by Silke Hartung

Sam Heselwood: Life’s Good At Home

by Silke Hartung

Sam Heselwood: Life’s Good At Home

Taking a break from work at Parachute Studios in Tāmaki Makaurau suburb Kingsland, Ōtautahi songwriter Sam Heselwood chatted with NZM’s Silke Hartung about his latest single, Home. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.

Sam, you’re still fairly new to the national scene, so can you to introduce yourself please?

Sure thing! My name is Sam Ensor Heselwood, I grew up in a small town outside of Christchurch, called Darfield. I started singing and learning guitar after I moved into a city primary school, called Medbury.

There I met a music teacher named Chrissy Badger who saw a talent in my voice that I didn’t want to believe in at the time. Chrissy made me a soloist in the junior choir and from there I was locked into a non-binding contract. She would come and drag me into practices during lunchtime and I would try and quit the choir at least once a week,

I then went on to become one the senior chorister’s soloists. Heading into high school it’s fair to say I avoided anything to do with music and focused on sport and eating my lunch. After high school I was quite lost and I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career, I tried my hand in all sorts of trades and something always felt like it was missing. I ended up going to NZIS and doing a diploma in sports management.

The music reignited once I picked up a notepad and started writing in around 2018. I stumbled across Sacha Vee’s SOLE Music Academy in Christchurch and spent two years learning the ins and outs of the music industry while I shaped my image and direction. I released my first EP in 2022 through SOLE and now I’m about to release my next EP.

What’s the biggest truth about working in music you took away from going to SOLE Academy?

I think the number one biggest truth about working in music I took away from being with SOLE was that the music has to be good. At the end of the day, you can have everything else in check but the music needs to be the best it can be and the main focus.

What’s your superpower as musician? 

If I had to pick one superpower as a musician that I feel I excel in, I think it would have to be coming up with melodies or adding in cool counter melodies!

If you compare the music and the sports industries what would you say you prefer about the music industry?

I think the music and the sports industries share one major similarity and that would be networking; it’s who you know not what you know, in some respects. You need to make those real-life connections, that’s when the magic happens.

You stopped playing rugby because of a severe injury to your spine – does that also affect the way you perform as a musician?

That’s very true, I think being a musician has its own physical and mental challenges. I’ve found sitting down too long writing or working on a project can sometimes put a strain on my neck, so I treat it the same as if I were still playing rugby and I just take time to stretch or to have a break.

Your single Home has a genuine, real vibe to it – relatable as! How did the idea to the song come to you?

Thank you! The idea for Home came to me over a Zoom session with now Auckland-based singer-songwriter Sally Faherty. Sally asked me what I wanted to write about and if there was anything on my mind, I just replied with, “I’m not too sure, life’s pretty good right now.”

That started the hook and we worked from there, trying to find reasons why life is so good right now, which I noticed had a lot to do with my partner Sophie. We then wanted to make sure it was acknowledged that life isn’t always great and we need to appreciate the good times while they’re here.

Home is a collab with Sally Faherty and Terence O’Connor. What did those two bring to the table?

Working with Sally was so much fun, we smashed Home in around an hour and a half. Terry was so cool to just watch work, he’s a super-talented musician in all respects and he added so much in terms of guidance and structure.

Who did you work with on the video and what was the concept?

The music video was such a cool project. The place where we filmed is our family bach with a lot of good times and memories. I’d actually always envisioned something along the lines of a music video being filmed up there and I felt like Home really fit. The film/creative crew were Jem Anderson and Gordon Duff who did such an amazing job all round.

Which Kiwi artists would you love to write a song with one day?

Kiwi artists I’d love to write with would probably have to be Mitch James, Matiu Walters, Tiki Taane and Dave Dobbyn.

A lot of songwriters want to get to the point where their music could be Top 40 material but struggle – what’s your approach?

I think there are definitely some subconscious things I do now when writing to try to keep it within the radio aspects, but honestly, I feel like I just write in a way that feels true and real to myself, and I worry about the ‘radio-friendly’ approach more when it comes to production.

What’s coming up next?

That’s the big question I’m asking myself! There are so many things happening right now and I need to make a few big decisions. Either way, releasing music is my main focus I want to keep the ball rolling and hopefully aim to release my debut album within the next year.