Sam Mooney – Somewhere in Between
When I got the opportunity to review eighteen-year old blues/pop artist Sam Mooney’s EP, Somewhere in Between, I had no idea what to expect. But that only resulted in good news.
A resident of Brookhaven, Mississippi , Mooney released his debut EP in July this year. Clearly grounded in pop he fearlessly experiments with soul, jazz and funk. He has already struck the right notes ( spent a summer in Berklee College of Music, won the Performing Songwriter of the Year and the Mid-South talent Competition in Memphis!!) and with this six record compilation has assured himself a well-deserved place in the indie music world.
“The Love You Never Knew”, originally written by Mooney back in 2012, works great as an opening track. It hooks the user to the familial yet appealing undertone and paves the way for the rest of the album. He starts experimenting right away in “Cupid’s Got Me Good” with percussion, bass and a soulful Motown rhythm. “Carefree Tonight” introduces some great new acoustics sure to sit well with the listeners’ ears. With “Heartbreaker” Sam proves his vocal connoisseur as he pours pensively into the music and lyrics.
Possibly the clear highpoints of the record are singles “If Love is a Game” and the title track. The former plays with lazy jazz and blues textures held together by the cool tones of the piano. Especially engaging is the bridge at the three and a half minute mark. “Somewhere in Between” is a hopeful track, smartly chosen to end the album.
Since listening to the compilation, I wanted to get in touch with Sam to ask him if he would be available to answer a few questions via email. After exchanging a few pleasantries, not only was he thoroughly enthusiastic in his answers, he was also positively charming about it.
With a focus on widening his audience group, below is the interesting email interview/conversation that ensued which definitely gives us an insight into this young artist’s journey and future.
WordKrapht(WK): Who or What inspired you toward songwriting? Was it your love for piano that took it further?
Sam: My love for piano was ultimately what led me into everything I do musically, including singing and songwriting. Initially, everyone just kind of thought of me as the piano kid but once I became a songwriter rather than just an instrumentalist, I was able to connect with my listeners on a whole different level. That still remains my favorite part about being a songwriter today, and I haven’t stopped writing since.
WK: What was the first song you wrote?
Sam: The oldest song on the EP is “The Love You Never Knew” which I wrote in August of 2012, almost two years before the release of the EP. To be honest, I pretty much wrote the song and put it on the shelf. It wasn’t until a year later, when I decided to enter it into the Performing Songwriter Competition while I attended Berklee College of Music’s summer program. in Boston. It ended up being chosen as one of ten winning songs for the showcase, and I got to perform it live in Berklee Performance Center. Needless to say, it was a no-brainer to choose this as one of the six songs in the EP.
WK: Do you write particularly about something? As in, do your songs follow a particular theme?
Sam: Generally speaking, I write about my own life experiences, although this isn’t always the case. Sometimes those experiences are exaggerated for the sake of good lyrics, but most of the time it’s about my own life. I feel like I’m at my best as a songwriter when I’m writing about real experiences. I connect to my own songs on an entirely different level if it’s something I’ve actually lived through.
WK: How did the Somewhere In Between EP come along?
Sam: Making an album had been a dream of mine since before I even started writing songs. After years of writing songs, improving my voice, and growing my following to a point where we could actually sell enough records to be successful, I really got serious about making an album. In January 2014 I came in contact with Casey Combest, producer/owner of BlueSky Studios, and within six weeks of meeting him we were in the pre-production stages of Somewhere in Between. Not only was Casey absolutely amazing to work with, he also helped me maintain my artistic vision for the album while also making a record that could be commercially successful.
WK: I noticed from your bio that you have already performed LIVE to some great reviews. Do you prefer being onstage to recording in a studio? What are the pros and cons of each forum according to you?
Sam: I think it’s a classic “the grass is always greener on the other side” scenario. Right now, I’m performing a lot, but I’ve been dying to get back in the studio to record another album of the new songs I’m writing. That being said, when I was recording this EP, all I could think about was finally getting to play those songs live!
So I’m learning to enjoy whichever phase I’m in. I’ve loved every second of it. I’m all the more motivated for the future after such a successful run. Hopefully the momentum just keeps building!
WK: You’re music plays out as a vibrant and mellow combination of blues, rock and pop. Were you always interested in this genre? Did you listen to different type/s of music while you were younger?
Sam: I listened to literally everything growing up, but like a lot of Mississippians, my first love was blues music, listening to Ray Charles, B.B. King, and Dr. John CD’s all the time. Although I explore stylistically, there will always be a lot of soul in what I do because of the music I grew up listening to. Thankfully when I started listening to Top 40 radio, there were a lot of soulful but marketable acts making hits like John Mayer, Gavin Degraw, and Maroon 5, and I really realized then that that was going to be my niche musically.
WK: As an up-and coming indie artist, what is your take on the age-old controversy between free downloads and paid music? Would you give out your music for free download? When you do you think either of the two is more relevant?
Sam: It goes without saying that I want to make a living doing this, so I can’t always give my music away. But there are also certainly things I want to give to my fans to show my appreciation to them as well. Personally, I’m fine with either as long as I’m calling the shots on which method it is, though my preference, generally speaking, is to sell my music.
WK: You have won a competition among 250 participants and topped the iTunes album chart so I suppose there are some obvious fans out there. What is the best compliment you have received about your music?
Sam: Honestly, it would be impossible to pick out any one. But recently I played a show in Memphis, and a young teen came up to me after the show and said that watching me perform live last year was the reason she decided to start singing. Like I once did, she had only played piano, but she told me I inspired her to start singing along with her playing. Having been in that exact same scenario when I was her age, knowing that I inspired someone to reach for more meant so much to me. I even got to hear her sing, and she was great!
I ask him a few rapid-fire ones:
Music is : one of the greatest blessings in my life.
My music makes me feel: like I’m having the most fun in the world. Few things compare to the feeling of putting on a great show on stage.
My favorite tune at the moment: That’s a hard one, but for now I’ll say anything from John Mayer’s “Paradise Valley” album. I also have really been digging Sam Smith’s music lately.
If I were to describe my music in three words: Soulful, Southern, Pop.
Stay connected to more of Sam Mooney’s music via his social media links below!
WORDKRAPHT Rating: 4 Stars!
Album Name: Somewhere In Between
Date Released: July, 2014
Genre: blues, rock, funk
Artist: Sam Mooney