"Unless you're some sort of Zen master then I think it's tough to eliminate stress in this day and age."
5 September 2021

By Vanessa B

London folk-pop artist Sam Winston presents about lushly intense new single Til I Make Peace With War, the ideal follow-up to his stunning comeback track Damaged Goods, released late 2020, and which has amassed over 100,000 streams on Spotify alone.Til I Make Peace With War is a reflective and introspective exploration of Sam’s struggles with health issues affecting his ability to sing.

Sam, has a diverse history of working in the musical field both as an independent artist and inspiring others to find their own creative paths. He has taught music to disabled adults around his borough for a number of years and also runs music sessions in primary schools.

‘Til I Make Peace With War’ is a reflective and introspective exploration of your struggles with health issues affecting your ability to sing. Can you tell us a bit about how you’ve come to terms with it?

Wow. What a question…That is tricky since I think my answer changes daily! The condition I’ve developed is definitely exacerbated by stress. So how does one keep calm and come to terms with things during a lockdown / global pandemic? Unless you’re some sort of Zen master then I think it’s tough to eliminate stress in this day and age.

For me, it’s perhaps the realization that I might never get back to where I was, vocally. I certainly hope to. I certainly have faith. But in letting go of some of that pressure to get back to “the good old days” where I’d sing 3 hours straight without any hiccups…I think letting that self-inflicted pressure go is a BIG step forward.

In terms of other practical things, my goals have also shifted. This is not only due to my chronic pain but also due to the pandemic. For me, a sensible and achievable goal is to get better…to heal my throat and simply perform to people who love music and wish to connect. I want nothing more than to re-connect with myself, and also spread what I have to share with others.

In a way, I’m seeing what I’m going through as a blessing in disguise. It’s altered my perspectives greatly: I’m grateful for the days I can sing/speak without throat and mouth pain. These moments fill me with a sense of purpose and stability. It’s now just about maximizing and capitalizing on that!

Are there messages in this song that you think is universal and span perhaps beyond the topic of physical illness?

There certainly are these kinds of undertones in the song, yes! Although the track was written when I was suffering from physiological symptoms, the energy behind it was so much deeper. These issues really do transcend the physical. They are more about finding the kernels of truth, finding the joy in difficult life lessons. Maybe there’s no real lesson – but framing it as such helps me cope better with whatever the future might bring.

In addition, the message of the song could be viewed as an ode to universal pain, a salve to the suffering of others. Its lyrics revolve around losing one’s core, letting go, and being okay with massive inner turbulence. In light of the last 18 months and the pandemic, such problems are ever-more important. I can’t tell you how much emotion it, therefore, brings me when people who’ve listened to the song say they’ve been deeply moved by what they hear.

You’ve taught music to disabled adults around your borough for a number of years as well as running music sessions in primary schools. That sounds like it could be fulfilling work too.

Oh, absolutely! The other less performance-based side of my work is just as fulfilling! The music sessions I ran for disabled adults were invigorating. Seeing them connect with their peers, with the music, and with me was wonderful. I would guide in singing their favorite songs by their idols – and then suggest branching out to discover new artists. They would support each other with vocal cries and various percussion instruments during our big group sessions. It was amazing energy. I’m grateful to have gotten the chance to work with them. Sadly, the pandemic has stopped this work (though I remain hopeful it will return when things settle down.)

My work with primary school students is equally fulfilling. I started off teaching one to one some years ago – things like guitar, piano, ukulele, and vocals. It’s very cool to see that spark in someone’s eyes when they practice and then master a particular song, riff or run. It’s something else when they go further and write a song of their own. Many of my students enjoy this songwriting aspect. Very recently, I’ve branched out into teaching African drumming to bigger classes of kids. This is so fun (and loud!)

Can you talk a bit about your relationship with Bailey Guitars and what they do?

Ah…Bailey Guitars! They’re the best, they really are! Mark, Carol, and the team are some of the most genuine, kind, and nurturing people I know – who also happens to make some of the finest instruments around. As if this wasn’t enough, they use “green”, renewable energy to power their guitar-making. I’ve nothing but admiration & respect for them.

I first heard the name “Bailey” back in my teens when visiting the annual Guitar Show at London’s ExCel Centre. I was looking for something different from the regular Gibsons and Fenders on the show and was drawn to Mark Bailey’s guitar stand. Although I didn’t meet him back then, I picked up a shiny red electric he’d made and tried it. It was insane. It felt like melted butter beneath my fingers. It sounded just as tasty! I never forgot the name “Bailey Guitars” after that.

Skipping a decade ahead, I was ready to commission my first custom instrument by them. I’d gotten to know Mark + Carol through several in-depth phone conversations by this time. A friendship soon developed. This was also around the time my debut album was released and Bailey Guitars really helped spread the word about it too! When it came to the step-by-step process of them making my guitar, then really made sure all my specifications were met. The process was smooth and seriously fun. I also have a custom ukulele made by them now!

The amount of care they give is not just bound to their instruments. Within their slice of Scotland, through their “Acoustic Bliss” open mic nights, they’ve made a strong and supportive network for fledgling and experienced performers alike. When I decided to do a music tour of the Ayrshire/Glasgow area, they helped me secure many gigs. They’re awesome. I’ll forever urge any musician out there to check out Bailey Guitars!

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Ahh the future…Well as it stands I’m booking up gigs again. I have a few summer weddings and festivals plus some private gigs in pubs, clubs and restaurants. It’s rather scary though since things are still a little unstable. But I’ll remain ever optimistic and continue to try to communicate and play to people who want to listen. For now, that’s enough!