Sam Creighton is no stranger to the stage -- she's been part of theater programs in both middle school and high school and performed with her college a capella group, Northeastern University’s The Nor’easters, at the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella in 2015. Since graduating, Sam’s been on a roll in her solo journey as a singer, creating and releasing singles with messages of female empowerment, self-love, relationships, and saying bye to fuckboys. She sat down with us to talk about her badass new single “Smile" (which calls out catcalling!), give advice about finding balance between your passion and your work life, dish on her upcoming music, and offer words of wisdom for women singer-songwriters in the industry today.
How did you get started with music?
I started singing when I was around 2 years old. My grandfather has a vast musical history with songwriting, piano, violin, and choral singing, so he took me under his wing from a very young age! He would prop me up on his lap at the piano and teach me how to harmonize with him. My favorite memory is singing a duet called “What’ll I Do” with him! After that, I just never stopped. I took voice lessons in elementary school, joined the theater program in middle and high school, sang in choirs and school talent shows -- it was never-ending. Music became ingrained in who I am as a person.
I read that in college, you were studying behavioral neuroscience and were also part of The Nor'easters, a competitive a capella group on campus, which was featured on a reality TV show called Sing It On, produced by John Legend. What was the catalyst that led to your becoming involved with The Nor'easters? Did you feel lost without music?
When I had to make the tough decision between following my dreams in higher education or taking a more practical route, something pulled me toward the safe decision. I can’t exactly say what it was, but I’m grateful for it -- because had I not gone to Northeastern to study Behavioral Neuroscience, I would have never felt the emptiness of not having a musical outlet in my life, and I would have never searched across campus for different musical clubs that ultimately led me to The Nor’easters. It only took two weeks of college to realize that I couldn’t be without music, so I guess, in a sense -- yes, I do feel lost without music. Once I auditioned for the group and started rehearsing with them, my whole demeanor shifted. I became myself again. It was a lovely break from the monotony of Organic Chemistry at first, but it quickly took over and I spent more time in the rehearsal room singing than I did in the library studying. Can’t say I regret it though!
What would you say to people who want to follow their passions but default to making a different, "socially acceptable" career choice for the sake of financial stability? Is there a balance that can be achieved?
I think there is definitely a balance. Listen, at the end of the day -- we all have bills to pay. It’s an unfortunate reality but it comes with the privilege of being alive in modern day society. Most people (including myself) that I know in LA have at least one or two side hustles that we work to pay our bills and the rest of our free time is spent honing our craft and working to make our passion into our livelihood. If anyone out there is contemplating following their passions instead of a more “socially acceptable” career choice, I have a few words of advice. Do you want to settle for a job that only somewhat fulfills you, just to be able to retire peacefully and comfortably? Will you look back at the end of your life and say, “yes I did everything I wanted to do, working the same job day in and day out”? Or will you agonize over the idea of “What if I had just tried? What if I had just gone after it and potentially have lived my dreams?” That thought alone gave me the courage to step out of my comfort zone and take the leap into music. I may not know what my life is going to look like, what the outcome will be, or what level of success I will reach, but I know one thing. I know that I can look back and be proud of myself for choosing to be courageous and trying to make my dreams a reality while I am still young and able.
Your previous single, "After Midnight," which you released last fall, was the ultimate Say No To Fuckboys anthem. When you came to that realization of "I'm not anyone's booty call, I'm my own person and I will be treated with respect," did that change not only your approach to loving yourself and to dating, but also to the industry and how you write music?
It certainly changed my perspective on myself and dating. That song was written after a Tinder experience. I only ever download Tinder when I am heartbroken and coming out of a relationship or feeling lonely. The relationship broke me down and made me hate myself, and leaving it had the opposite effect. Leaving it gave me the strength and power to see my own value and worth. He literally hated me into loving myself. He didn’t deserve a song, but funny enough, I was so inspired by this one Tinder experience. I wasn’t upset or saddened by it -- if anything, I felt bad for him, because he was about to get the wrath of a new, self-loving, self-respecting powerful WOMAN!!! This feeling was so familiar to me, but my reaction to it was so new. I was almost shocked by my own self-respect, and that deserved a Fuck You anthem! As for writing music and being in the industry -- I saw how my music with a message could alter and change people’s lives -- and there is no greater feeling. So, with that, I think I stopped chasing the “hits” and started writing my own personal stories in a way that people can relate to them and feel inspired the way they were inspired by songs like “After Midnight."
You have a new single out now called “Smile" which takes aim at catcalling and at a situation that very many women can attest to being in: being told to “smile more” by men who are, frankly, gross and disrespectful of a woman’s space. Was this song inspired by that general situation or was it something more specific?
This song is inspired by a specific situation that happens so frequently that it became general! Does that make sense? I hope so, haha. How sad is that? Being a woman, especially in the city -- it’s almost impossible to escape misogynistic remarks and cat calling. I literally don’t wear dresses anymore because the chances of being objectified when I’m in a dress literally shoot up at least 50%. That’s not a factual statistic, but it FEELS like that much of a difference is made based solely on the clothes I choose to put on my body. I’m so sick of women being looked at as lesser than. I feel powerful, I feel singular, and I feel strong, so why can’t men see me as that as well? It’s 2019. Women are humans. We are not dolls. We don’t have to smile. And we don’t owe you anything.
Anything you can tell us about upcoming music?
Oh, the music I have coming up is my favorite. There is this weird curse with artists -- we’re always a step ahead of ourselves. So when one song comes out, chances are we’ve moved past it and are already ready for the three songs that come next. Of course I am proud of the art I’ve released so far, but the stuff I have coming is just a different level of vulnerable and personal. It will be scary to share it because it’s not my bitchy, powerful, stand-up-for-myself side; it’s my vulnerable and courageous side. That’s scary! But so exciting.
What advice would you give to the rising women songwriters in our community?
I would tell all girls, all women, all female-identifying humans -- keep going. You have something to say. You are important and your story deserves to be shared. Stay honest and stay powerful. I see you and I am with you. Also, LET’S WRITE TOGETHER!!! You’re the only ones welcome to “slide into my DMs”. Go away boiz!!! Hahaha.
“Smile” is available on all streaming platforms, including iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, and YouTube. Keep up with Sam on Instagram and Twitter!
Interview by Anna Sejuelas
Anna Sejuelas is a New York-based LGBTQ+ writer whose work has been published in This Bitch Magazine, Her Campus, College Candy, Medium.com, and FLURT Magazine. The way she writes and sings is the way she wears red lipstick and leather jackets: classic and with a purpose. You can read her work here and find her on Twitter and Instagram.
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