Photos by Jake Ratner
You don’t have to search very hard to find talented musicians on the east coast – just one step into NYC and you might meet talented emerging acts like Sam Setton. Sam isn’t here just to write pop songs; he’s here to give you pop infused with a mood. Imagine if LANY and Lauv had a love child with major electronic drops hidden up his sleeve — this is Sam Setton.
His second single from the next wave of heartbreak-inspired tracks is “Santiago,” a song which Sam calls “an ode to a long distance love.” Though the topic is somewhat sappy, the production keeps it grounded with electronic-infused sounds topped with a slightly ‘90s R&B throwback vocal. One listen to the song, and you’re bound to see the appeal — and on a second listen, you’ll find the lyrics and phone recordings used will spark more on an interest, as this is not your typical love song.
“‘Santiago’ is the most meaningful song I’ve ever written— [it’s] actually a song 6 years in the making. It’s the story of an ongoing relationship I have with a girl I met while visiting Santiago, Chile, 6 years ago. I had initially gone to Santiago to see family and learn about the culture and country my mother grew up in, but I ended up starting a friendship and falling in love with this amazing woman. Over the course of the next 4 years we’ve exchanged drunken texts and voicemails, knowing we couldn’t be together because of logistics, but still showing our love for each other. When I finally sat down to write the song, I found some voice notes we had exchanged, and it really brought me back to that time with her. I was overcome with emotion and wrote the song in a few days. It’s for this reason you hear that very voicemail sampled throughout the song.”
Check out our exclusive premiere of “Santiago” and our Q&A with Sam below:
OTW: “Santiago” sounds completely different from your other songs previously released on Spotify, why is that?
Sam: I’d say it’s a combination of a lot of things. For one, most of the music I have out now was written a while ago. Since then, I’ve developed as a songwriter, as an artist and just as a person overall… even just experiencing new things and learning how to channel those emotions into music helped me find my current sound with Santiago. I was also super lucky and found an amazing producer in Alexander Glantz, who really challenged me to be more creative with sounds and song structure.
OTW: Some have likened your sound to being similar to the songwriting of LANY — What do you have to say about that?
Sam: That’s probably the best thing you could ever tell me, considering they are my favorite band right now! I’ve learned so many things from songwriters over the years, and from LANY I learned that it’s ok to be extremely simple and direct with my songwriting. So yeah, major compliment.
OTW: The song is supposedly inspired by a relationship with a girl over 6 years from Santiago — what do you think her reaction will be when she hears it? Or has she heard it and what was her reaction?
Sam: That’s a great question and a question I know a lot of people will be asking me. She’s actually heard it already and her reaction to it was pretty beautiful. She loves the song and loves the way it tells our story. Let’s leave it at that…
OTW: Are you a songwriter who bases his songs off of actual IRL things that happen to you? Or do you take on the point of view of others in some of your songs?
Sam: Both for sure, but for the most part, my songwriting is based on my own life experiences, — I think ‘Santiago’ is a great example of that. Although most of my songwriting is based on things that happen to me personally (and the lyrical content is extremely conspicuous) I do try my hardest to craft the songs in a way that’s relatable for anyone.
OTW: What are the most important things that make up a great song, in your opinion?
Sam: For me personally it’s unique melodies, relatable songwriting, and provocative production — in that order.
OTW: Your EP Renegade was released last summer — what’s next for you? Performances and touring? More songs?
Sam: First, I have a lot of new music to share. My team and I are considering this “Wave Two” for my music and the real introduction to who I am as an artist.. I think this new music is really special, so I’m extremely excited about releasing song after song! I also have some live shows coming up. The next one is in NYC at Elsewhere (Zone One) on June 18 where I’m supporting an awesome artist by the name of Des Rocs and then hopefully tour tour tour.
OTW: Who would you say is an artist (other than yourself) that is One to Watch?
Sam: There are so many exciting artists I’m listening to… I’d say Riz La Vie, an artist from NYC and Raveena, who I’m pretty sure you already have as a One to Watch.
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