These days it almost goes without saying that emerging singer-songwriters have unprecedented opportunities for self-promotion on sites like YouTube and MySpace. Over the last several years, numerous young artists have jump-started their careers by posting demos or homemade videos to such sites.
Examples include bona fide pop stars such as Lily Allen and Justin Bieber, but stardom on that level shouldn’t be seen as the benchmark for success. Terra Naomi, David Choi, and Julia Nunes are not household names but all have achieved success in the music industry based on amateur videos.
Earlier this year I stumbled across a YouTube channel bubbling over with memorable songs. The young woman performing them was so self-assured I could only assume she was an established professional. It turned out that wasn’t the case, though I am sure with continued determination she will soon be reaching a much wider audience.
Her name is Sam Pinkerton, a young artist who transformed a broken heart into a clutch of emotionally expressive songs. Throughout a creative explosion that began in October of 2009, she has displayed a seemingly innate understanding of pop song craft. Currently building a foundation for what she hopes will become a career in music, Pinkerton stands out as someone special amongst the countless artistic hopefuls vying for attention.
The most striking component of her musical skill set, at least upon initial listening, is her singing voice. With no formal training, Pinkerton has found her voice at the relatively tender age of eighteen – no mean achievement. Though occasionally drifting up to a whispery falsetto, it’s her full-bodied throatiness that is so ear-catching. The idiosyncrasies of her phrasing only contribute to a consistently unpredictable vocal delivery.
Beyond that, however, Pinkerton turns out to be a formidable triple threat. She writes her own material and plays several instruments. Beginning in late 2009, her songwriting (sporadic at best prior to her senior year in high school) blossomed. Drawing from a deep well of personal frustration, she sets diary-esque lyrics against simpatico melodies. The results are fully formed pop jewels, brimming with hooks.
Despite only a year or so of lessons under her belt, Pinkerton is an inventive rhythm guitarist. Never content with simple strumming patterns, her acoustic accompaniment complements the mood of whatever song she’s playing. In addition to guitar, she is a self-taught pianist. Years of playing bass in church bands bolstered her rhythmic facilities. More recently she added ukulele to her arsenal.
I reached out to Ms. Pinkerton in an attempt to discover more about her music, what she envisions for the future, and most of all…just how she got to be so good.
On many of your YouTube videos, you refer to songs as being part of “The Winter Collection.” What does that mean?
Between eighth and twelfth grade, I only wrote about four songs. I wrote “My Melody” in October of 2009, with “Jacob’s Song” immediately after. After those two, I wrote about fifteen to twenty songs between October 2009 and March 2010. Some of which I recorded, posted on YouTube, and performed. Others, I did not. Most of my songs were written during the winter, therefore I call all the songs written from this past year “The Winter Collection.” I am in the process of starting my new collection called “A New Beginning.”
As far as short term career goals, what do you have in mind?
Last year I set a goal for myself: write enough songs to make a CD. I’ve always wanted to have my songs professionally recorded. All of my recordings are either done by friends or just me and my MacBook.
What can you tell me about your songwriting process?
Sometimes I’ll just be fooling around on guitar and write a cool part, then try to write a song off of that. Other times, I’ll be singing in my car and making up words, adding guitar later. Lyrically, all my songs are very personal. About 90% of my songs are about one guy that had an extremely negative impact on my life. “Summer Nights” and “Wait For Me” are about my current boyfriend James. I can only write when I’m going through tough times in life. Well, that’s when the better songs come out.