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Sam Foster: The Storyteller

Sam Foster at Sound Off 2018

Am I starting to sound like a broken record yet? I. Love. Sound Off!

If you’re new to this series, Sound Off! is MoPOP’s annual 21-and-under battle of the bands, where 12 talented semifinalists come together to share their work in an exciting room of fellow musicians, fans, and industry professionals.

We’ve been spending the past few weeks getting to know these amazing artists before they take the stage, and now you can too.

Sam Foster is the type of musician that never stops surprising. Unexpected melodies keep his traditional blues sound fresh, while his dynamic, robust vocals use an impressive falsetto at just the right moments. But the thing that really sets Sam apart is his profound use of storytelling. Many of his songs illustrate a journey reflective of universal struggle. His stories show us characters trying to cope with their pain in a world that often makes them feel alone. It’s difficult, dangerous work to mine your personal experiences for art, but Sam Foster does it with the same expert hand found in the best storytellers. Listen to his story. It’s your story, too.

Check out this clip, and then read the whole interview below!

What does being part of Sound Off! mean to you?

Being part of Sound Off!, for me, is being part of this collective group of Seattle musicians who are all trying to integrate themselves into the scene and share their art with the world. And even though it’s a competition, for me, I can already see it’s becoming more than that. It’s like this collective effort. We’re all in the same boat. We’re all trying to get our art out there, and I’m looking forward to forming great connections.

Sam Foster at Sound Off 2018

Why do you make music? How does creating make you feel?

There’s an intrinsic musicality that I love about music. I just love notes and tones and melodies and exploring them, but then there’s this other aspect. Lots of my music deals with the topic of mental illness and my struggle with mental illness.

Starting early in my high school years, I started using music as a way to cope with my increasingly severe OCD. This was really a Godsend for me. I mean, it saved my life. I wouldn’t be here without it. It’s a release, you know? It’s a great release. And it’s a great way to make meaning of pain that seems meaningless at the time. Because if I can take those really hard experiences and turn them into something that I like, and that other people think is beautiful, that’s amazing.

What do you hope to achieve through your music?

I hope to achieve some sort of relationship with the listener, and even though they might not be able to relate to the experience of having OCD personally, they can still relate to the music in terms of their hard times in life and how we cope with it.

That’s one of my favorite things about music. I have this teacher who tells me “the most important thing in music is telling the story,” and that’s what the goal of my music is—relating to the audience. Explaining to them this story that I’m telling and really connecting with them on a personal level. Rather than just “I’m up here on the stage performing my art for you.” It’s “we’re all in this together. We’re in this story together.” I’m just the one who’s translating it.

Sam Foster medium closeup

Describe your music using only emojis.

Oh boy. Give me a sec. I’d say, the cat devil emoji surrounding a weary-face to symbolize the way I feel cornered by anxiety sometimes. But then it transitions to some relieved face that, I guess, shows how making the music is a process in overcoming that.

Sam Foster plays Sound Off! Semifinals #2 Friday, February 16. Don't miss it. Get your tickets right here.

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Music, Sound Off!

About the author

Adrienne is a writer and editor from Seattle and is MoPOP's Content Wizard (patent pending).