Interview: Sam Fischer On “This City” & His Breakout Year

Mike Wass | May 26, 2020 12:47 pm

Sam Fischer’s big break came out of the blue. The Aussie songsmith suddenly found himself with a hit when “This City,” a song he released independently 18 months earlier, went viral on TikTok. The ballad’s streaming numbers started to spike and the 28-year-old soon inked a deal with RCA. It was a happy ending that almost didn’t happen. After years of toil and grind, Sam was starting to doubt if he would ever get the chance to be an artist and recorded the song from a place of defeat and despair.

I recently gave the surprise hitmaker a call to find out more about the making of “This City,” and his reaction to its slow and steady march up the charts. Sam also opened up about landing his breakout hit during a global pandemic and promoting the song from home. Other topics of conversation included new music (coming this summer), writing hits for other artists and his quarantine playlist. Get to know the rising singer/songwriter a little better in our Q&A below.

How are you coping with quarantine?

I wish I could say that I’ve been doing a whole bunch of stuff. My wife has all these hobbies all of a sudden. She does macrame, she’s learning Spanish, and she’s cooking tons. I keep saying that I’m going to do all these things and then end up on my couch watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’ve written a couple songs, but I’m just not as inspired as I normally am. I think it’s just getting used to all this weirdness and not being able to get in a room with people. You can feed off of other people’s energy in a session.

I have to congratulate you on “This City.” It’s one of those songs that really has a life of its own. How does it feel to have a genuine viral hit?

It’s so amazing. I was signed and dropped. I’ve been in this industry for a long time writing for others and to have a song leading the way for me and bringing who I am to so many people… it’s just incredible. It’s everything I ever wanted. Never in a million years did I expect my big break to come from going viral on Tik Tok — a year and a half after the song was released. The place that I wrote it from mentally was so dark and so defeated. To be in 2020 and things are going so well. It’s amazing to me. I’m really proud of it. I’ve really, really worked hard.

When the song first started going viral, I was at a point where I didn’t know if I was going to get the opportunity to be an artist. I was holding strong and putting on a brave face, but my insecurities were getting the better of me and I was almost at the point where I was like, “I am about to hang up my hat on this?” It’s amazing. It feels organic and it’s nice to know that people want to hear what I have to say because, for a long time, I didn’t know if anyone would care to hear my stories.

I feel like anyone who has moved to LA can really identify with “This City.”

I am surprised by how many people identify with it. When I wrote the song, it was from that dark place. But fans have made me realize that it’s more of a song of hope. It’s about not giving up even when you’re struggling. I think change affects everyone differently, especially moving to a new city and figuring out who you are in that new city. For me, I lost myself because I was trying to find the version of myself that LA would love instead of just being myself and letting LA come to me.

I think that resonates with people, whether it’s moving to a new place or starting a new relationship — really any type of change. It’s cool. It’s a really human emotion and I’m just glad that I’m able to provide a safe place for people to feel those feelings and also not feel alone.

Did you feel like you were on to something when you wrote it?

I knew that it was a special song, but I was in such a shitty mood. I didn’t want to be in the session. I lay down the vocals quickly and I got out of there. When I sent it through to an industry contact, the response I got back two days later was “it’s pretty.” That was it. My gut knew it was good, but then there’s the exec telling me that it wasn’t good or that it was just pretty. It was the last song I added to the EP just because I loved it and I wanted it to come out. It makes me feel a little validated in my gut feeling.

What’s it like getting your big break in the middle of a global pandemic?

It’s so funny. I’ve worked and worked and worked for years to get to this position now, and after jumping all the hurdles and all the bullshit that’s been thrown my way, to be experiencing this success in a global pandemic, it’s not what I hoped for obviously. [Laughs]. But I’m excited to have any success at all, regardless of what state the worlds in. I’m just grateful to be able to do this stuff. To be able to be as busy as I am right now through all this is such a blessing.

It’s not the experience that I thought it would be. I don’t get to tour the song right now, so I don’t get to experience it affecting people. The other day, I was Zooming with my wife’s family and my sister-in-law asked me, “Do you feel the magnitude of what’s going on with the song?” I was like, “I don’t really because I’m stuck in my apartment.” My dream is to play a show and have the crowd sing my words back to me. I haven’t experienced that yet. But, at the end of the day, I’m getting opportunities I never thought I would get right now.

Speaking of that, I have to ask you about that Live From The Lavatory performance.

[Laughs]. Look, I’m now the proud owner of a green screen. It was not my bathroom. My bathroom is absolutely not that nice. It was at the start of all this, so I wasn’t used to filming myself. I had this really janky tripod, ring-like thing. I put my iPhone on there, set up the green screen, filmed it on my iPhone with my guitar to the right of me and my wife singing background. We filmed it and sent it over. I was a little nervous that it would come out looking like one of those ’80s music videos, but they absolutely killed the production. It looked really cool.

Have you already started thinking about your next single? Is it going to be a new song?

Oh, it’s going to be new music. I feel like I’ve been writing these projects that are about to come out for the last four years, there’s so much new music. I’m really excited to be able to get it out and let people know more of who I am and share my story. It’s on the way. I’ve got new music coming out this summer. I’ve got an EP and I’m working on an album and some other special little things.

Is “This City” representative of your new music?

It’s jumping off the back of “This City.” I think, for me, when I put out Not A Hobby, it was after being dropped. I wrote 200 songs the year that I was on my old label. I wasn’t allowed to release anything, I wanted to get music out. The new stuff is going to jump off the back of “This City” and still be in that vulnerable, honest and self-reflective direction. There’s a bit more production coming in and it’s not going to be as stripped-back. There are a few stripped-back songs too, but I want to let people know who I am from a sonic world as well.

How did you end up in LA?

I went to college in Boston. When I graduated, an opportunity that presented itself and it was basically like a phone call saying like, “Get to LA now. You need to do this.” That’s what got me out here and I had no money. I thought that I was going to have a lot of money because of this opportunity and, of course, I got out here, paid my rent, and then they dropped the ball on me and said, “Actually, just kidding.” At first I was barely hanging on. I worked random jobs. I was a delivery boy for an Australian meat pie shop. I coached tennis for rich people’s kids.

Who have you written songs for?

Most recently, I had a Keith Urban single come out, which was really, really cool. I’ve been writing for a bunch of artists including Jessie J, Elle King, MAX and SAYGRACE. I co-wrote her last single, “Boy’s Ain’t Shit.” I have had the opportunity to work with some absolutely incredible artists. I’m just stoked that these artist’s like my writing style. It’s always cool to get in a room with an artist and hear their story and be able to pick apart what they’re feeling about certain events and write about that.

When I’m not in the room with them and just pitching something to them, it’s cool to hear how an artist interprets a song because I’m always writing from personal experience. Just to be a part of these crazy artists’ stories is epic. I look up to so many of them. It’s always cool to work with another creative and get their own perspective and point of view. I’ve been really lucky to work with some amazing ones.

What are you listening to at the moment?

I have the combination of calming emotional music and then the new “Savage” remix from Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé. [Laughs]. I’m always listening to Sasha Sloan’s Self Portrait EP. Which is just so, so, so good. I love Kehlani. Her new record is crazy. I play 5 Seconds Of Summer’s new record a lot and Dua Lipa’s new record. It’s so good. That’s the best pop album I’ve heard in such a long time.

Good luck with everything.

Thank you. I appreciate it.

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