Nashville-based pop singer/songwriter Sambo Wolf recently teamed up with synthwave artist M.K. Khan on a brand new collaborative single, “Starshine”. The team-up is a trans-America production, with Khan having produced the music in Los Angeles and Wolf recording his part in the studio in Nashville, with the help of producer Wyatt Urban.
I got the chance to talk with Sambo about how the single came together, how he got into music originally, what else he’s working on and so much more! Keep reading to see what he had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you first got into making and performing music.
My earliest memory of making music is from my early childhood when I got my hands on my Mom’s old personal cassette recorder. I would sing my own renditions of songs from the radio, tapping on the machine with my fingers to serve as makeshift percussion. Music has always been in my life, though. My Mom plays acoustic guitar, and my Dad’s mom played piano. I was lucky enough to grow up with those instruments at my disposal at all times.”
Was there a specific moment or person that made you realize that music is what you wanted to pursue professionally?
I always think of listening to the Cat Stevens’ records from his early days. He would dub his own piano and guitars tracks over each other, as well as layers of his own vocals. I became impressed by any artist who mastered multiple instruments, and for no particular reason, I felt that was the challenge presented to me by the world.
I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey with their music. Your sound would generally be classified as pop, but if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe it?
Dreamy escapes, stories and moments suspended in melody. I want to draw the listener in and make them feel something brand new, with songs designed to transport them into a colorful array of cinematic imagery. I want to create more than just catchy melodies and infectious beats; I want to challenge the imagination of the listener to really put themselves in those moments.
Going off of that, who are some of your musical influences?
M83 was my gateway to dreampop. The legendary Nile Rodgers and Bee Gees guitarist Blue Weaver taught me disco, and artists such as Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem inspired me to find my own niche in the dance/pop spectrum. Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg. I was raised on Motown and oldies rock, but I’ve also been a huge fan of pop rock artists like Fall Out Boy and The 1975 for a long time. I think its good to have a broad range of influence, but maintaining a quality of originality is the best way to honor the art form.
You are currently based out of Nashville, which is growing and expanding beyond country music to include music of all genres. What has your experience creating music there been like? How has being surrounded by so much diverse music impacted the music you’re creating?
It is exciting to see more alt-pop and alternative R&B acts springing up around here! In the past few years since I moved back, I have been fortunate enough to meet some very talented collaborators. I feel like people are becoming freshly excited about pop music, and there is a sense of camaraderie that extends to newcomers. I was lucky enough to work with Joe Jett and Bryant Lowry of Jett Black Alley Cat on my first two singles, which really helped give me a strong start on this solo project. There are lots of folks here who are down to collaborate and cross-promote, which is very refreshing.
Let’s talk about your new single, “Starshine”. What inspired this song?
That’s a pretty tough question. It’s hard to say exactly where inspiration comes from sometimes. For this song, I followed the feeling that MK Khan’s music gave me when he sent me the track.
I always love hearing about the songwriting process so I was wondering if you could give me a glimpse into what it was like specifically for this song.
This song came to be after I asked M.K. Khan if I could sing in one of his tracks. After seeing his artwork and listening to his instrumental music, I knew he had a good handle on the emotions and imagery that makes a good song. He agreed to put together a new track on which I could sing. When he sent me the original demo for this track, it was unnamed. I listened to it over and over again, mostly in my car, freestyling all kinds of different melodies and lines until something stuck. The music led me to write lyrics that I felt were inspirational, but still felt realistic.
Something I’ve always been curious with songwriting is how topics come to mind. Did you know what you wanted to write about going into the song session that birthed “Starshine” or did it just come about organically once you were in the session?
When I went into the studio to do my parts here in Nashville with producer Wyatt Urban, we already had the instrumentals that MK recorded in Los Angeles, and I had the lyrics and melody pretty much ready to go. However, the guitar track that I added came about in the studio as we were recording them. The guitar solo was the final piece to the puzzle; I just let it take me in whatever direction felt true to the song.
Were there any major changes made to “Starshine” once you got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?
I usually make a few tweaks to the lyrics once it comes down to the final recording. This is normally a byproduct of singing it over and over again, and improvising here and there just to make it sound more interesting. We also extended the bridge a few measures to better accommodate the guitar solo.
I know this single just came out, but do you have plans to release another single or EP/LP anytime soon?
Absolutely! I always have new material in the works. I’m currently in the studio tying up a full length record! We have quite a few songs that are completed and unreleased, as well as a really exciting music video already shot for one of those. I can’t even express how eager I am to let the world see and hear what is to come!
What are some music industry-related goals or benchmarks that you’re aiming to reach in the next couple of years?
My goals in the next couple years are to play a ton of shows, hit the road as often as I can, and keep pressing on no matter what happens.
Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
I’ve always kind of been a movie and TV show buff, especially when it comes to sci-fi and horror. I could go on for hours about story arcs and plot lines in Doctor Who, The Walking Dead, and the late great Game of Thrones. Lately, I’ve really been getting into a lot of the horror franchises, especially stuff like Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, and Pumpkinhead. The serials that can last 30 years are always the best!
Make sure you follow Sambo on Instagram.