Photo: Anne-Marie Forker

British singer-songwriter Sam Ryder, who is also a TikTok and Eurovision star, visited Vulkan Arena in Oslo on his first European headline tour recently, in support of the release of his debut album "There’s Nothing But Space, Man!" on 18 November. Shortly before the concert (see our review and photographs here), we spoke to Sam backstage about some songs from the new album, performing with Queen at Wembley and his positive mentality.

Is this your first visit to Norway?

No, I’ve been here before. I played Bergenfest earlier in the year. It was really cool.

Great festival. I really wanted to ask you about “Space Man”. I heard it was written in about 10 minutes. Is that true?

Absolutely. Songs often do get written quite quickly. Most of the time they don’t. But sometimes you are lucky and it just happens that way. This particular time I was with two friends of mine called Amy and Max. We were in a studio in London in the middle of summer 2020. It was boiling hot and we went into the studio and there were no windows. It was a glorious day outside and we were thinking “Oh it’s a shame to be in the studio on a day like this” but it ended up not being a shame as we wrote this wicked song that sort of fell out of mid-air. In those situations - it would be presumptuous to say I’m a good songwriter but Amy and Max are good songwriters, I’m just trying my best - you step out of the way of a song. It’s in the ether already and it just comes through you, it’s not of you. All you have to do is not mess it up and let it take form by itself. That’s why good songs happen quickly.

Paul McCartney has written some of his best material like that…

Not all your songs are going to be like that. You are going to write songs that will be rubbish and will take hours and you still have to do those ones so you are in shape, like an athlete, so when the 10 minute one comes you are ready for it.

Sam Ryder backstage at Vulkan Arena

I really enjoyed your guitar solo in the song. When did you start playing guitar and who is your favourite guitarist?

When I was 14. It was my first love before singing. I’ve been singing since I was a young kid in assemblies in primary schools, but I never really took it seriously. I started playing guitar because of bands like Iron Maiden, Queen and Sum 41. When you are that age you want to identify with your favourite band by wearing their t-shirt and the guitars that they use. I thought I was going to be the next Jimi Hendrix and unfortunately I just don’t have that spark. I’m capable, but I don’t have that certain thing that guitarists like Louis who is on tour with me now, have, where they are just naturals. But singing for me, as I got older, started feeling like that thing, where I felt like I was flying. I could just zone out, or rather zone in! [laughs] My favourite guitarist is Brian May.

Sam Ryder

Photo: Anne-Marie Forker

Speaking of Brian May, you performed at the Taylor Hawkins gig at Wembley with Queen this year. I watch the DVD of Queen performing there every year and I was nervous for you, just because I couldn’t imagine anyone taking on something Freddie had performed at Wembley, but you nailed it! How did that come about?

That was the “Magic” tour. I got to play Brian May’s guitar! I just got a phone call. I missed the phone call. It took me 20 minutes to phone back. When Dave Grohl introduced me on stage he said “It took this guy 20 minutes to say yes!” The reason it took me 20 minutes was because I was up in a Spitfire with a friend of mine, which is a weird story in itself. All of these things are blessings which have ended up landing in my lap by luck and have been totally unexpected. I’m just grateful for every single one and I try and go into it with that gratitude and energy of thankfulness. There are a lot of other people who are more talented and I know they exist because I follow them on Instagram! [laughs] There’s a humility that you have to hold wherever you go and a thankfulness while you are there and just do your very best work.

I disagree that there are a lot more talented people. Your new album is coming out in November, featuring the recent single "Somebody", which is really uplifting.

Yes, November 18th! I wanted to do a personality piece, almost. Uplifting music is really important. It’s been important in my life, listening to bands like Journey sing with a certain amount of joy. Queen always brought me joy in dark times and I’d like to do my offering of joy on that table, and that was “Somebody”.

Sam Ryder

Photo: Anne-Marie Forker

Dark times - did it relate to the pandemic?

It related to everything. The world is how you view it. It can be incredibly dark and if you spiral into a dark place everything that you see, hear, read or indulge in is darkness. That can become habitual like everything in life becomes habitual. The same way as being miserable and negative is habitual. We don’t start off that way. I’d rather make positivity and gratitude and thankfulness my habit. It’s easier said than done. Today has been a stressful day and I haven’t achieved that goal of mine but you get to try it again tomorrow. I get to try it again in 5 minutes’ time when I’m on stage. You have to come back to that reason, that light. It’s always there, so you have to be the one to decide to look at it.

Fantastic mentality. I think we’ll end on that note. Thank you.

[Laughs] Thank you!