Sam Sallon


Sam Sallon recently released ‘One For The Road’, his first full-length album. It is a strong exhibition of his style of contemporary folk and stands out as a landmark moment in his musical career so far. Sallon’s voice has the feel of a storyteller, a dramatic quality that gives the songs an atmosphere and depth. He has recently moved to London where he is contemplating the construction of a second album and he is regularly preforming. I quizzed him on art, London life, the strains of fronting a band and eating too many sweets.

You have just released your first full-length album ‘One For The Road’. Can you tell us where this record came from?

It came simply from a desire to make an album all of my own. As you say, it’s my first, i.e. I’d never done one before. It was just something that had to happen at some point if was ever going to get my songs out there. The exact nature of the album, the sound of it, was largely determined by its producer, Mr. Watson. David (for that is his christian name) chose which songs were worthy of inclusion, and also heavily informed the whole presentation. The songs on this album could have been recorded in any number of ways; since I’m a “new” artist, we could have done anything. It was David who decided to go acoustic, thinking that this would be a good way to record an album that wouldn’t “date”, – turned out to be a wise move, given how long it took to record.

You have played and performed with some really interesting musicians. What have the highlights been? can you tell us an interesting story about collaboration, or a live experience?

I think the most interesting shows I’ve worked on haven’t always been the most artistically fulfilling. It’s like in any job, the projects that take you way out of your comfort zone are the ones that offer fresh perspective and an opportunity to grow in an unexpected direction, not just in work but in life. Some of the session work I’ve done has been with bands and musicians whose music sounds nothing like anything I would be interested in creating, were I not focused on helping someone else to achieve their vision. Since I’ve said that, I won’t name names… I will say that I really enjoyed recording with Neil Cowley on this album. He’s a rare thing: a virtuoso, a star and a genuinely nice person.

You grew up predominantly in Manchester. How was this as a place for being a musician, and do you think it had an impact on your music?

Of course it did, definitely. Lots of my early favorites were Manchester bands like Black Grape and The Stone Roses. As a teenager I played every small venue in Manchester that would put me on stage. I opened for countless bands that I’ve never heard from since but whose members have probably gone on to do great things. They’re all out there somewhere. Manchester is full of musicians of all kinds. It’s an amazing town and it just keeps getting cooler.

You were born in London, quickly moved north, and recently moved back. Does it feel like coming home, or do you feel out of your comfort zone?

No, I love it in London. It’s a tough town at times but it’s home. The best thing about London is the sense that you could walk out your front door and anything could happen. Granted, it usually doesn’t, but then sometimes it does. I bumped into Ian McKellen last week. I know that sounds silly, but come on, that’s Gandalf. What more do you want?

You are a fan of Caspar David Freidrich. He is probably my favorite romantic painter. What is it about his style of romantic art that speaks to you, and if you lived in that period (early 19th Century) what type of character do you think you would be? (this question sounds a little bit like an upper-class Blind Date – which I think is fine!).

Wow you’ve done your homework. There are two paintings in particular that I like of his. One is the very famous ‘Wanderer Over a Sea of Mist’, and the other is one whose title I’m unsure of, but it’s a man and a woman watching the sunrise and it’s breathtaking – at least I think so. I love the directness of his work. He doesn’t piss about and he’s not afraid of being called “biscuit tin” or “remedial” or “vanilla” or any of those insults that idiots use to describe whatever isn’t quite pretentious enough for them. He’s just good, and his work is a straightforward attempt to create something beautiful. It’s like Banksy said, so many artists go on about being willing to suffer for their art, but not many are prepared to learn how to draw. If I lived in the early 19th century I think perhaps I’d be an explorer. The idea of entire continents that no European has ever mapped would be enough to tempt me out to sea, I think. But who knows. I’d probably have spent most of my life in a debtor’s prison. They didn’t have overdrafts in them days. I wonder who they’d get to present upper class blind date. Not Cilla. Judi Spiers perhaps.

If I turned on your Ipod now, what would be playing?

I only use my Ipod for certain things. At the moment, since I’m on tour, I mostly listen to CDs in the car. Right now you’d hear The Bar Kays. Yesterday it was Bach. Before that it was Eric Clapton with John Mayall and The Blues Breakers. I like to mix it up from day to day but over the course of a day I will usually listen to just one or two albums on repeat.

At what point in your life did you decide to concentrate totally on making music, and how has this journey gone?

I’ve always had my head in music. I can’t remember when it wasn’t on my mind, even when I was really supposed to be doing other things. Even when I thought I was focused on other areas, I wasn’t. Music has screwed up exam results, laid waste to my bank account, introduced me to most of my best friends, gotten me fired from several jobs and taken me all over the world. It’s gone well, I suppose. So far so good.

Do you ever find being the figurehead of a project a burden, and a heavy weight to carry, or do you think this gives you the power and ability to be uninhibited in your creativity (without the meddling of a band of equals)?

I wouldn’t know about the uninhibited bit. Working with a producer means that you have basically saddled yourself with a creative partner for better or worse. I think I’ve been fortunate to have made this album with someone like David Watson, who has such a good ear. But to be really uninhibited, like David Bowie or Frank Zappa, you need to be calling all the shots and I’ve never had a chance to do an album that way in a professional studio setting. First thing’s first. Those kinds of freedoms need to be earned. You can’t just demand them. It might be a disaster but there are certainly creative risks I’d like to take in future that simply weren’t possible or necessary for this album. With regard to being a figurehead, yes it is a burden. It’s an ego trip if you’re not careful, and it’s a bore if you take it too seriously, but you need to be very conscious of the image you’re giving off, so that’s a fine line.

You have talked of pondering the resolution of the world’s problems, eating too much sugary food and imitating your favourite actors. Which sweets would your favourite actors eat, who are they, and how would you like to see them make right the world’s wrongs?

I see what you’ve done there. I love Robert De Niro. He’s like a god in some ways. I suppose he might eat amaretti, but only with coffee. I would like to see him right the world’s wrongs by making more awesome films like The Good Shepherd. That was an underrated movie, I thought.

What is the plan over the next 5 years? Do you have some goals that you would like to achieve?

I don’t know really. It’s the options that determine the choices, and right now it’s pretty obvious to me that I need to do another album, but past that, I just don’t know what chances will come my way. It’s early days so right now I will just keep saying yes to things and see where it leads.

Have a listen below.