Sam Clark’s walking the well-trodden path from Neighbours star to singing sensation. But there’s something different about the lad otherwise known as Ringo Brown. Far from just a voice and pretty face, Sam writes songs and plays instruments. I caught up with him today to chat about his new single “Broken”, Ramsey Street, and those inevitable screaming fans.
You’ve just released your new single “Broken.” Can you tell me what the song’s about?
It’s basically a break-up song. The song’s about the growth that two people have once they’re apart, after a break-up, and how these two people can deal with that. Sometimes people break up and they get back together and they both want to get back together and it’s all good. And sometimes people break up and they realise they’ve made a mistake and they want to get back together with that other person, but that person’s kind of grown in a different direction to what that other person’s used to. So it’s just about dealing with those emotions and that sort of funny situation where you think you know someone so well but you don’t actually in the end.
Most people may know you from your role as Ringo on Neighbours. How hard is it to balance your acting career with the music?
The hardest thing with it is time. Obviously the acting takes up a huge amount of time. We’re working on Neighbours anywhere from 40 to 55 hours a week. And add to that music rehearsals through the week and on the weekends, and you’re starting to run out of time to do any of the fun stuff with your friends. I’m sort of lucky. I’ve gotten better with my time management in that regard. I don’t really procrastinate too much anymore, which is a good thing I suppose. But it’s definitely a juggling act trying to make the two of them fit together, especially when there’s a great opportunity for one which clashes with a great opportunity for another. How do you make that decision? But it seems to be working well so far. I’m lucky enough to have three months off from Neighbours at the moment to go on this tour to promote the release of my debut single, and I’m looking forward to getting back into acting at the start of next year as well.
Now many people may think “Oh no, not another soap star releasing a single,” but I hear music was actually your first love. How did you get into making music?
I was about 15. I always wanted to play guitar or drums, and I finally got my act together and went out and bought a guitar and turned to my sisters to teach me the open chords. And it all went from there. I’ve taught myself since then. As soon as I could play a song I wanted to sing it as well, so I started singing. And as soon as I could play and sing then I wanted to write my own music. So it sort of came from there really, just a natural progression into the songwriting. And more recently I’ve started playing keyboard as well.
Yeah, I was reading that you’re writing and playing all these instruments. Do you have a favourite part of the creative process?
I suppose it’s different for each song. Or maybe it’s not different. Maybe it’s actually finding that part that’s special about each song. Sometimes it’ll be at the very start of the process. I know I rewrote a song of mine, “These Days,” and I was just jamming with my band over it and I started playing keyboards instead of guitar, and I just came up with this little hook on the keys. Now every time I play that, that’s the most special part of the song, and that came right at the very start of the rewrite. So I suppose it’s different for each thing, but it’s just what makes you feel special, whatever makes you feel happy and good.
So many big musicians have appeared on Neighbours in recent years including Lily Allen and Andre Rieu. Has there been anyone that’s made you really starstruck?
I got to meet Lily and I hung around with her and her band the weekend they were here, which was good fun. She’s a really nice girl and the band especially I got along with really well. The Jenkins brothers in that band are really good boys and I’ve been chatting to them since. But I suppose I haven’t really gotten starstruck by anyone because I’ve just been so used to working within the industry. You realise that everyone’s just getting by, doing their jobs. It’s a cool job. I’m just so lucky to be able to do something I love with my career. But I don’t really think I get starstruck anymore.
You’re travelling all around the country making instore appearances and meeting the fans at the moment. How have the crowds responded to your music?
Well so far. I had one crazy experience at Bankstown Girls High School. They just absolutely went nuts. I felt like I was part of The Beatles or something. It was crazy. The teachers had to act as part of a fence to hold these girls back. I actually filmed a bit of it as well. I’m going to put it up on YouTube soon. But that was just an amazing feeling. Because I’m playing my video clip as well, and to get people screaming and cheering at the end of watching that one song on video makes me really excited. I can’t wait to play proper big gigs for these people.
I heard that you’ve also been visiting a few different high schools and talking to the students. Why did you want to do that?
Education has always been something that’s really important to me. It was sort of instilled in me by my family. I wanted to be an actor when I was younger and I had an agent when I was younger, and I would audition for roles, and any time that I got a call back Mum would not let me do it if it was going to take me out of school. So at the time I got pretty bored with it and thought “Screw acting. I’ll do something else” and got into music. But education became pretty important to me, especially now that I’ve left school. I finished year 12 in 2005 and did quite well, and was going to study law. I ended up playing music and acting, but I think lots of kids can really benefit from their time at school. And if I can teach them that, that’s a great thing.
So how did your parents cope with the decision to forget the law degree and focus on the entertainment business?
They were absolutely 100% behind me. They’ve always been absolutely for anything that I wanted to do. They didn’t push me into doing law; that was more the school that I went to. I miss my family, because I had to move out of home when I got this job. But they’ve just been absolutely great. My dad’s in the industry; he’s a cinematographer. So I think he’s got an insight into the industry that I can always draw on if I need to.
I hear your instores have featured acoustic performances. What do you like about playing in that stripped back mode?
It just sounds so nice. You can hear the harmonies so well. You can hear certain individual notes so clearly. You change the songs up a bit as well, so you’re not just playing the same thing that you’re used to playing with a full band. You’ve sort of got a bit more control over it all I suppose. It’s been very cool so far. I have got my bass guitarist coming on the whole tour with me, Mike Mayo, who is actually playing guitar instead while we’re away. It’s just, something about playing acoustically feels good. So I’ll keep doing it!
I hear that your debut album is just about finished. What can you tell me about it?
Well we recorded 13 tracks at the start of the year. A couple of those tracks I’ve rewritten since we recorded them, so we’re going to have to rerecord some stuff. And I’ve been writing some new tracks as well, so hopefully we record a little bit extra and pick and choose for the album. But there’s quite a mix of songs on there. There’s fast-paced rocky songs, some tracks that I play on piano, a whole mix of bluesy vibe, sort of soul stuff, and more pop rock, some straight rock. I’m really happy with where the album’s at at the moment, so if we can add any more to it I’ll be stoked.
Christmas is just around the corner. What’s on your wishlist this year?
It’s actually my family, which I know that I’m getting but it’s still on my wishlist. I haven’t really spent a huge amount of time with my family for a very long time, and they’re coming over to Melbourne to be with me this Christmas. I’m very much looking forward to that.
Image source: The Harbour Agency