Sam Buckingham is a gifted singer/songwriter who was mentioned in Amanda Palmer's New York Time's best-seller, and didn't even realise
Sam Buckingham is a a breath of fresh air. The Sydney-born singer/songwriter now dwells in Byron Bay and her latest single The Water was written for a friend going through a very dark time. Though the subject matter heavy, the sound is instantly mood-lifting, light and hopeful.
Hey there i know its getting darker, darker on the road that never seems to end
I think you must be protected, precious like a flower, precious like a friend
Let's go down to the water, down to the hollow, drink it in
Let's go down to the water, wash away your sorrow, wash away your sin
Sam said of the song, "It’s... about finding a space where you can allow light to come in. We all experience darkness and difficulty, and that’s an integral part of life. This song is about knowing there’s always somewhere to go to take a breath, connect with yourself and keep walking through.” The music video is a must-watch, and the song is the title track of her forthcoming album, which was crowded-funded, and recorded after Sam embarked on some extensive travel through Latin America. She found herself doing everything from working on a permaculture farm in Costa Rica, to being on the Sea Shepherd on a turtle conservation project in Honduras, to studying acrylic painting in Nicaragua, and finally finishing up in Mexico where she became a certified yoga teacher.
Sam's music has been widely acclaimed by the Sydney Morning Herald, the AU Review, triple j and more, she has toured with Katie Noonan, Melody Pool, Angie Hart, Washington, played many festivals, and been a finalist, short-listed, and long-listed in songwriting competitions both here and abroad. And now, looking forward, if The Water is anything to go by, her new album, due out in April, will be killer. Sam took the time to talk to Music Love about her travels, crowd-funding, and the time she had coffee with Amanda Palmer.
What does music mean to you?
For me it's about feeling. Writing, singing and listening to music is a way to access what I'm feeling and express who I am.
You have travelled a lot through Latin America in the lead-up to this album. You have covered a lot of ground doing many things, but in particular, you worked with Sea Shepherd on a turtle conservation project - tell us about this work in Honduras
My partner and I were living on a tiny little island called Utila - it's renowned for it's Caribbean scuba diving and it's partying... I wasn't too interested in the partying so I found the only yoga studio on the island and went to practice a couple of times a day while Kyle was training to be a dive instructor. Through my yoga teacher I heard about the turtle project so signed up for night watch while the mama turtles were laying their eggs. We were tracking the turtles that were coming up on land to nest, and that meant shining a red light on them while they dug a hole and laid their eggs to identify the species and count the eggs. Egg poaching is a big problem on the island and so part of the job was being present overnight to ward off poachers. I'll never forget the awe I felt, riding home after the first night watch. To have been up all night witnessing this natural wonder felt like such a privilege.
Who are your favourite Australian women in music?
I'm inspired by women that are paving their own way and doing things a little outside the box... whatever that means anymore! Kasey Chambers, Katie Noonan, Fanny Lumsden, Sarah Humphreys, Emma Dean and Tash Parker have all been long time inspirations.
Your new album is coming out in eight or so weeks, what are you most nervous or excited about releasing this body of work?
Is it that soon?!! I think, like a lot of musicians, I have a (largely irrational) fear that no one will come to my shows and I'll just be singing to myself and the bartender each night. But that fear is usually overridden by the thought of the new songs going out into the world and living their lives outside of my head. Each song is so personal and real to me, with a very specific story and meaning - and I love that each listener will find their own meaning and experience inside of them. I can't wait for that.
What crowd-funding advice would you give to other artists?
Be realistic, set aside a lot of time for planning and promoting your campaign and remember that you're not asking for handouts - it's about offering real rewards for people's support. Be generous.
How did you end up appearing in Amanda Palmer's book The Art of Asking?
A friend of mine, Xanthea O'Connor, who used to help book my house concerts, works with Amanda. We all met for a coffee in Melbourne a while back and started talking about crowd-funding. I was about to launch a page on Patreon (an ongoing crowd-funding platform) asking for fans to pledge small amounts of money in return for song demos - as I wrote them - for the new album. I was feeling pretty nervous about it as I was travelling to Latin America to write the album and worried that people would just think I was asking them for money to buy tequila and I Heart Costa Rica t-shirts. So we ended up talking about how, as an artist, every aspect and experience in your life is part of the creative process. If you feel like you need to travel to the other side of the world and sit on a deserted beach for two months straight to write one killer song then it's probably a good idea to do that, if you can. So the idea of asking fans to become Patrons and get inside access to that creative process is really exciting - it's an exchange that works beautifully both ways. If there's value for someone in what you're doing, they probably don't care how you get to the great song - they just want to see you get there, and trust your process. It's a very liberating idea.
Anyway, Amanda was writing The Art of Asking at the time so our conversation ended up in there. I didn't actually know she included it until a fan was reading the book and told me. It's a brilliant book, and it feels like an honour to be a part of it.
What has been your favourite musical achievement to date?
Making this new album. I'm so proud of the songs, the production and the collaboration that helped it happen. I co-wrote two of the songs with my partner which was a really special experience for me, and one of them was written with a friend of ours we met on a farm in Costa Rica where we worked for three months. The songs represent an opening in my own life, and a freedom in my songwriting and approach to making music that I haven't experienced before. We intentionally didn't 'learn' the songs before heading into the studio, so the recording experience felt very spontaneous and collaborative. We took breaks for yoga and took walks, enjoyed a glass of wine in the evening and were all very interested in what everyone else had to say. The whole process felt relaxed and explorative - no one was afraid to make suggestions. I guess that's how we ended up with a rubber chicken on the intro for Marina...
What is your favourite place in Australia?
Where I live!
You live in Byron Bay, did you grow up there?
We moved here early last year. I grew up in Sydney and have pretty much lived there all my life. A few years ago we moved to Fremantle, then spent eighteen months overseas, then moved to Cairns for a while and finally made our way here. I've been wanting to live in this area since I went to my first Bluesfest about fifteen years ago. That festival made me want to work as a musician and live in this paradise. I feel pretty lucky that I get to do both.
What is your favourite non-musical thing to do?
Yoga. Then more yoga. Then a little bit more yoga.
Tell us about being a yoga instructor
For me, yoga practice is about exploring, opening, and coming back to myself. When I practice yoga I remember who I am and it helps me stay grounded. There's a lot of clutter in the mind and body and yoga practice helps me clear that clutter and just show up to my life each day and do good work. It also helps me be a little kinder to myself, a little more honest with myself and it helps me remember I don't have to reach some fabricated level of perfection. The decision to become a yoga teacher was about deepening my own practice and being able to share yoga with others. What I didn't expect during my training was how interested I became in the science behind yoga practice, the anatomy of the body and the fascinating connections between mind and body. Interestingly, the benefits of yoga feel magnified when I'm teaching - there's a unity that I feel guiding a room full of people through their practice. I'm also obsessed with making yoga playlists (you can find them on my Spotify page) and feel like I can never learn enough about yoga philosophy. For me, it's a way to connect.
What is your favourite Australian place to eat?
My mums house! My stepdad makes the most beautiful, healthy (usually) meals and I love the tradition of eating around the table with my family.
Sam Buckingham's song The Water is out now, and her album is due out 28 April. Listen at Spotify and Bandcamp. She'll be playing a few shows, details below and tickets available at www.sambuckingham.com. Follow Sam on Facebook, and Instagram @sambuckingham and Twitter @sammybuckingham
Wednesday 22nd February: Open Studio, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 24th February: The Newsagency, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 26th February: The Junkbar, Brisbane, QLD