Interview with ICMP alumna and songwriting coach Sam Marlow
Songwriting tutor Sam Marlow lets us in on his creative processes and current musical projects...
ICMP alumnus Sam Marlow is not only a great artist and songwriter but also one of the UK's top vocal coaches.
Sam studied our MA in Songwriting explored a love for painting and how this informs his own sonic creations. We get to know Sam and his music in our new interview...
How did you begin your musical journey?
My musical journey first began when I heard my a band practising in their garage. I was about 14 years old at the time and used to sit against the side of their house for hours singing along to their songs.
When I was 16 I had my own band called Omniscient Twilight (the name was not my idea). The band lasted for about two years and our biggest achievement was winning a battle of the bands contest in my village hall. When I was 19, I formed a band called Namaste with some friends. We would play together for the next 10 years, touring Europe and making two albums.
What led you to study at ICMP? And what did you learn from your experiences on the course?
After Namaste split, I began teaching as a way of keeping myself in the music industry and making some money between projects. I soon realised how much I loved to teach, and the best thing was that I didn’t have to choose between being a teacher or a musician.
I soon decided to become a student as well, and I started the MA in Songwriting at ICMP in 2016 as a part-time student. It proved to be a fantastic creative journey, one that I will never forget."
Could you talk a little about the album you've written from your time with us as a student?
The album includes songs I wrote back in 2016 for my first module, right through to my final major project. Over the course I must have written at least 50 songs or so, the MA helped me to explore a lot of other genres and styles. I ended up listening to a lot of jazz artists such as Chet Baker, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Gregory Porter – it helped me to develop my sound and naturally influenced my album too.
Also, could you tell us about the record you're making based on your paintings - where did the ideas come from for this and what is it about?
In my final major project for my MA I researched how songwriters can interpret paintings in order to take inspiration and build a concept for their song. Now, with my new project, I’m taking this to the next level and instead of responding to other people’s art, I’m responding to my own paintings. I’m definitely more of a songwriter than a painter, painting is still pretty new to me, but I have found that the creative process for both painting and songwriting are extremely similar.
For our students, what's the top piece of advice you'd give them?
Change it up, experiment and improvise. Never be afraid to just see where an idea can go, this might be using a different instrument to write on, collaborating with a songwriter who writes in a different genre, or painting your song concepts onto a canvas."
Changing it up is not only a great remedy for writer’s block, but potentially the start of something you’ve never even thought of.
And what's the best piece of advice you've received about how to make a career from music?
Leave your ego at the door, the music industry is a hard one to be successful in but it’s not impossible. You will find that it’s hard to make it alone, and you will meet and work with many people on your journey. In my experience, people tend to want to work with people they like and get on with - so be as likable as you can, and it will open doors.
Other than joining our songwriting team, what other projects are keeping you busy?
I am as much a teacher as I am a songwriter. Alongside teaching at ICMP, I also teach at the BRIT school and manage a private voice and songwriting company called City Vocal Coach in Shoreditch. I also spend a great deal of my time writing, networking and collaborating. And when my current musical projects are finished, I'm looking forward to showcasing them!
Visit cityvocalcoach.com for more information.
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