As soon as I stumbled across the divine creation that is ‘You Broke My Heart So Gently’ by a singer/songwriter Sam Tompkins, I made it my mission to unleash everything there is about this 22-year-old from Brighton.
Sitting in a studio in the heart of Fulham, London, on a very comfortable coach I might say, Tompkins and I get right into it as he sips on a can of coke in pastel pink pants with a white sweatshirt and a matching white beanie. It is fair to say that Tompkins’ career binds together a guitar gifted by his dad and their car rides, a local Brighton skate shop, and a friend that appeared to be at the right place at the right time.
At the age of eleven to twelve, on his way to a football training with his dad, Tompkins remembers singing in the car. Not being able to think of the exact song, though Tompkins did not forget what his dad said: “I remember it was funny because he said ‘you might even be better than your older brother Jack’ and I remember being like, oh, that’s cool because my brother did Performing Arts at school, he acted and stuff”.
Moving on to four years later, when Tompkins was just off to his 16th birthday, having spent his present money on ‘absolute rubbish,’ he found himself longing for a hat with empty pockets. This sparked an idea in Tompkins’ friend group to raise money for it by singing on the street. Still, to this day, Tompkins recollects the nerve-wracking situation; however, a situation with a silver lining.
“At this point, I can’t play guitar or anything. So I was just purely singing, and I made enough for the hat and then enough food for all my friends afterward. So how much was that? It was like 50, 60 quid in like half an hour. I thought I should probably think about doing this more often. Because I didn’t have a job and it would be perfect as I don’t have to do anything difficult. I can just get better at singing, and then I can become more confident, and that’s really where it all started”, Tompkins describes the beginning of his journey.
Sixteen was a pivotal time in Tompkins’ life as he also appeared in a duo called ‘Young Rascals’ with a song ‘Let You Down.’ When making this track, Tompkins with his bandmate made two recordings of this track. Once again, the universe works in mysterious ways, as one night at a local pub, Tompkins got asked for rolling papers by the one person who got a long-gone first-ever recording of ‘Let You Down.’
Tompkins tells the story: “It was the first recording that was really bad. I listened to it because he played it for me. I was like ‘please airdrop that to me.’ I’ve been waiting for someone to have it because I do have the second recording, which was a bit better. That was like the first time I ever recorded with a microphone. It’s a bit crazy”.
“I felt so moved. I had to give him a hug because I was like, ‘oh man, you don’t even realize how much this means to me being able to hear this.’ It was just crazy because we must have had about four or five fans at that stage and for him to have that recording and him being one of those people, it’s absolutely mental”.
When he began to take his singing more seriously, Tompkins started busking but was wondering it might need something more like an instrument. “My dad gave me a guitar because I said I wanted to learn. I never tuned it because I didn’t know how to. So then when I was learning the chords, I was like this doesn’t sound right. That’s because my guitar was fully out of tune that hadn’t been touched for two and a half years. I learned how to take care of a guitar, and it really taught me quite a lot about valuing my possessions because I just remember loving that guitar so much not wanting anything to touch it. I’m sure it’s scuffed pieces now, and it looks terrible”, he revives.
When you google Sam Tompkins’ name, several viral videos come up of him side by side with a multi-instrumentalist Ren. It’s been a while since I came across artists this passionate about street performing, so I’ve wondered about their story. As soon as Tompkins commences yet another story, he gets a hint emotional: “The way we met, it’s such a lovely story. Ren is probably the reason I picked up a guitar. I was busking, and I remember when I used to sing, I put my hands behind my back, and I didn’t know what to do with them”.
“I remember one time this guy comes walking down the road, and he’s stopped, and he’s watching for such a long time. He came up to me ‘hey, would you like to play my guitar?’, and I was like, ‘I can’t play guitar’, he said ‘alright, I’ll play the guitar for you, I can pick up the chords and stuff for you, and you keep all the money’. We got such a crowd because he gave me a microphone as well. So everyone could hear me, and he said it all up, and I’ve got videos of it as well, which is another amazing thing about having a phone to being able to have those”, Tompkins also reveals people mistaking them for a duo because of their continuous performing. Though their friendship and magnified talent did mother a smash hit ‘Blind Eyed.’
After writing ‘You Broke My Heart So Gently,’ a record of raw emotion, a chorus that can make you cry and a message of a rather positive tone, it seems like this is what Tompkins is supposed to be doing. This track instated a realization for him as well. “I wrote ‘You Broke My Heart So Gently’ last year and it was just such a moving moment for me when I listened back to it. I can really portray my emotions via music more than I ever believed I could. My voice sounded so tender like it’s been longing for the message to come out. And after that, all my music is now just about a personal experience, or I’m writing from a third-person perspective on someone else’s life. I like either being a narrator for my own life or a narrator other people’s or people I’ve seen”, he elaborates.
Funnily enough, in May last year when Tompkins wrote ‘YouBroke My Heart So Gently,’ he posted it on SoundCloud. It was getting too many hits, so he decided to take it down and worked to release the track properly with a label. Now what we’ve all been waiting for, what is the track about? Who inspired Tompkins to compose such a powerful record? Trust me when I say this, it is probably not what you think.
Tompkins has all the answers: “I was in a relationship up until last February in 2018, and we were the best of friends, but that was all it was by the end of it. When we split up, we were on really good terms, but as time went on, I was like I’m fine being single because I was kind of single anyway if that makes sense because I wasn’t quite in love. It just wasn’t that connection that you would have with a partner who’s like a best friend. And as time went on, I just realized I was missing my best friend. So I wrote that song because it’s a shame once you split from someone. It’s hard, especially when you’re young, and you’re still learning”.
“It’s one of those things where you drift apart for a while and then maybe one day become friends again. But that’s what the song was about. It’s just about being in a mature enough relationship where you don’t hate the person afterward, and you don’t constantly bitch about them any chance you get. So I wrote a song that was about the fact that I don’t have anything horrible to say almost wish I did because then it would be easier”.
As you will read on, visuals that match a storyline of a track are hard to execute and get right. Sam Tompkins took on this challenge as a writer and co-director of the music video and done a phenomenal job. As soon as I asked about the concept, his face lit up, and he got excited to explain key scenes of the video: “When you get your heart broken when you split from someone, it’s like you’re losing them. You’re grieving, and you’re losing a loved one as they died. That’s when I was just like, oh what if I played on that and then that whole idea of like it starts with me being told ‘oh we can’t do this to ourselves anymore, we’ve gotta let go.’ I was thinking that would be so cool if you could say that and it turns out that’s like my girlfriend’s mom telling me we’ll have to take off life support at the end. I love telling stories”.
“I couldn’t believe that I’d thought of that one myself. It was like there’s one thing writing a song but write in a visual that fits the song is on another level. I’ve got almost all my songs now where I think about a video once I’ve written them straight away. That makes the song even more fun for me. I showed it to my mom for the first time. She couldn’t believe it. She was crying her eyes out, that means I’m doing a good job. That’s exactly what I wanted”.
Following the successful ‘You Broke My Heart So Gently’ release, Tompkins put out ‘Critical,’ another song from his new EP ‘From My Sleeve To The World’ that is coming on October 9th. “It’s a lovely song. When I say lovely is quite aggressive. It’s a very fitting song for this generation where we have so much to say about people online. But as we saw them in real life, we’d never say half the stuff that we’re saying online, and that’s what it’s about. It’s about my personal experience with cyberbullying, but not so bullying I don’t really think of it like that. I think there are people online trying to get me to rise to that, and I would never do that”, Tompkins touches upon a topic that is very crucial in this DNA age and also shares a new music video for ‘Critical.’
Even by reading this interview, you can sense the growth in Tompkins confidence and maturity. From being scared to perform on the street in front of few people, he is now putting things in motion. He believes in his work, lyrics, music, and would not shed away from more opportunities in acting and directing. On his Twitter page, Tompkins said to watch out for where he will be in a year. So I asked him. Where does he see himself this time next year?
“In a year’s time if I can be in a place where people don’t quite understand English or can’t even speak it, but they know my lyrics because that’s what happens. I see it in documentaries all the time. They’ll be like what they’ll be speaking to the fans beforehand before the show, and they’ll be speaking in their native language with subtitles. And then when you see them later on in the show, they’re singing word for word, and I’m thinking like how do you do that?”
While Tompkins is manifesting a world tour, you can get tickets for his tour ‘From My Sleeve To England’ and ‘From My Sleeve To Ireland’ in November.
Originally I intended to portray Sam Tompkins as an artist to watch, that he 100% is. But he is also much more than that. The way he appreciates his fans for listening to his music is heartwarming and is not a personality trait every artist has. His growth and talent are unstoppable and unique. If you’re not on the Tompkins wagon yet, make sure to hop on, one listen to ‘You Broke My Heart So Gently’ will get you wanting a permanent ticket.
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Words: Karolina Kramplova