SAM WALWYN HAS MORE EMOTIONAL MATURITY NOW IN HIS TWENTIES THAN MOST MEN WILL EVER ACHIEVE THEIR ENTIRE LIFE
Today, I was procrastinating work like usual and perusing through Instagram. I saw Mr. Sam Walwyn was offering the opportunity to join a private listening session over Zoom for his new single, “First Place.” I looked at the the time. It was 11:55am Pacific Time (I was in California, working from my brother’s girlfriend’s kitchen). The listening session was in five minutes. I had work to do, but I thought, "You’re going to regret this if you don’t do it." So I hopped on.
The private listening session started off with him clowning and interacting with everyone in the chat. The number of times he said “jokes” or described someone as a “legend” was too many to count. And he was completely honest with everyone saying that he was struggling with some oat burps, as he had just eaten a big bowl of oats right before joining. Not that I can say I can relate to the oat burps specifically, but as someone who can’t eat chocolate without getting some on my person and has been well known for not being able to string together a coherent sentence for one reason or another, I can appreciate struggle.
He then asked where everyone was from and to drop it in the chat. It was a diverse group for the roughly 30 people that joined the Zoom call. From Mongolia, to the UK, to Switzerland, and Germany, and the Netherlands, to various places in the US. It was pretty cool. Neat-O as some cool kids back in the day might say.
Before playing the song, he gave a little explanation on what the song was about. He went into detail (without getting too personal) about how the song is about being put in the friend zone. He talked about how he had been friends with this person for a really long time, and after not telling her how he had felt, he decided he was going to shoot his shot. His feelings, however, were not reciprocated by said individual. Bummer. Having been friend zoned by dozens of women (this might be an exaggeration but saying dozens is closer than me saying a few), this is the most relatable thing. But then he threw a bit of a curveball (Sam, if you’re reading this, that’s a baseball reference - is this explanation too condescendingly American of me?) and talked about how when this happened, he realized he had a decision to make. He could either let being friendzoned ruin their long-lasting friendship or he could try to move on and try to go back to just being friends. He explained that this song is about that very process; the process of being in a position of trying to move on and catch up to where that person is.
As he spoke (just in general - not necessarily about being friend zoned), I thought about how I stumbled across his music. My friend Alexis was in Iceland on holiday (using that phrase instead of vacation due to his British roots) and met him one day. She found out he was a musician, and he shared his music with her. When she came home I got to hear all about it. More than once. Several times he was brought up in conversation. She described him as if he were some kind of myth or legend (to use his own word). She was so funny to listen to because she had met this kid only briefly, but she was so completely smitten by him. I'll go so far as to say that I'm pretty sure her kind of falling for her (but not seriously falling for him) was part of the reason she broke up with her boyfriend shortly thereafter. The other part... well, we just won't get into that.
After seeing him through social media and the private listening session, I totally get it. Sam has this unique ability to connect with people instantly all over, even though he’s, in this case, thousands of miles away. His incredibly warm personality emanates through everything he does. Watch a couple videos on his social media, whether it’s through Instagram or TikTok, and you'll see he’s 100% hilariously himself. It’s also 100% genuine, which given how many people disingenuously try to be genuine online these days, it was a breath of fresh air.
He played the song. I was interested to see how this was going to go. Usually when you show someone a song and they’re in the same room as you, the vibe can get a little awkward. Some people don’t know what to do. Like Ricky Bobby they don’t know what to do with their hands or their mouth or their entire body. They stiffen up like someone just pulled a gun on them. Some people find just sitting and listening to a song and sharing the moment awkward. And their feeling awkward can ruin the moment.
Luckily for those of us in the private listening session, this was not the case. There was a certain palpable reverence to it all as people sincerely listened to the song premier in such an intimate yet worldwide setting. Sam was baring a part of his soul to the 30 or so of us for what I am assuming to be the first time other than the people who helped make the song and at most a few others.
I can’t imagine what he was feeling. Well, maybe I can imagine just a little. Here are some questions I have come up with to maybe express what he was thinking: Are people going to like it? What if people just logoff mid song? Are they just going to stare at me, blankly showing absolutely no emotions. What if they laugh? If they don’t like it, do you think they’ll buy me saying jokes, like this was some sort of prank?
I am going to speak for the whole group and say that this wasn’t the case. No one laughed - I mean, I guess you wouldn't know. We were all on mute, but I am pretty sure no one laughed. I don’t think anyone logged off mid song, and besides me who was sitting on the other side of my turned-off camera, no one was just staring blankly into the void. The reception was overwhelmingly (but not to my surprise) positive.
After the first listen, and a brief, respectful moment of silence full of people posting their compliments in the chat, naturally, a demand for an encore was made. One time was simply not enough. Luckily for us, he conceded. He pointed out that some people who had their video on were going ham while listening, and he said that he would play it again on one condition: He asked if everyone would turn on their cameras do a crazy little dance for the second listening. I declined. Like I said, I was working at the time. I feel slightly bad. Please forgive me, Sam.
The second listen, which was just as delightful as the first, was followed by a short Q&A session. It was incredibly insightful. Equal parts insightful into his music and songwriting process, as well as into who he is and what drives him.
While full of more jokes and legends, I found the most interesting responses were to the questions about his about songwriting process. He said something along the lines that he thinks that each part of a song on its own says something, has its own message to deliver. This little insight gave the song some new meaning. Like, this isn’t some earth-shattering, new principal that each part of a song has its own purpose, but to know that an artist personally assigns this level of importance to each individual part in this song shows a level of depth in the songwriting process and the songwriter himself.
Sam then talked about how he prefers to write sad songs disguised as happy songs by writing in major keys with sad lyrics, citing sad queen legend, Phoebe Bridgers. I love this so much. I have written about my love for sad songs before, but there is a certain beauty in disguising sadness amidst happy tones. Happy-sad as the movie Sing Street calls it, naming the Cure as the poster child for this kind of music. Well, between Phoebe Bridgers and the Cure, Samuel is in good company.
There were some other really good questions asked and answered, but the most important thing to come out of the listening session: there’s a possibility that his fanbase might be called narwhalwyns, which might be one of the best potential fanbase names out there.
After the Q&A, he so graciously gave us a third listening. What a fucking legend.
Just as he was wrapping things up, I got a call from work. Shit. They have to ruin everything.
Final Takeaway: Fan interaction, on any level and in any way, is so dope. But more importantly, PLEASE GO LISTEN TO SAM WALWYN!! He is a really good musician and an even cooler dude. I’ll put the YouTube video for “For You” below, but go listen to his music on the streaming service of your choice, and check out his new single, “First Place,” on May 28.
So, come here often?