Artwork by @mystupidsketchbook
WHO is he?
“My name is Sam Johnson (although stage name is Sam Cartwright Johnson) and I’m a 21 year old singer/songwriter based in Bristol. I am self taught on the guitar and have absolutely no idea about theory whatsoever. I started writing songs when I was 14 and started showcasing them at open mic nights near my hometown of Oswestry (Shropshire) around a year later. I’ve always loved listening to music as far back as I can remember, but had no interest in playing it until my best friend Conor suddenly showed me that he could play Californication by The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Competitiveness soon kicked in and I decided to learn how to play it on guitar too. From this point onwards I was hooked. I pretty much immediately began to write my own melodies and pieces before trying my hand at singing and writing full songs.”
“A few years later I got the chance to play a few of my then very folky songs to the iconic Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine whom I have known for a number of years through my aunt Ann Marie Shields (Kevin’s sister who also works extensively in the music industry). He was impressed and took me to the infamous Grouse Lodge Studio’s near Dublin where we recorded my first 6 track demo disk with Kevin at the production helm. This was where I first gained exposure with a decent reaction on social media and support and praise from my local BBC Introducing team.”
WHAT is he singing about?
“My new EP Submerged (out digitally on 18th April on AMS Records, download here) is effectively a very dark chapter of my life penned to music. I spent a gap year in Australia during 2013/2014 and when I returned in the summer of 2014 I found out my dad had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer whilst I had been away. My parents didn’t tell me when he was first diagnosed as it was only a couple of months before I was due to return and they didn’t want to ruin my experience which I was grateful for in hindsight. What was the best year of my life swiftly turned into the worst. I was due to start uni at BIMM Bristol and upon my arrival in the city I swiftly became very anxious and sad and was diagnosed with depression shortly afterwards and put on anti depressants. I suffered from frequent panic attacks and extreme insomnia, sometimes not sleeping for 3 or 4 days in a row despite being in bed all night. I had suffered from on and off bouts with insomnia since I was 16, but never anything as bad as that so it was all very frightening. My experience of uni was therefore not a good one despite my best efforts, and when my dad’s health deteriorated I dropped out and moved back to my family home in Shropshire. Dad died on the 30th June peacefully.”
“From returning to England and finding out about dad, to his his death in June, I had pretty much an exact year with him. That year was an incredibly special time as we bonded more than ever and all the songs that feature on the EP were written during it, both before and shortly after his death. In fact, I wrote the instrumental outro A Spirit on the day dad died when I found a small chapel in the hospice he was in. The chapel had a piano in it that I would play when taking breaks from sitting with him. I wrote A Spirit on that piano just shortly before he died.”
WHERE did he grow up?
“I grew up in the English county of Shropshire near the small market town of Oswestry on the North Welsh border. My family home is situated in the country side which I believe to have influenced my style. Quite often as a teenager I would have taken myself away with my guitar to sit in a field and play and write songs. The freedom and peace this granted me was essential in building my confidence and enhancing my vocal and instrumental skills, as I didn’t have to worry about what anybody thought as no one could hear me. In this respect I had full reign to explore any musical avenue I wanted which I believe to have massively aided my progression as a songwriter throughout the years. That freedom is something I always miss when living in cities.”
“However, the music scene is very modest in Oswestry and certainly not somewhere anyone’s career is likely to take off. There was one pub/venue called The Ironworks that frequently put on a good night with both established acts and new talent, but unfortunately went into financial difficulty and was eventually bought out and stripped of all its authenticity by new owners. My musical life now resides mainly in Bristol where there is a thriving music scene with lots of opportunity. My favourite place to gig is Mr Wolf’s as it always has a great atmosphere and busy crowd, especially on open mic night!”
WHY should I listen to him?
The dynamics in Sam’s voice put you in that uncomfortable place, not sure what to expect next, and somehow that is exactly what keeps you listening and makes you fall in love with his music.
WHEN can I see him live?
“I have applied for loads and loads of festivals this year but as yet have only booked one called ‘Inglefest’. It’s a small independent festival in its 3rd year in the South West and will run over the 15th and 16th of July. I’ll be playing on Sunday the 16th with my band.”