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Review & Interview: “Long Way Round” by Sam Harwood-White

“Long Way Round” is the ninth song of Sam Harwood-White’s ten-track album, If I Were Wise. It has a sweet, melancholy sound to it from the horn to the tempo. The song was released on August 16, 2022 and there’s surely more to come from this talented artist, so be on the lookout. 

“Long Way Round” sits in your mouth like a big bite of cotton candy melting slowly. It’s just easy to sit back and listen to and forget all your troubles. Harwood-White’s soft, velvety voice soothes the mind which is only aided by the piano introduction and the horn that joins for the chorus. There’s also something to be said for the flatness in the notes. It adds a level of imperfection that really drives home the bitterness of the lyrics. “Now you’re gone, I just feel alone.”

The song opens with a click, like a record settling or a cassette tape being pushed into the player, then the beautiful notes of the piano. Every note is carefully done, somehow breaking into this emotional barrier of losing someone.

London-based, Sam Harwood-White started releasing music in 2020 when he released “Far Away Nothings” which has over 3,000 plays on Spotify. If I Were Wise is Sam Harwood-White’s debut album and all the songs were written, recorded, and produced by the artist in his home studio. There’s a lot of emotion built along the lyrics and chords of every song, but “Long Way Home” took on new meaning. Harwood-White wrote the song at the end of 2021 and made changes in the end that brought a “drastic change in mood” he says. Listen to “Long Way Round” and the rest of the If I Were Wise album and follow his socials to stay up to date.

Q&A with Sam Harwood-White

Q: “Long Way Round” is such a beautiful, melancholy song. Did any real-life events inspire this song?

SAM: Yes, absolutely. “Long Way Round” holds a deeply personal meaning to me, although sadly it is one that changed drastically in the time between writing and recording the song. It was inspired by a drive I took with someone who later became more important to me than I ever could have imagined, and we both considered that short trip to be the beginning of a longer journey we shared. I actually recorded the engine noise and sound of the key in the ignition of that particular car, which you can hear at the beginning and end of the track. 

Unlike most other songs on the album, where many of the lyrics are metaphorical or carry a secondary connotation beneath the surface, every single lyric in “Long Way Round” can be understood by its overt meaning. They are reassurances, promises and wishes which unfortunately, in the end, were left unfulfilled. The journey ended, and my final lyric, “and I know that I’ll never feel alone”, became “now you’re gone, I just feel alone”.

Q: What was your creative process like in the creation of “Long Way Round”?

SAM: I think the creative process for this song was one of the most interesting and unusual that I’ve experienced. Usually, I write songs backwards; I have the final few lines before any other part of the song, and then jump around writing different sections until things start to fall into place (how can you know how to get there if you don’t know where you’re going?)

In contrast, “Long Way Round” flowed from start to finish almost seamlessly, although later undergoing an almost polar mood change. I initially took inspiration from the songs ‘Magic To Me’ and ‘Summer Lovin’ by The Tuesday Crew, aiming to write with the same kind of energy and upbeat vibe, and the first full version of the song was a blend between the feeling of those reference songs and the feeling of my final version.

Later though, the song in its more bouncy and hopeful form tasted sour – promises had been broken, I was hurt, and the song felt as though it were taunting me, rubbing it in almost. From there, I changed the feel of the song to sit accurately with how I felt inside – the lyrics were unchanged (bar the final line) and still hopeful, although now subtly tinged with the sadness that I couldn’t hide from my voice.

I chose acoustic guitar played mostly in the lower register to bring out the melancholy depth to its sound, and the lonely call of a single trumpet in the distance. These were played by Elena Zucchini and Fraser Tannock respectively, who both understood and interpreted the roles of their instruments in the context of this particular song perfectly, and I cannot thank or praise them enough for the production value they brought to the song.

Q: Was there a pivotal moment in your life when you decided “yeah, I’m going to do this” and become a musician?

SAM: My parents got me into music very young, playing the piano and later the French Horn, under the guidance and teaching of my Dad, who is a trombone and sackbut specialist and music teacher. Later I stopped playing the French Horn and moved back to the piano, teaching myself to play songs like Skyfall and Lily Allen’s version of Somewhere Only We Know, which both have prominent and recognisable piano accompaniments (I now have lessons in Jazz piano with Kieron Garret, whose teaching has given me the jazz theory knowledge that has heavily influenced some other songs on the album)

It was only when I discovered Jamie Cullum that I began to become more interested in singing – I found that many of his songs fell within the same vocal range that my then-untrained voice was most comfortable in, so I began learning Gran Torino. This was in 2018, and at the same time, my Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. I would sit and learn the song at the piano in our living room, while she recovered from chemotherapy on the sofa. Being an ex-professional opera singer, she helped me with tips and pointers when singing it and would later be the one to suggest that I audition for the annual singing competition at my school. Singing Gran Torino and accompanying myself on the piano, I won by a ‘significant margin’ of votes and if there was any moment when I decided to become a real musician, it was then! 

Q: What is the music scene like in South West London?

SAM: I live in Kingston Upon Thames, and in the town centre alone I can count 3 music venues off the top of my head, plus a thriving high street where buskers compete for the best spots, so I think it’s pretty good! One of those venues is The Grey Horse pub which features the performance space of Ram Jam Records, the spirit of the legendary Ram Jam Club which was once host to Jimmy Hendrix. Just down the road in Barnes is The Bull’s Head, a small but busy jazz club/pub which I’ve been to a few times and performed at once. Pryzm Kingston is often host to huge stars, including recently Jamie Cullum (who I’ve seen there twice!), Michael Buble, Rex Orange County and Jake Bugg. I couldn’t believe it when I heard Jamie Cullum was going to be doing his ‘Taller’ album release show there – I’ve never spent money so fast! 

Q: What do you do when you aren’t working on music?

SAM: Outside of music my passions are science and sport. Instead of taking up my place at Exeter University, I took a gap year working at Sussex House Prep in London as a member of the sports department (getting paid to play football with kids!)and applied for degree apprenticeships at pharmaceutical companies like Vertex, UCB and GlaxoSmithKline. I was successful in my application to UCB, and I now work full time as a lab scientist apprentice at their state-of-the-art facility in Slough, while also studying for a degree in Applied Bioscience.

In terms of sport, I’ve played rugby, competed in the Javelin and 300m events at English Schools Athletics Association competitions, and achieved a black belt in Karate, although my focus now is Field Hockey. I currently play for Barnes Hockey Club Men’s 1st XI in the London Premier League and have been coaching the juniors at my local club for 4 years. I also love table tennis, football and surfing.

Q: Any parting words for your fans?

SAM: If you’ve listened to any of my music, thank you! “Long Way Round” is just one in a 10-song album that I released in August, so if you like this one, please go and check out the rest. As a young independent artist, the only real way I can grow my fanbase is by people sharing my music, so if you know anybody who you think will like it, sending it to them would be such a massive help!

Although I always write from a very personal perspective, I hope that my music resonates with you and any stories you may have of your own. I’m continuing to seek new inspiration in different styles, working to expand my genre and appeal to a broader variety of musical tastes.

I aim to write a little every day, and new music is always in the pipeline. Thank you for listening x

Reviewed & Interviewed by Dana L. Sullivan




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