Pop singer/songwriter Sam DeRosa discusses her musical journey, from co-writing lovelytheband’s hit “broken” to creating intimate outpourings of her very own in new single “Baby I Know.”
Sam DeRosa has always been a storyteller with a musical gift. From writing “books upon books of songs” as a child to singing and playing her originals as a teenager, to attending the esteemed Berklee College of Music as a young adult, the New York native knew from a young age that her calling lay in the music world. “Songwriting helped me find my voice and figure out who I am,” DeRosa explains.
After spending the past few years co-writing songs with artists like lovelytheband (and their hit single “broken”), Welshly Arms, and Midnight Kids & Jared Lee, DeRosa recently took the ultimate plunge into an artistic career of her own. As a pop singer/songwriter, DeRosa her channels stories and heartfelt authenticity through an evocative, expressive voice and nuanced lyrics. Her recent singles “Hard to Love” and “Hate Me” find her delivering raw yet polished performances that capture the emotional complexity of relationships – from love’s blossom to painful breakups, and all the messiness in-between. In her latest single “Baby I Know,” her first via a major label (Monument Records via Sony Music), DeRosa captures sadness and vulnerability while maintaining a spirited disposition throughout an intimate and meaningful confrontation.
First you say I’m crazy
Then you’ll be too busy
And later you call, try to bury it all
What’s happening lately?
I don’t wanna fight
I just wanna talk about it
Something’s on your mind
Think it’s time to talk about it
You say that you’re fine
And you don’t wanna talk about it
(You don’t wanna talk about it)
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the lyric video for Sam DeRosa’s song “Baby I Know,” released July 12 via Monument Records. Far more subdued and less produced than her previous releases, the latest addition to DeRosa’s repertoire finds her spilling her heart out in song as she retells a powerful moment from her own life: “It’s extremely me,” DeRosa tells Atwood Magazine. “It is from a real place and it’s a true story, so I feel very close to it and I knew when I was writing it that it was a “me” song and not a songwriter pitch song.”
DeRosa continues: “This song was so open and honest that it would’ve felt weird to over produce it or make it a club banger, in my opinion. I like when the lyrics and mood match the instrumentation of a song. I think this message was about vulnerability and confronting a person who was fragile… I also wanted a transition from those other two songs to show the different hats that I will be wearing for my artist stuff. This song felt like the best segue into the new music.”
A single listen to Sam DeRosa’s voice is all one needs to get hooked on her enchanting, emotionally empowered music: She channels that same enthusiasm she showed in her youth, into every inch of space throughout her catchy, affecting songs. Get to know Sam DeRosa and her music via our in-depth interview below, and stream the “Baby I Know” interview exclusively on Atwood Magazine! Sam DeRosa will feature later this summer on
Stream: “Baby I Know” – Sam DeRosa
MEET SAM DEROSA
Atwood Magazine: Hi Sam! As we get started, I’d just love to hear about your musical background and how you got started writing songs?
Sam DeRosa: Hi! Well, my mom auditioned for my dad’s band in the Bronx when she was fresh out of high school. He was a little older. They ended up dating, falling in love, and having a whole musical family. I’m the middle child and everyone sings or plays an instrument. I started writing songs VERY young. It was therapy for me and I was always writing poems, so lyrics came first. I think, being in such a big family with such similar gifts, it was that little X-factor that made me feel like I had something special and separate. I wrote books upon books of songs as a kid, until I finally taught myself piano and started making songs. My childhood was always fun, loud, loving, and kind of wild, so music was my time to kind of quiet the world and hear what my heart was thinking. Songwriting helped me find my voice and figure out who I am.
Do you consider yourself a performer who picked up the pen, or a songwriter who got into performance – or some kind of hybrid?
DeRosa: Definitely a hybrid! I was singing on stage and doing theater as young as 5. My first song I was 8. But I didn’t perform any originals until about 15. Performing is such a love for me.
Who are your greatest musical influences nowadays?
DeRosa: Hmm. I love Pink. Always have and always will. She’s just such a legacy artist and so real, in my opinion. Influence wise, my family raised me on a mix of progressive rock and pop because they were in a band- so it’s a strange combination of rock bands with Stevie Nicks, Alanis Morisette, some Madonna, and boy bands like *NSYNC haha. Current music wise, I’m reallllly loving Pink Sweat$!
How do you describe your music to, say, your parents and grandparents?
DeRosa: I tell them it is honest, story-telling pop that you can either cry to or dance to. They seem to approve!
Do you have any relationship with lovelytheband outside of that one song you wrote, that one time?
DeRosa: I’m such fans of those guys. I met Mitchy in summer 2016 before they were a band. The week we met we had actually co-written two songs with Christian Medice. They were “emotion” and “broken,” both on the first album. Because Mitchy lived in LA, and I was in NY until last year, I hadn’t seen him again until broken hit radio. Such a wild ride. I didn’t meet the other guys until they sold out The Troubadour (in LA) and we met for the first time! I remember crying when they played the songs and just thinking “look at these guys go.”
How much of the “broken” story is yours, would you say? Were you a conduit helping lovelytheband’s Mitchy Collins tell his story, or were you an active participant as well in this sense of brokenness?
DeRosa: He was one of my earlier co-writes ever with an artist. It was 3 years ago as of June which is so wild. Christian invited me in that day to a hot studio in Brooklyn where myself, him, and Mitchy, just kind of talked. I was extremely nervous, so I was more focused on rhyming “broken” and “lonely” and being the editor that day. I really wanted to do a good job. Mitchy had so many ideas and I just remember thinking “woah, this guy’s good.” I think a big part of being a co-writer and songwriter is knowing when to let the artist tell their story and when to make it about you. It’s a healthy balance of being open but doing your job. That day was about me wearing my writer hat and letting him tell his story. I wasn’t the artist. He was. I’d like to think of it as a dance where everyone’s contributed and the result is just this beautiful thing that flows so nicely and you want to play over and over. I’m truly so grateful for that song and to those guys.
I think a big part of being a co-writer and songwriter is knowing when to let the artist tell their story and when to make it about you.
Certainly penning “broken” helped advance your career; can you talk about some other songs you co-wrote before beginning your solo career?
DeRosa: There’s actually one out now that’s doing pretty well on dance radio and I’m excited! It’s called “Those Were the Days” by the Midnight Kids & Jared Lee. I wrote with Welshly Arms for the single “Learn To Let Go.” I’ve also written a few songs with Adam Jensen, called “Mystic” and “Drugs.” I have a few more coming this Fall! Very grateful for that.
How has working with Shane McAnally changed the shape or sound of your music?
DeRosa: He is amazing. Honestly, he just reminds me to stay honest and follow that moment in my body when the goosebumps come. That’s when I’ll know the song is good and when it’s done.
You debuted last year with “Hard to Love.” Why introduce yourself with that song?
DeRosa: I think that song’s backstory is what made it win me over. It felt the most honest and like me. I wrote it after a fight with my boyfriend at the time. I went in to the studio to write for pitch and the producer knew something was wrong. The song’s lyrics were done in like an hour or less and then I remember wanting to dance through it and not cry. It felt like the day my “sound” was kind of born, while also feeling like it gave a good depiction of the type of person I am. For those reasons, I wanted it out.
One thing I love about “Hard to Love” is that it captures this incredible breadth in you voice. Jumps like these can be so difficult for singers to nail, and yet you ran out of the gate with it! Is this an assertion, for you: Like, “This is me: Here’s my full self!”?
DeRosa: Thank you!! That’s so nice and I’m glad you asked this haha. I have a tendency of wanting to push myself vocally. It means a lot to me that I’m a singer. I really love to sing and I’ve worked hard on my voice. I think vocal performance and note choices are synonymous with lyrics. Notes matter to really push a song’s message. So the raw, breathy, but in your face falsetto jumps in “Hard To Love” felt like they did that for me.
“Hate Me” seems to capture the emotional complexity of messy breakups. What inspired that song for you?
DeRosa: Ugh. That song. I love it so much. I had the title in my phone forever. My best friend from home ended a 5 year relationship over the weekend and it was one of those “we need to end but nobody wants to just pull the plug.” I’ve been through that before. When I went into the room, the guy I was working with was dealing with the exact situation. He described himself as a producer who doesn’t write — that’s my favorite challenge because I think anyone has the power to write a song if they can be open with the way they tell a story. So, I asked him questions, related back to mine and my friend’s stories, and then put the pieces together. For that song, a lot of the melodies came first. I took the mic and just started singing.
How much of your music would you say is based on real experience? Do you take from personal goings-on, or is songwriting ever a fantastical escape?
DeRosa: This is such an important question. My whole life, I thought I had to self-sabotage to get good songs. I started believing that I couldn’t get good music unless I was sad, heartbroken, or anxious. I now know that this is not the case. I’m still actively towing the line and balancing with my emotions and mental health about it, but I don’t have to be sad to write sad songs. Happy people can write sad songs. For me, I just have the channel old wounds, or get deep into my thoughts to feel something. It ends up being great therapy and I remind myself of my strength in my ability to do that. I really want to say that and I’m happy you asked because, today I fear we are promoting a culture that sometimes let’s depression be mandatory across the board. I think good songwriting comes with a mental toolbox that you use to jump in out of a storybook. Today, we have a need for sad songs, but I don’t want young listeners or writers thinking they can’t live a beautiful, happy life and still get great music- even sad music. You can.
You finally released your third song, “Baby I Know,” over the past month! How does this song differ from your previous two releases, in your mind.
DeRosa: This song is the most me to date, by far. I’m so proud of it because for so long I let myself think I had to keep trying and writing something “better,” or “cooler.” What does that even mean?! When I quieted all the voices and opinions, I listened back to this song and realized how much it needed to be released. I’m so proud of it.
Is this your most “you” song to date?
DeRosa: Definitely! It’s extremely me. It is from a real place and it’s a true story, so I feel very close to it and I knew when I was writing it that it was a “me” song and not a songwriter pitch song. That was so important.
One thing I personally love about “Baby I Know” is that it’s so much more subdued that your previous two releases; its groove sustains it, and the music speaks for itself. Can you talk about stepping away from bombastic choruses and letting things flow? How did that come, for you?
DeRosa: Thank you! Yes, it really was. This song was so open and honest that it would’ve felt weird to over produce it or make it a club banger, in my opinion. I like when the lyrics and mood match the instrumentation of a song. I think this message was about vulnerability and confronting a person who was fragile. I wasn’t going to yell at this person, so I wouldn’t belt in my chorus. I wasn’t mad at them, so the high crazy notes felt a little strange to put here. I treated this song and the production like what the conversation would sound like, musically. So, I had to step away from the dance floor for a second but still keep some good vibes within the post. I also wanted a transition from those other two songs to show the different hats that I will be wearing for my artist stuff. This song felt like the best segue into the new music.
“Baby I Know” has had some incredible early reception so far; why do you think that is? What is it about this song that’s getting folks’ attention?
DeRosa: Man, if I knew the answer I would be copy and pasting the secret sauce onto every song from now on haha! I have no idea other than the fact that I didn’t over think this one. I didn’t over think it when I wrote it, when we produced it, and when it was released it was just kind of waving its hands. Truly, I think we are in a time where the world is over saturated and inundated with music, social media stars, and the news. Since there’s so much out there, people can smell when it’s fake and when it’s bull. People believe the real stuff. I’m not saying I’m the realest person ever and that my word is bond, but this song was very real and honest. I’m going to choose to tell myself that this is a reason why it’s sticking, because then I’ll maintain my authenticity as a human and artist!
I’m not saying I’m the realest person ever and that my word is bond, but this song was very real and honest.
Because this is a lyric video, let’s talk lyrics! This song is about calling someone out for their BS, right? What’s the significance of this experience in real life for you? What about this experience made it inspirational – enough to write a song about it?
DeRosa: It’s so funny because I think it sounds like I’m calling them out for BS, which I kind of am, but I wasn’t mad. I was worried. So worried. Like that feeling when you can’t swallow kind of worried. Something about the look in this person’s eyes and the conversations over a few days felt so strange. Like he was drifting..hiding, really. It broke my heart to feel that I could love someone so much and have them be there for me through it all, but that they were scared to need somebody or be vulnerable. This song was kind of my conversation with him. “Hey, I know this is what’s happening because these are the steps you take and the dance we do when you lie.” I kind of just repeated what I saw and what he was doing. I figured that was the only way to tell him that I’m not buying it, but I’m also not leaving or giving up unless he tells me to.
I’m painting all these pictures
Of what’s been going down
I’ve imagined the worst
So what could be worse?
Can’t we just fix it?
I don’t need more things
I just wanna talk about it
Driving me insane
Think it’s time we talk about it
You say you’re okay
And you don’t wanna talk about
(You don’t wanna talk about it)
“It’s in the promises you make, it’s in the words you never say; every smile that you fake, we’re denying.” Where did this great set of lines come from?
DeRosa: They were the truth! I thought about what happens when he lies, and what everyone does when they lie. That mixed with me trying to rhyme!
Ultimately, your first three songs do all center around romance. Is this your main focus as a songwriter?
DeRosa: I think the first part of my project will be, yes. Love is basically center of everything around me, good or bad. So, I will probably talk about it a lot. There are other concepts in my songs coming out too. Some internal battles, friend trouble, etc. I think love was the best thing to write about for this long because it felt the most relatable to me.
What’s coming around the bend for Sam DeRosa in the near and far future? How are you looking to keep up the hype this year?
DeRosa: You’re nice to even tell me that there’s “hype!” I’m here for it haha. Honestly, I’ve learned that the more I’m me and I just keep putting out music or playing shows, the energy flow will continue. I don’t want to be fluff anything, and so far it’s all been the real facts and real success that have gotten me anywhere. So I’ll keep that up!
If you can look back in 2020, what will make 2019 a “successful” year for you?
DeRosa: 2019 for me is the fact that I’m already celebrating a platinum record and a record breaking song as a songwriter. The gratitude is endless there. When I look back in 2020 on this year, I think the success will be me taking what I’ve learned, and the success of that songwriter life to channel everything I own / as into being an artist. 2019 is me stepping fully into the light of my artist project.
Stream: “Baby I Know” – Sam DeRosa
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