Adele, Sam Smith, I Used To Be Sam
Kevin Cook

Q&A with courageous soul-pop singer I Used To be Sam

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Image credit: Maria Sutter

Known as Annie Goodchild, the musician and singer embraced the moniker I Used To be Sam after a life-changing moment occurred in their life. The singer’s latest single ‘Gentle’ via LAVICHI Records shares Annie’s experience with adoption and self-love. Born with the name Samantha, the  non-binary singer was inspired to create music for other children and adults who are adopted and are still trying to navigate through this truth. ‘Gentle’ tugs on the heartstrings with its sincerity, emotive soundscapes and lush vocals. We asked I Used To Be Sam a few questions about their music and mission below.

Listen to ‘Gentle’ on

Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?

I was lucky enough to have a piano in the house growing up, and I remember sitting there for hours finding little melodies and writing mini songs. When my legs grew long enough to reach the pedals, I loved experimenting with the sustain pedal. Just hearing how it manipulated the notes and created something new was really exciting.  This idea of how just a small change in note length could give such a different feeling is something that I’ve taken with me in my songwriting and music production. On top of that, my childhood was filled with listening to great female vocalists (for example Ella Fitzgerald and Whitney Houston, etc) who were really the soundtrack to my young life. My first appreciation for music production was probably hearing Björk and Pink Floyd for the first time.

Please tell us more about how your latest release/project was conceived.

‘Gentle’ was the first song I wrote for this EP and project.  When I started writing the lyrics, I thought I was asking the world to be gentle with me.  But as the song progressed I realised I was pleading to myself to be gentle, kind, loving, and patient.  ‘Gentle’ became in some way a vow to me.  Musically, I had already written this kind of “open-chord drone” loop on the piano, which you can hear a distorted version of at the beginning of the song, as well as the words “please be gentle with me” repeating on top of it. The rest became about filling in the gaps with the right landscape of sound. I want it to be lush but simple at the same time.

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

I think like a lot of musicians, writing starts with a feeling or with a pull.  I’ll usually start at the piano or guitar and play small themes on repeat.  That repetition can be very meditative, and as I play, I can usually hear the general world I want the song to live in.  After a while, I sing over the instrumentation and this is when some lyrics will begin to emerge.  After this initial jam I like to record the idea, even if it’s just on my phone, and then drag it into a DAW.  At that point it’s just about editing it down or adding to communicate the idea, lyrics, and overall feeling of the song as clearly and as honestly as possible. 

How much do you invest in how your music is received upon release?

I think a lot of people have a hard time with rejection and praise. As an adoptee, this is certainly something I’ve struggled and continue to struggle with.  For my own mental health, I try to be conscious to not dive too deeply into reviews and reactions.  But I have to say this project and subject matter are so personal to me, and sharing my experience as a transracial adoptee through music has been so profound, that getting any negative reaction or review just doesn’t matter to me as much.  Especially when coming from someone outside of this world.  It’s a bit of a balance, in some ways I feel more vulnerable and fragile sharing this work, and at the same time, I feel stronger and more firm in my foundation for doing so.

What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?

There have been some incredible live shows where the audience has sung along with me and we got to share this super-human connection, which I find so beautiful. However, recently I got to share ‘Gentle’ with the 10 transracial adoptees (TRA’s) who were interviewed and participated in this project with me.  Hearing how moved they were, how they got emotional when listening to my song for the first time, a song that’s really our music has been the most important and touching response of my work and life.

Are there any key non-musical influences on your sound and creative process?

Life. It’s vague, but being alive is so full and overwhelming. Nature, the people I love, the things I fear. All of my experiences, reactions, and feelings are the reasons why I make music. That’s where the “pull” comes from in my songwriting process.

Do you have any information regarding upcoming releases, projects, DJ mixes or collaborations in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?

Yes! My next single, ‘Mountains’, is coming out March 18th on the supermoon.  I’m really excited about this one.  There is some other stuff coming up that I can’t share yet, but I’m feeling really ready to open up this conversation around adoption in new and musical ways.

Famous last words?

You’re enough.

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