This year has seen Olivia Rodrigo and Mimi Webb break through on TikTok, but the app securing singer-songwriter Samuel Jack’s big break was Instagram Reels – with his single, Feels Like Summer unexpectedly going viral – 18 months after releasing it. The UK artist describes what it’s like to suddenly have a song become the most used song on IG Reels in the US, which at its peak was uploaded over 10K times per day.
London-born Jack actually spent his formative years in Johannesburg with his film director father, who raised him on a musical diet of blues, Motown, soul and roots. His broad musical palette resulted in the different sounds later weaved into his album, Empty Pockets, Crowded Heart, which narrates struggles with inner demons, the turbulence of family and relationships, and the desire and want for something – or someone.
“I've always been inspired by music of black origin, So blues, roots, soul, Motown,” he reflects. “I listen to all sorts of music, but there is something about blues, about soul, about gospel that just gets into my veins,” he explains.
“The history of it all, the hurt, the pain, the joy, the sex. And when those emotions are delivered by a voice that really means it, I just feel like there can’t be a better way to express yourself.
“I was obsessed with BB King as a kid,” he adds.
“Having said that, I loved Paul Simon. Graceland is one of my favourite albums of all time. But really, all the soul greats informed and shaped the type of music that I write now; I just chuck a bit of pop music in there as well with it.”
Despite his deep love for soul and blues music, it transpires that the first cassette he bought with his own money was actually The Spice Girls’ Wannabe.
“It’s that girl power, man! You know that was pop gold though. It doesn't matter what musical background you come from, or how cool you might think your music taste is – that was a great pop record.”
Jack started writing poetry and music as he travelled the world in his late teens, and independently released his first EP in 2016. Three volumes of his Empty Pockets, Crowded Heart EP series plus a succession of singles followed, which allowed him to nurture a loyal grassroots fanbase.
There were hints of the success that would eventually follow – an invite to play Glastonbury, a tour as guest to Jack Savoretti – although behind the scenes, it was a struggle. He specifically remembers driving home from a gig in London to his caravan in the south-west, having barely made enough money to cover the cost of petrol.