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Sam Tompkins - Who Do You Pray To? - Yellow Vinyl




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Sam Tompkins is searching for that connection. A shy kid from the south coast, he discovered his gift while busking and never once looked back. Matching pop touches to a classic feel, he’s often compared to Sam Fender’s anthemic truth-seeking, or Tom Walker’s revelatory autobiography – there’s even a hint of Tom Grennan in there, too. Yet Sam’s work stands alone, amassing a colossal online audience on its own merit while proving that – with a little hard work, of course – the good guys can win out.

It’s not been a straight-forward journey, but it’s already scaling mountainous heights – Elton John and Bastille are fans, pop phenomenon Bebe Rexha has co-signed his work, while Justin Bieber is a prominent supporter. Closer to home, JayKae jumped onstage on Sam’s last tour, and renowned UK tag-team Krept & Konan are huge fans. If that sounds like a broad spread, then it simply represents his audience as a whole; there’s a massive online army moving alongside him, with Sam amassing almost a half million followers on Instagram – that’s more than some much older, more established artists. Hell, that’s more than some winners at the BRITs earlier this year.

Yet it’s never been easy. Infatuated with music from childhood, his introduction to performance, and to songwriting, came a little later than some. “No one was a musician in my house but everyone liked music,” he recalls. “I guess I was around it from an early age.”

His introduction to performing – aside from a solo turn in a nativity play, of course – came from busking on the streets of Brighton as part of a dare on his 16th birthday. What started as a one-off quickly began an itch he couldn’t scratch. Learning more and more songs, Sam Tompkins would venture down to his pitch, and sing his heart out for passers-by. “The best thing about busking, especially in those early days, was gaining confidence,” he recalls. “It taught me a lot about the value of money, it taught me a lot about taking opportunities, following whatever my inner feelings are telling me to do.”

It’s here that Sam Tompkins’ burning desire to connect began. “I want to play shows,” he says. “I want the challenge. I want everyone in that room to be captivated, no matter how small or large. I truly believe that I deserve that reaction. I love playing music. Through and through. If that was taken away from my life for some reason, I wouldn’t feel any purpose. That’s my thing. It’s my get up and go.”

Selling out every venue he puts his name against, Sam’s live prowess stretches across Europe. His own material touches on this energy, this urge for communication – bold, striking songwriting, Sam is unafraid to explore the key topics in his life. It’s little wonder that he’s amassed millions of streams, and a literal army of TikTok followers – his work digs deep, and communicates emotions we all feel, but sometimes can’t put into words. 

Lockdown brought all of these emotions to the surface. Locked away from his audience, Sam Topkins did the next best thing – across a series of live-streams, he entertained millions with old anthems, choice covers, and snippets of new material. One person who dropped by – in a virtual sense – was Justin Bieber. Picking up on Sam’s music, he followed the English songwriter, and dropped him a message. “I looked at it, thought: it’s a troll… it can’t be real! He’s probably my most consistent idol or hero that I’ve had since I was 14. For the last 10 years I’ve looked up to this person. I’ve loved his music… at every stage, I’ve loved it.”

The two hosted a sensational IG Live, one of the most memorable and fulfilling achievements in Sam’s life. More recently they hit the studio together, while a video of Justin singing the English artist’s single ‘Whole’ gained more than one million views – and counting. “He told me I had a gift,” Sam remarks, almost lost for words. “He’s a genuinely lovely person. It made me feel even better that I’d been supporting someone who was going to be just as supportive and lovely to me later on. It makes it all go full circle. It’s really special.”

Yet lockdown also came with its challenges. Sam Tompkins has long been an advocate for mental health awareness, spearheading moves to enable young men to speak openly about their feelings. This focus on others, however, pushed Sam away from his own feelings: since signing a major label deal with Island he’d been beset with imposter syndrome, endlessly comparing himself to others. Gradually, he was able to use music as a tool to move past this, and reach a new level in his work. “I think through lockdown I discovered a lot about myself. I started putting less pressure on myself, too” he says. “There’s no point comparing myself to someone else because I don’t think there’s anyone else like me. The possibilities are infinite, of who you can be and what you can achieve.”

His next achievement could be Sam’s most important to date. New EP ‘who do you pray to?’ is a revelatory experience, seven songs that emphasise both his maturity and his creative flexibility. It’s the sound of someone at ease – both with themselves, and their art. “When I’m in the arena of a studio, I feel like ego goes out of the window,” he smiles. “It’s music at its best – music as collaboration. Being able to work with people I look up to is fantastic. I couldn’t ask for a better lifestyle, to be honest. I’m so lucky.”

Lead single ‘Whole’ was penned during lockdown, and it’s a plea for compassion, a recognition that we’re never truly alone. “It felt like everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong,” he says. “I suppose that song was about recognising that. I wanted to try to bring people together, I guess, and make people conscious of how much we need to be connected to one another.”

The wonderful, evocative ‘Bloodline’ finds Sam Tompkins seeking out perpetual truths, while ‘Brother’ is a personal ode to his own sibling; pensive cuts such as ‘In My Life’ and the bold title track, meanwhile, illustrate the songwriter at his most daring and evocative. “When I’m writing a song I’m giving myself therapy sessions. I’m talking about stuff that means something to me. It’s definitely a therapeutic thing, a cathartic thing to make music.“

The new EP emphasises the importance of family, while embracing both the subtle and profound personal shifts brought about by lockdown, and locating faith within ourselves to carry on through tough times. There’s much to look forward too, however: Sam is plotting a mammoth European tour in Spring 2022, containing a packed out Kentish Town Forum date. With a new EP to celebrate, and a host of live shows planned, Sam Tompkins is ready to re-connect, both with himself and his fans. “I feel incredibly focussed,” he enthuses. “I feel ready to open up.”



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                                        Sam Tompkins - Who Do You Pray To? - Yellow Vinyl

                                        Sam Tompkins - Who Do You Pray To? - Yellow Vinyl