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Damen Samuel

To record his new LP, Odyssey, emotive tunesmith Damen Samuel relocated from his Melbourne base to another place he feels closely attached to, New York City. Samuel explains that, feeling somewhat creatively stunted in Melbourne, New York beckoned as a perfect recording setting.

“I used to live in NYC before I moved to Melbourne and it is still the place I feel the most at home. I usually go back once a year so it seemed like an obvious choice to record there.”


Odyssey was recorded with American producer Kieran Kelly. Samuel sought Kelly out after having been impressed by his previous work. “I remember Angus and Julia Stone in an interview talking about the recording sessions for their album Down The Way with producer Kieran Kelly. So I contacted Kieran and asked him if he was interested in producing some songs with me,” he explains.

 

Enlisting Kelly’s support allowed Samuel to elaborate on the song ideas he’d conceived prior to going to New York. Samuel admits that at times it can be frustrating having only your own creative support and evaluation of ideas to refer to. “The main problem in being a solo artist is that it takes longer to learn and to grow. Playing music with others is like being in a relationship. You learn a lot about yourself and you're constantly confronted with your strengths and weaknesses and that makes you grow if you’re ready for it.”

 

Samuel customarily composes on his own, but he believes that his music gathers substance when it’s shared. “It is very special when you have a new song and you play it for others for the first time. You learn a lot about a song and yourself when you share it,” he says.

 

Samuel opted to enhance his music’s sonic parameters on the new record and Kelly was able to secure some impressive talents to complete the recording ensemble. “I really wanted more of a fuller sound for this record and I was keen on using drums and bass. [Kelly] then managed to get Matt Johnson, who played on Grace with Jeff Buckley, on board, as well as Rob Calder.”

 

Samuel speaks enthusiastically about the relationship formed with Johnson and Calder, indicating that their role in album production went well beyond obediently submitting their respective parts. “They got really involved in the whole process, especially when it came to song structures and arrangements. It was a very humbling experience working with such established artists and getting their input and feedback.”

 

The new record will continue the thematic inquisition heard on Samuel’s previous releases. He discusses how integral his German/Nigerian heritage and East German birthplace is to his creative outlook and subsequent stylistic choices. “Where I come from and my racial background definitely has a big impact on the way I express myself and the mood that my music is in. There is usually a big sense of longing and searching that can be found in my lyrics and music and because of it most of my songs have a mellow and romantic notion.”

 

Samuel agrees that writing songs can have a cathartic affect and suggests that no matter the struggles associated with being dedicated to a creative pursuit, making music is in itself an edifying activity. “Writing songs feels a lot like a natural therapy. You reach out to the universe and you look inside yourself to find the common ground and there is a lot of healing and peace within that process. Despite the fact that most of us will never even get close to making a living of our passion, it’s like doing it is already the sole purpose and if anything else comes out of it then that’s a bonus.”

 

The esteemed musicians who performed on Odyssey unfortunately won’t be joining Samuel in a live setting. However, he reveals that he’s recruited a drummer and guitarist who’ll appear alongside him at the launch of his new single Where Do We Go this week. “I actually just met two great musicians and we've been practising together. We'll perform live for the first time at my single launch on the 5th and I'm very excited about it. There is a great chemistry and I can't wait to see what the future holds.”

 

BY AUGUSTUS WELBY

DAMEN SAMUEL launches his single Where Do We Go on Friday July 5 at Club Voltaire.