minutes or half an hour, I was able to afford the cap, so I went and bought the cap and wore that every day haha.
So, were you always a relatively creative person?
I suppose that I was always creative as I never wanted to do anything academic, I wanted to do something different. I liked football and I always wanted to be a footballer from like 4 years old to like 13 and from 13 to 16 I wanted to be a skater. Then, from 16 onwards I wanted to be a musician and that’s what I ended up doing. I suppose I always had to be creative as I was always quite intelligent but I saw through education, I never really quite got on with authority, I like structure in my life but I like structure when I’m creating it, not someone else creating my structure for me.
Did you always like music as a kid?
I always used to listen to whatever my sister and my brother were playing. I love pop music, I’ve always loved pop music, because that what was on the radio, and my mum always liked pop music, so that was that. My sister was proper into R&B, so I would listen to Usher and Chris Brown, like all the early 00’s stuff – I was fully into that. I think I learnt to sing via imitating those people, then I suppose I got to a certain age where I started busking and I was like ‘ah, I’m actually good!’ Everyone seemed to come from London and the big cities, no one has ever really come from Eastbourne and been a major music artist apart from Toploader who did ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’.
- Jacket M.C Overalls
Could you feel the influence of Brighton into Eastbourne?
They are so polar opposite it’s insane. It’s funny because you got Hastings, you got Eastbourne and you got Brighton. Those are the big towns, and Brighton is Brighton. Slowly becoming gentrified, the things that once made it amazing are slowly kind of vanishing because you are seeing gentrification to the point where I suppose the creatives that made Brighton amazing can’t afford the prices anymore. It gets like that, that’s how it goes. But, Eastbourne and Bexhill in the middle, they are very small towns, mostly elderly people that keep the traditional values, and that breeds young people to think it’s ok to be narrow-minded which I hated because no one liked what I was doing. Then, I vacated that because I realised that was too much negative energy. There was a point where it could have been really easy for me to give up, because of what people were saying which was the hardest part really. I’ve always known I wanted to live in Brighton because it’s just so much better than anywhere else to me. I’d maybe live in Hastings, later on in life but now I’m in Brighton, on the seafront of Brighton.
How would you describe your sound?
My sound is typically pretty eclectic, I don’t really try and do the same thing all the time. When I’m in the studio I’m writing and co-producing, I come in with an idea and we flesh it out. Most of the time, it sounds different from the track before, and that’s in my opinion of music should be made. You shouldn’t stick to one thing, we are now in 2020 – you can bend genres to however you want them to be, it’s all been done to death so, you gotta’ start mixing it up.
How much of yourself do you put into your music? Is it all about your lived experiences
At the moment it is. I’m starting to expand it and talk about other people troubles and how they impact us all. It’s narcissistic of me to be talking about myself all the time just because it’s my music. Music for me is therapy and sometimes I get a kick out of writing songs for someone else, to make them feel better about something, or maybe to help myself understand something. Eventually, I just want my music to be about everyone. For me, one thing is that I don’t make music for the purpose of anyone else’s pleasure but my own. If it helps others and gives them happiness and enjoyment then brilliant, but mostly it’s for me to express myself and not go crazy.
- Jumper Colmar
- Jacket Lee
- Jumper Colmar
- Jacket & Jeans Lee
- Jumper Colmar
- Jacket & Jeans Lee
Is that a natural process for you to let your emotions out like that?
Weirdly it started off perfectly natural. As I’ve gotten into it and I’ve been writing songs about other people, I felt like I was emotionally exhausting myself because even though I didn’t feel like I had to talk about things I was talking about them anyway. That’s what I wanted. As I’ve got on, I realised I can write songs about my dad or my sister or my friends. My friend who has lost his life. It makes me feel better talking about other people because that makes it that much broader. One thing I want people to think of me as is someone who writes and sings from the heart.
I wanted to talk a bit about the visual aspect of yourself. How visual would you say you are?
I think the visual side of what I do comes from insecurity. I didn’t necessarily feel that strongly about the way that I looked growing up and fashion was the perfect outlet for me because I always thought the more unique you looked the less will people pay attention to what you actually look like. I think it was a coping mechanism.
In terms of music, I’ve really gotten into writing my own narratives and stories from videos – the stories are written by me and we flesh it out with the director. I know how fleeting the feelings of passion are and it’s so worth having it. With music, I might wake up in two months and want to be out of music for a while. Life is about trying as many different things as you can. The visual side is really important to me but I think it comes from having to overcompensate a little bit.
Your rise has been quite dramatic. Are you comfortable having so many eyes on you?
I think I’ve done things that I think are correct for someone like me. I take social media seriously but not too seriously. At first, I was insecure about what others may think or define me as but I think over time I’ve realised people don’t really talk about the way I look so much unless I do something drastic to make a point. I think that I’ve become more secure and comfortable with the fact that people are going to have an opinion and that you have to just live with it. I know my shit’s good.
- Jeans Lee
- Shoes Converse
What would you say the most important things are that you’ve learned about yourself as an artist?
When you grow up and everyone says that you’re different to other people, I’ve learned how true that is but that we’re actually all so similar. I think most people go through life and just wanna have a normal time. Another thing I’ve learned is that humour is my thing – that’s what gets me out of any hole. Humour is my coping mechanism. I like to make jokes about absolute everything – otherwise, I can’t get over the bad stuff. If I could speak to my younger self I’d just tell him to write songs.
I was also reading that everything you know now is all self-taught. Was that difficult to motivate yourself?
I find that I have stints of wanting to learn and wanting to grow and develop and it depends on who I surround myself with. I started guitar when I was sixteen or seventeen and dropped it until I was about 21. I have gotten so much better since I picked it up again and I find being self-taught is a great way to learn. I like making my own structure and not having it set out for me – I didn’t want to go to a teacher and having them teach me a song when I wanted to write my own. I find it way more satisfying just working out where I should put my hands on the guitar – it makes me think that the talent that I’ve got is so beautiful because I gave it to myself.