When Triple J calls, you answer, even if you are still in class: Sami at Be_Hear/Now
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13.06.2023

When Triple J calls, you answer, even if you are still in class: Sami at Be_Hear/Now

Sami
words by joanne brookfield

Rising rap star Sami set to headline the Be_Hear/Now festival this winter in Ballarat.

In mythic structure, the ‘call to adventure’ marks the beginning of a new journey. Departing our comfort zone, we’ll be taken to new places, have challenging and enriching experiences and grow and transform in the process – if we answer ‘the call’, that is.

Also known as the Hero’s Journey when Joseph Campbell was writing about this in his classic The Hero With A Thousand Faces it was halfway through the last century, so he couldn’t possibly have imagined that when singer/rapper Sami was to “receive the call” that it would be – in the most literal way one can receive a call – on a mobile phone.

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

It was 2021. Still in high school at the time, and in class on this fateful day, when the phone rang it was Triple J. “They told me I’d won the Triple J Unearthed All-Ages Tour Competition and that I’d be going on tour with some of Australia’s biggest acts in early 2022,” recalls Sami.

“Opening for Mallrat and The Smith Street Band were great moments – and even just to get that validation from people you trust and admire is nice – to know that they see the same thing you see in yourself,” he says of the career break.”

Triple J aren’t the only ones seeing big things in the 19 year old, as Sami has been announced as one of the headline acts as part of the Be_Hear/Now music festival happening in Ballarat from June 30 to July 2. As part of The City of Ballarat’s live music program, Be_Hear/Now focuses on supporting musicians in Victoria’s third largest city.

“I’m really happy to be a part of this year’s cohort, I think it’s great to see the artists involved with Ballarat getting support, and I’m looking forward to seeing the city’s talent on display during the festival,” he says.

The other headlining artists are dream-pop band Pyrex, electro-western band Confetti Western, 60s and 70s inspired Iridescence and Cassells, who although usually a solo acoustic alt-folk act will be performing with full band.

Be_Hear/Now, running for the fourth year, also provides support that includes identifying local talent, providing mentoring and training, assets and resources to help musicians refine their craft.

Although based in Melbourne now, Sami has spent the bulk of his life living in Ballarat. The ABC refers to his “extremely versatile catalogue” which is a mix of R&B, hip hop, ambient and experimental sounds. “I never really know how to describe my style, not because it’s particularly abstract, but because I struggle to stick to one sound.”

“I need to make songs that sound different from each other to find satisfaction in the process,” he explains.

The process is all his, from end to end, writing, producing and engineering most of his output on his own. He started writing lyrics at 10 years of age (“to be fair, I don’t remember those lyrics having much cohesion – but the thought counts”) and cobbled together the equipment to produce.

“I started with downloading the demo version of Fruity Loops on my old laptop, and in the demo version you can’t save projects, so I would keep my laptop running and on charge for weeks on end while I was working on a beat,” he says.

“After a year to two of not being able to save my projects, a mutual friend had the cracked version and sent it to me, and I happily used that until I eventually purchased the real thing years later. I paired it with an old, but powerful, work computer that my best friend’s dad was gonna throw out and some low-end speakers”.

By 13, he was no longer mucking around. “I was as serious then about it as I am now, just without the actual skills. So it was decided in my head, and I spent the next few years learning and developing my ability in the things that I thought I’d need to succeed; production, songwriting, mixing, branding, everything.”

He honed this skillset in his home studio “which also happened to be my bedroom” but he took his music so seriously that he never referred to it as his bedroom again. “And I meant it. Even my friends started calling it The Studio”.

That determination and focus paid off, officially releasing his first song at 18, with Rolling catching plenty of attention. “Last year, I got in a habit of releasing a song and then rushing to make the next one, so over the past few months I’ve been building an arsenal of my best songs so that starting next month, I can release consistent singles leading up to my debut album,” he reveals.

The as-yet-untitled album will be released later in the year, so until then, Sami fans can get a fix when he plays Be_Hear/Now. “My show is going to be on the Saturday night of the festival weekend (July 1), and I’ll be headlining along with Pyrex.”

Visit the Be_Hear / Now website here for all the information and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

This article was made in partnership with City of Ballarat