I first met Sam in high school. He was a grade below me and when I was a senior and he was a junior we used to hang out with the same group of art kids during our spare time in Mr. Guyer's classroom. Even back then he was known for his music. I remember seeing a photo of him playing a guitar with a violin bow and thinking, this guy is COOL! And his music has only improved over time, it's unique, honest and his song "Hurt You" is goose-bump worthy. I'm so excited for you all to meet him and hear his unique take on how he pursues his dream career. So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to this month's "Artist to Know", Sam Friedman, the talented singer/songwriter behind the band Nerve Leak:
To start off - in just a couple sentences, how would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?
My sound explores an experimental blend between ambient electronica and reverb-blurred indie rock, with a dance-driven undercurrent. In simple terms, I would describe it as indie dance, or even simpler, electronic. My most recent EP, Disconnected, features dark textures and melancholic lyrical themes—buoyed by moving rhythms, skyward ambience, and driving sub-bass.
What is the driving force behind your music/what keeps you motivated?
This is a tough question to answer, because it’s always evolving, but I honestly feel that my love of music is the source of my enduring passion. When I first picked up guitar at 13, my obsession with music was already inborn. Having a vehicle to express my own ideas felt like the most natural progression. With my love of music comes my dependence on music as a source of consolation, understanding, and identity. As a human being facing the world, I have needs just like everyone else, to feel inspired, connected, and understood. Music gives me these things, and my biggest hope is that my own music can give them to others.
Do you record at home or do you have someone else record it?
I do all of my recording and production at home. I use a Rode K2 Tube Condenser Mic to record vocals and guitar, and an Apogee One interface to capture the recordings in Ableton Live, where I do all of the production/mixing/mastering. While recording at home has its limitations, there is so much freedom in being able to work at your own pace in the comfort of your bedroom. I can wake up in the morning, record an idea, flesh it out, and be on my way out the door to work with a rough draft on my phone that I’ll listen to on my commute while dreaming up new ideas. Though, I do feel being recorded in a professional studio would force me to prepare more. It’s easy to be lazy when you record at home because there’s no pressure to get it right—you’re not using someone else’s time nor are you spending any money to record.
For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been in a band – how old were you when you decided you would be pursuing music as a career?
As cliché as it sounds, I knew as soon as I played my first few chords on guitar at 13 that it was something I wanted to pursue with my life. Throughout college, there were times that the pressure of getting a career-type job weighed on me, and I considered the possibility of exploring that route. I even worked a full-time PR job for a while! However, I ultimately always knew music was what I was meant to do. It really never felt like a decision. All I wanted to do was get better and to perform, and the better I got and the more I performed, the more support I had. Music has just naturally been a part of my identity and dreams.
Talk a little about the idea behind “Snow/Sun/Words”. (See what I'm talking about by clicking here)
Snow / Sun / Words was one of the most fun projects I’ve done with my music. It was inspired by my frustration with the shelf life of music in today’s society for up-and-coming musicians. More often than not, I’ll upload a song, it will get a bunch of plays and a nice buzz, and then it sort of just collects dust on the internet. It makes sense—I download songs all of the time, play the hell out of them, then they just sit on my computer and hardly get played again. So, my response to curb that fizzling-out period was to ask other people to reinterpret my song “Snow / Sun” through poetry. Creative writing was a part of my major, so I was lucky to know several writers, but I also advertised all over social media, which helped me find submissions from all over. Through new voices, the music had a longer creative life. It was especially inspiring for me to read how the song made people feel, and what it brought out of their subconscious minds.
Many artists say they spend 50% of their time creating art and the other 50% marketing themselves. If you could break up your work day into percentages based off of how much time you spend marketing your business & creating new music – how would that look?
Well, it really depends on what I’m working on in the moment. Each day is different. Before my EP release, I was spending about 90% of my time marketing my music. In order to get each song premiered, I had to send hundreds upon hundreds of e-mails to music blogs. And before that, I had to get press photos, finish all of the artwork and marketing plans, draft press releases, etc. And before all of that, I spent pretty much 100% of my time just working on the music. It comes and goes. Right now, I’m sort of taking a bit of a break from marketing and making music. I still work on tunes, but I’m doing it without the pressure of achieving a finished product. I think after a full release, you need some time to decompress. But I’m sure in the next few weeks, I’ll be back working on new tracks—I have a mini-EP already finished, but it needs times to develop. Who knows—often the best songs write themselves in one session!
What do you feel is the best website to expose your music onto? How do you feel about sites like Google Play and Spotify?
I personally love Soundcloud. I think it’s the best music-streaming site we have. It has a great community feel to it, and you can get so much feedback on your music—from likes to reposts to comments to personal messages. Also, for artists, if you choose the spotlight feature, which is remarkably inexpensive, you can see where your fans come from and who’s listening to your music. This feature is great for me, because I know who my audience is and where they are in the world. Also, I saw Billboard played a few of my songs, which was a little bit freaky but also pretty stunning, haha. I think Spotify and those streaming sites are great for people who don’t feel the need to own their music. I personally like to have the recordings, the MP3s or preferably WAVs. I want to have it on me always, with or without wi-fi. As for artist payment, I don’t think it’s entirely in the musician’s favor per say, but these days, I think it’s worth it to put yourself out there to new fans rather than resist because you might be underpaid—but that’s just my own opinion.
What was the transition like, moving from VA to NY? How have you/your music changed?
Coming to NYC has been a dream of mine for years, so moving here felt very natural. The first month took some adjusting, but that’s to be expected with any big life change. I didn’t always feel at home in Virginia, if I’m being honest. I love Richmond’s center, around VCU, but outside of that bubble, I felt out of place. New York is such an eclectic, inspiring place—I am constantly inspired and energized with the passion and creativity that breathes through the city. When I first moved to NYC, it was the thick of winter, and I was seeing a lot of electronic shows, which in turn had me creating some pretty dark, industrial songs. But now, I’m mainly focused on creating colorful music with forward-moving rhythms. I went through a long phase of listening to and writing predominantly dark and melancholic music. Since being in NYC, I’ve shifted to a brighter place. It’s ironic though because New York has such a cold reputation, but it’s actually such a vibrant, friendly, and accepting place once you get comfortable here.
How do you balance creating your music with other obligations? (Friends, Family, Eating, etc?)
This is always a difficult one for me, and it really comes in waves. Most of my friends are either musicians or work in the music industry, so it’s not likely that we’re not talking about or working on music in some form or another. Since it’s currently summertime, I’ve had a ton of friends and family come stay with me in New York, which has been amazing, but it’s definitely eating up my creative time. It’s all about balance though. I need life experiences in order to have something to say in my music, and I can’t get them if I’m always locked away in my headphones. I’m making time for friends right now because I just finished and released my first EP, and because NYC during the summer is so lovely and best shared with a friend. But I’m sure once the EP buzz wears off, I’ll become a bit more anti-social and just slave away on some new music.
Hi friends! Welcome to the blog! I'm Mandy and I'm an artist, blogger & founder of the "Artists to Know" interview series. Here you'll find photos of my latest art adventures, furniture makeover projects & advice from successful artists!
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