Sam Buckingham has the meaning of words. Her soft voice and punchy lyrics are an intoxicating mix.
“You know the saying, you trap the flies with honey…then you crush them with your words? Or something like that,” she laughed.
The Byron Bay singer-songwriter has just released his third album Dear John and it’s a significant change from his previous folk-americana albums I am a bird (2013) and The water (2017).
Dear John delves into alternative pop and is her most personal album to date.
The songs stem from the breakdown of a toxic relationship and the lyrics address female empowerment, gender equality, male violence against women and self-expression.
It’s honest, raw and emotional storytelling.
“I knew I wanted — I had to — write these songs and share them, but I had to fight a lot of demons and do a lot of work to be OK with it,” she said.
Adopting an alt-pop sound was not a conscious decision. It just happened.
“It was more about following the sounds that best served the song,” Buckingham explained.
“At first it was weird, but once I accepted the idea that I was allowed to make any sound I wanted, I felt like I was in a playground.
“Working with Kent Eastwood as co-producer was so cool. We’ve known each other for years and he played keyboards and guitars on my songs for a long time, so we were able to make everything really authentic to whoever I’m as an artist, exploring different sounds.
“We created a plan for the album, writing all the parts for the musicians in the studio, and then they came in and took it to the next level.”
They are “wake up, don’t break up” songs. The distinction is important to her.
Something More – Sam Buckingham
“Even though the album is called Dear John, it’s not really about ‘John’. A breakup was the catalyst for this album, but it goes way beyond that,” Buckingham said.
“I wanted to delve into how I ended up in a toxic relationship that I thought I had to stay in, out of duty to the man.
“It’s a hard thing to navigate the song because at no point is a woman responsible for the shitty way she’s treated – but at the same time I was going through a process of unlearning conditioning, patterns and coping mechanisms, and to educate myself on the bigger picture of the things that lead to women being abused and oppressed.
“I was working to free myself so that no ‘John’ could ever do this to me again – and the album documents a lot of that process. It’s about realizing how women are treated like second-class citizens and say ‘are open now. Test me ‘.”
Buckingham’s music videos are thought provoking, offbeat and creative. She comes up with most of the ideas herself.
“I’m very active with my videos these days, and I go to the videographer with a fully formed concept in mind…and then we collaborate to make it even better,” she said.
“A video is such an important extension of a song – it helps tell the story if you do it right.
“I love being in front of the camera and then jumping behind and directing the music video. It’s really creative and so satisfying to see the finished product and feel really connected to it.”
While touring has been sparse over the past two years, Buckingham has managed to secure its own sold-out shows, as well as sold-out performances in support of Kate Miller-Heidke, Paul Kelly, Ben Lee and Tim Freedman. Now, following the release of Dear John, she will finally be able to launch the album nationwide in May and June.
“It’s been over two years since I’ve done a big tour, with new music. Excited would be an understatement! I almost can’t believe I can do this again. I’m so happy that the music live be back.”