Sam Semple is a singer-songwriter with a debut album called Mystery Songs, a brilliant rite of passage record in which he writes deeply about human hope and doubt, a farewell to youth inspired by the coming birth of his own son.
“Sam Semple’s Mystery Songs have been haunting me for weeks. Here is a real new talent. A singer songwriter with a mastery of lyrics, a sweet voice, and an angle on life that will make you think even as you hum and smile… fabulous debut.” - Stephen Fry
In 2004, seeing Kris Kristofferson in concert for the first time was a major epiphany for Sam, marking a gradual turning point in his fortunes as a musician:
“I was disillusioned at the time, going nowhere as a songwriter. But that night, I was so uplifted by Kristofferson; his songs were terrific, so poignantly delivered. He has this great dignity about him as an artist. That is what I want to be like, I thought. It was such a truthful performance.”
Gradually, Sam started to enjoy some success writing with other artists. He co-wrote ‘Better’ with Tom Baxter, a song written for Sam’s own wedding, later covered by Boyzone. He also co-wrote ‘Miracle’ with Tom, the signature track for the BBC’s Beijing Olympics coverage and more recently he wrote ‘How Would You Do It?’ with French pop star Medi, a top ten hit in Japan.
What he hadn’t yet done though was make a serious album of own songs, songs he’d been writing for years:
“Knowing my wife had a child on the way, I was desperate to leave a legacy of sorts for my son. I wanted him to know I didn’t just completely waste my youth. I’d had some big highs and lows but nothing really to show for it. I’d never documented anything properly. Mystery Songs is for him, for my family. I hope one day he’ll find some encouragement in the songs for his own journey ahead.”
When he asked for help to make his own record, an illustrious band of musicians were happy to help out including: Tom Baxter, Scott Matthews, Jamie Morrison (Stereophonics), Sam Lewis (Owiny Sigoma), Charlie Winston, Danny Keane (Mulatu, Bat for Lashes).
Sam worked in between periods of recording to pay for the project. He has always done lots of jobs in support of his music, including once working for Douglas Adams, author of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’. Adams had formed a company in Covent Garden called The Digital Village:
“It was such a privilege to be introduced to someone like him and to the values he represents. He was really inspiring, the quintessential English genius; a very, very clever man and eternally curious about the world. I eventually ended up with the job title Editor of the Earth Edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.”
Music is in Sam’s family and he is also much inspired by his singer dad, Shel Macrae, who sang with The Fortunes, a ’60s/’70s harmony pop group (‘You’ve Got Your Troubles’, ‘Freedom Come, Freedom Go’, ‘Storm In A Teacup’):
“After my Dad left The Fortunes, as a child I travelled with him up and down the country to smoke-filled working men’s clubs, bingo halls and cabaret venues. Through ups and downs he’s always managed to provide for his family his whole life just by using his great talent as a singer. As a dad myself, I can see more clearly now what a great achievement this is. I’m really proud of him.”
The end result of Sam’s own endeavours is Mystery Songs, a wonderfully moving, emotional-sounding record that captures a unique songwriting talent. The more you listen, the more it reveals itself. Timeless in feel, it’s like a favourite book, evoking the literary songcraft era of the ‘70s offering glimpses of Neil Young, Kris Kristofferson, Elvis Presley, Cat Stevens.
He may be a late starter but Sam Semple is a songwriter with something to say.
In 2013, Sam opened up for some great artists including: Lambchop, Patty Griffin, Thea Gilmore and Laura Cantrell.
In 2014, Sam will be touring the UK with The Webb Sisters.
Mystery Songs will be released in 2014 on Proper Records.