Influenced by John Mayer, Orla Gartland and Ingrid Michaelson, singer-songwriter Sam Costigan has a soft, smooth and sincere sound. Her light vocals with simple instrumentation can both calm and hypnotise a listener. We spoke with Sam Costigan about her album January May, creative process and discovering new music.
What can you tell us about your album January May?
January May is my first solo record. I wrote it over about three years and began recording it during my final year in college. We started tracking in the professional studio at my university and had planned to finish it there, but when Covid-19 caused facilities like this to shut down I decided to push through and finish it on my own. Luckily, between myself and the other people I had involved in the project, there are various avenues for remotely tracking and use of home studios. It actually became a really positive thing that allowed the project to flourish and grow in ways it might not have otherwise. I ended up having musicians all over the country play on the record and had the ability to add small details that made huge impacts on the end project.
Which is your favourite track off the album?
It’s so hard to pick one and it really changes each time I listen through, but my favourite overall production is ‘While You Were’. We had initially recorded this track in the studio at a different tempo and with a more acoustic vibe, but after listening back I knew that it just wasn’t right. We ended up scrapping everything and reimagining the song with more electronic elements and it started to take on a life of its own. It was truly a labour of love and I’m really proud of the way it turned out.
Lyrically, ‘January May’ has got to be my favourite. I wrote it in one afternoon and it was incredibly cathartic to write, single and now to listen to.
What is your creative process?
My process for writing and producing songs is pretty fluid. I try to allow things to fall into place organically. I’m always writing down lyrics ideas or recording bits and pieces of melodies that I think of so that I can come back to them later. I’ve gone back and found ideas from nearly three years prior and finally felt like “I’m ready to flesh this out.”
Generally, lyrics/melody come first, but a lot of times when I start adding other elements of the arrangement those change and the song morphs into something unrecognisable from what I started with.
How would you describe your music?
I’m influenced by a lot of genres – pop, folk, indie, blues – and they all come through at various times throughout the record. More than anything my music is about the storytelling. As I’ve evolved as a musician my style has shifted a lot, and I know and hope that it will continue to change, but the most consistent thing has been the importance I place on writing lyrics that are both authentic and tangible.
What do you hope people will take from January May?
My favourite thing about music is how it connects people who live completely separate lives but share similar emotions and experiences. I tried really hard to achieve that element of relatability with January May and I hope that everyone finds a story, whether that be an entire song or a single lyric that resonates with them.
What do you think is the best way to discover new music?
One way that I find new things to listen to is by looking at what my favourite artists are listening to, checking out what artists they are shouting out on social media, covering, collaborating with, etc. A lot of times it’s very different from their own music, but it leads me to dive into other genres and find unexpected picks.
Where do you hope to be this time next year?
I plan to move to Nashville in the next few months and by the end of next year, I would love to be immersed in that community of musicians. I hope to be regularly collaborating with other songwriters and producers and, hopefully, be back to playing shows!