Sweden’s reputation as a conveyor belt of musical pre-eminence isn’t curtailing anytime soon: a new generation of young musicians exploiting the potent power of the streaming era are well on their way to becoming the next big exports. Born in Gothenburg, Sam Ezeh grew up on the confection-hit pop his country branded, but as a teen navigating his own whims and desires, he made a conscious decision to venture down the more autonomous route.
“Sweden has a lot of talented musicians, but often only the more commercial ones break though and make it internationally,” Ezeh says. “That doesn’t mean there isn’t variety here. There’s freedom to pursue what you want and there are more alternative scenes. Music is a huge part of the culture because music education at a young age is encouraged.”
Only 20, there’s a guileless aura about the now Stockholm-based Ezeh; an essence that reflects his DIY spirit. Debut single ‘Crisis’, set the tone for intricate world-building beyond his years: neo- psychedelia and cinematic funk playing out motifs of teen angst, sun-dappled nostalgia and nocturnal theatrics. “It’s the one song that feels completely natural, like I can’t even remember how I finished it. It’s a song where everything from the vocals to the production just came together nicely. It’s my favourite from the EP,” he confesses.
It was Childish Gambino’s seminal album ‘Awaken, My Love!’ that roused his impressionistic ear for retro sounds. “After hearing that album, I started exploring the world of 60s and 70s soul and funk: Funkadelic were a key inspiration because they fused rock and soul, as did Jimi Hendrix. I realized then that I’m a bit of an old soul,” he reflects.
Ezeh is the hyper-adept prodigy at the helm; writing, producing, mixing and even directing his own visuals: the video for ‘Crisis’ is a showcase in idiosyncratic flair – a trippy piece of surrealist, voyeuristic cinema. “I love videos that are really hard to pinpoint, that have this otherworldly vibe making it hard to contextualise and identify what’s going one,” he muses. Like many artists incumbered by the stranglehold of the pandemic, Ezeh had to rely on his own virtuosity to piece the visual together: “The video was me asking myself what can you do with what you have? There was no budget, no extras – just me in my room. It’s in those moments you become your most creative.”
Later this month, the crooner will release his debut project, ‘Night At Ezeh’s’. Recorded between 2018 and Spring of last year, it’s a fully-formed, expansive body of work: a gateway to spacey escapades, mantra-like interludes and of course the dawn of young love. A warm, tranquilizing listen, Ezeh has fashioned a hermetic project intended to be consumed as a whole. “I wanted the EP to be unified in feel and sound,” he says. “The ‘Sundown’ Intro transitions into ‘Crisis’, and there’s an Interlude which represents the middle, and the final song is like the closing credits to a film. I wanted it to feel like one story.”
Sam Ezeh’s voice is supple and serene; an instrument he pitches, amplifies and layers to create euphonious vocal moments. On EP closer ‘Makes My Night’, he evokes Prince’s siren-like harmonics with technical precision, never compromising on visceral emotion. “I hear harmonies in my head, but the hard part is getting it out and making it a reality. I really enjoy layering. Most of the time I don’t have a lead track for the vocals; I’m improvising and recording multiple takes that I then stack,” Ezeh explains.
Sam Ezeh’s in a continual state of evolution; the unfurling of his artistry is a gradual process. Asked what he wants listeners to take away from his music, his reply reflects his unfeigned persona: “I want them to be in it for the long haul. ‘Night At Ezeh’s’ is an invitation to my world, and I hope they continue on this journey with me. Even if my work isn’t perfect, I want them to at least see the vision behind it.”
With a new EP due in fall, Ezeh is laying the groundwork for permanency in a game that breeds imitators. To him, there’s nothing more vital than calibrating his craft on his own terms: “This last year, being in Lockdown, has forced me to practice my music, perfect my guitar and improve my singing, but also pursue other things outside of it, that I can bring back to my art. That’s a healthy balance I want to maintain going forward.”
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Words: Shahzaib Hussain
Photo Credit: Lovisa Lager
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