Interview – Sam Sparro

SAM Sparro is a brilliant, multifarious musician who writes, performs, produces and arranges all of his own material – so we’ll try and overlook the fact he was born in Australia.
The past few years have seen his meteoric rise from LA coffee-boy to electrofunksoulpop superstar and he’ll soon be arriving home to perform at the Good Vibrations Festival.
Michael Dolan talks to him about his new found stardom, future plans and Ronald McDonald . . .

What are you up to at the moment?
Drinking a beer in LA.

I thought Bran Van 3000 did that one?
Eh?

Coming from a family of musicians, were you always destined to be a musical superstar or did anything else rock your boat when you were growing up?
Music has always been my thing so I’ve pretty much had all my eggs in one basket from an early age. It’s my one true love.

I read you were in a few McDonald’s commercials as a kid. Did you get to meet Ronald and did he touch you in any way?
It was actually only one commercial and unfortunately I never got to meet Ronald which was a major disappointment. There definitely wasn’t any indecent touching involved.

Was there a defining moment when you knew you’d cracked it?
Probably Glastonbury last year was when it really hit me. We walked off stage and it was such a buzz to have played in front of so many people and have them singing the songs you’d written back at you.

You apparently knocked out Black & Gold in 20 minutes so how is the tricky sophomore album coming along?
I’ve literally just started working on a few tracks for the new album over the last couple of weeks. As I’m still touring at the moment I’ll be getting my head down in March to really focus on it. I’m really excited about the new album as it’s going in a different direction to Black & Gold … you’ll hear far more live guitars, generally a more punk vibe.

You have a very eclectic musical taste – do you have any surprises up your sleeve in the years ahead?
I’m a big fan of most genres. It would be great to record a more hip-hop influenced album in the future so maybe that’s an idea for the third album.

You’re lucky enough to have lived in Sydney, London and LA. Do you have a favourite city and who has the best clubs?
They all feel like home to be honest and they’re so different it’s difficult to choose a favourite as I love them all. As for clubs I used to love London but LA has a really interesting and burgeoning underground dance music scene right now.

Are you beginning to suffer from celebrity fatigue yet?
I was definitely getting worn out by the end of the year and it has proven a lot harder than I thought it was going to – but don’t worry I’m not gonna freak out on you. I had a break in January so I’m raring to go again.

You’ve recently been nominated for five ARIAs and a Grammy – is it important for you to be recognised by the music industry?
It’s great to be recognised but you’ve got to take it all with a pinch of salt. When you are up against the likes of Daft Punk and Hot Chip you are just happy to be mentioned in the same breath.

You’re playing Good Vibrations this month – are you looking forward to getting back in front of an Aussie crowd?
I love playing in Australia so that’s a big YES.

Who are your favourite UK artists and who would you most like to collaborate with in the future?
My favourite UK artist at the moment has to be Adele. She’s a good friend of mine and an amazing live performer. We’re really different musically but I’d love to work with her at some point.

Chaka Khan famously said “That white boy can sing” about you. Are there any other white boys you’d put in the same bracket?
Mmm, that’s a tricky one. I can’t think of many other white boys who can reach the low notes like me. I’m very baritone. Possibly Justin Timberlake, but he’s got more of a Mickey Mouse voice.

Indie music seems to be on top in the UK right now so what are your thoughts on the future of dance music?
Commercial pop seems to be hugely influenced by dance music at the moment so it’s still having a massive impact on the mainstream and underground house music is still thriving. I’m into more repetitive beats when I’m out … a more minimal/tech house, cosmic-disco sound. Labels like DFA and Get Physical are really doing it for me.

A few tracks on Black & Gold refer to your love of the wacky-backy. I’ve just moved to Sydney so can you pass on any contacts?
I haven’t been here for a while so I’m out of contacts but if you bump into me at Good Vibrations, you never know your luck!

Good Vibrations Festival Dates:
Feb 14: Centennial Park, Sydney; Feb 15: Flemington Racecourse, Brisbane; Feb 21: Parklands, Gold Coast; Feb 22: Heirisson Island, Perth.