Sam Buckingham is making Art for their audience through Patreon. Their latest music offering released – first there – is a tune called Real Life, which in October 2019 they’ll tour across Australia to share LIVE in person. In this extended feature chat, Buckingham warmly shoots the breeze with radionotes about getting into Yoga, how working in the field of festival sparked them to be on the stage and the yarn of Kasey Chambers’ mother… who changed their view on merchandise and much more.
They’ve toured in recent years with James Reyne, Diesel as well as selling out their own Hammer & Love Tour – now is your chance to settle in with a cuppa and hear the warmth, as well infectious laugh of this heartfelt Singer/Songwriter with two acclaimed albums (I’m A Bird and Water) with a fan focused approach as they strive to create for their audience…
To listen, click the green ‘play’ triangle… [note: may take few seconds to load]
(Transcript of Sam Buckingham chat below, check to delivery in audio)
Real Life | October 2019 tour dates: 4th Junk Bar, Ashgrove QLD – 5th Dusty Attic, Lismore NSW – 11th Low 302, Sydney NSW – 12th Smith’s Alternative, Canberra ACT – 25th Wesley Anne, Northcote VIC
IMAGE CREDIT: Elisha Lindsay
SHOW NOTES: Sam Buckingham episode
Where to find the show to subscribe/follow:
- PlayPodcast – this link directs you, to the Podcast app on your device (subscribe to not miss an episode)
….or you may prefer to Search “radionotes Podcast” in your favourite podcatcher.
FEATURE GUEST: Sam Buckingham
- Official Site
- Instagram – Facebook – Twitter
- Patreon – here is where can support Buckingham from a dollar a month (if you wish)
- Hammer & Love (Official Music Video)
- Bryon Bay Music Festival (Official Site)
- Washington, Lissie and Buckingham – 2011 Gig Review (AUReview)
- Lissie (Official Site)
- Megan Washington (Official Site)
- I’m A Bird – Sam Buckingham (Album)
- Hit We With Your Heart (LIVE at Music Feeds – WARNING: Coarse Language)
- Humming Chain – Camille Trial (Official Music Video)
- Benjamin James Caldwell (Bandcamp)
- Wave Yoga Living (Official Site)
- Venetta Fields (Wiki)
- Timothy James Bowen (Official Site) What Love Is (Music Video)
- Hannah Acfield (Bio – Official Site)
- Zoe Hauptmann (SIMA) and Dan Stanley Freeman (Instagram)
- Wax On Wraps (Official Site)
- Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert (Book – Dymocks)
- James Reyne (Official Site)
- Kasey Chambers (Official Site)
- Kate Carragher (About – Official Site)
- Songs That Made Me – Katie Noonan (Album) tune Another Day In Paradise (Spotify)
- Real Life – Sam Buckingham (Single) available on Apple Music or Spotify
- Patreon post
- Drowning In The Sound (Official Music Video) made with the support of their online community
- NME story about the release, 8th August 2019
- Official Website – great one stop for all, including country related shop/s to get latest record (& merch)
- The Art of Asking (TED)
- There Will Be No Intermission – Album (Bandcamp)
I Heart Songwriting Club: Playlist
I Heart Songwriting is a global online community, which Buckingham’s ‘Real Life’ has been added to the following 300+ playlist of original music…
- The Songs We Made (Spotify)
…also on the list is our past guest Audra Santa, who’s radionotes’ chat you can listen to here.
Next Episode: Jason King of Bells Milk Bar
More details on playpodcast here, thanks to Matt from them.
[Radio Production – notes: Buckingham chat takes the full episode, suggested tune: Real Life by Sam Buckingham. To make hour can drop after interview out-sting to fit]
Theme/Music: Martin Kennedy and All India Radio
Web-design/tech: Steve Davis
Voice: Tammy Weller
You can make direct contact with the podcast – on the Contact Page
For direct quotes check to audio, first version of transcript by Dale L at REV
Tammy Weller – Introduction: As a trash collector at the prestigious Bluesfest, Sam Buckingham looked to the stage there for the revelation of what their future would be about… that of music and performance. Many releases later – including their latest Real Life – they have travelled, learnt and through it all remained open to the expression of the heart. Recently extended their connection of mind through Yoga to now be a teacher of the form. Buckingham has shared the stage with the likes of Kasey Chambers and Diesel. Recently completing their own National Tour of Australia for their tune Hammer and Love, from their acclaimed album The Water. Fresh from a long walk, they joined radionotes for a chat…
(John Murch: Sam Buckingham, welcome to radionotes, can you explain to us a little bit about that travel that you were doing back then?)
Sam Buckingham: I lived in Latin American for an undefined period of time, which ended up being about 18 months. And when we were deciding where we wanted to go we basically had two rules, there had to be surfing for him and there had to be yoga for me. That was the only criteria. So he’d already been to Costa Rica previously, and so he said to me, “I want to go somewhere in Costa Rica,” so I googled yoga, surf, Costa Rica and The Yoga Farm was the first result that came up and I clicked on it, and he was actually at work at the time, and I read it for about three and a half seconds, and I emailed him the link and I said, “This is where we have to,” and exactly at that moment I wrote an application, they have working roles so you can go and pay a very small amount of what you’d normally pay to stay there and you work the rest of the time farming and things like that.
Sam Buckingham: And so I wrote this super nerdy application for the both of us, I put in every single thing that either of us had ever done on anything related to permaculture or farming or environmental health, which is my partner’s background and I talked about volunteer work that I’d done in Borneo, for the orangutans and I just talked about anything I possibly could, basically screaming at them, “Please let us come and work for you. Please let us come and work for you.” And they emailed us back really quickly and said, “You sound overqualified for this job, we would love to have you.” And we ended up actually living and working there for about three months, and by the end of the three months we were helping them with a lot of stuff on the farm and really felt part of the family. And we plan to go back actually, we considered moving there for the rest of our lives, forever and ever. But Australia called us back home, but we’ll definitely be back.
John Murch: I want to take you back to the Byron Bay Blues Festival.
Sam Buckingham: Oh okay yup, mm-hmm (affirmative)?
John Murch: My understanding was that you were a cleaner, someone who was participating in the cleaning duties and that in fact was the start of a musical career.
Sam Buckingham: I volunteered to work at the festival… Do you know what? I don’t really know exactly why I felt so called to come to Byron Bay, because it’s where I live now… to come to Byron Bay and to go to that festival but I just knew that I had to, and I didn’t have any money, I was 16 at the time. And so I applied to volunteer and got a job picking up trash at the festival. And I just found myself, I was having a great time and I was watching all this music and I was meeting lots of great people, and I found myself in a tent one night, watching this incredible performer, and I just thought to myself, “I’m on the wrong side of the stage, I need to be up there, I need to be performing like this person’s performing,” and that was the start of me really pursuing songwriting and really pursuing performing in front of people.
Sam Buckingham: By pursuing, I mean at that point I was really only singing to family and friends and I was so nervous when I was singing, that I made them turn around or I would turn around, so that they couldn’t see me. And this was a really long time, it was like, “Okay, I really have to sing something to you but I don’t really want to seen.” I went back home and I started facing those fears and soon-ish I was up preforming in actual venues in front of people who I couldn’t make turn around because they were sitting and eating their dinner, right, whatever.
John Murch: Thinking, Sam, reverse chairs and singing your favorite songs is part of a national television show.
Sam Buckingham: Don’t even get me started on the journey I’m not wanting to be a part of.
John Murch: Why should you do covers?
Sam Buckingham: No, interestingly, I love singing cover songs, I actually really enjoy it. I’m thinking of recording a cover’s EP, later in the year. I really love singing other people’s songs, the thing about those kinds of shows that doesn’t work for me and I understand why it works for other artists, I’m absolutely not going to sit here and say, no one should do it. Everyone is on their own path and doing their own thing, and that’s absolutely fine. But for me personally, what doesn’t work for me about those shows is that it doesn’t seem like you have… and I have friends who have been on the show, so I have a first-hand account of it. It doesn’t seem like you have that much creative control, to me creative control is everything, and a little known secret/fact that not many people know, is that I did actually audition for The Voice, quite a number of years ago.
Sam Buckingham: They sent me an email asking me if I wanted to audition, so I went, you know what, hey I may as well go and do it. And I got through to the rounds where you go on the show, and they presented me with a contract and I read through the contract and then I proceeded to get very drunk with a couple of good friends, because I was finding it very difficult to make a decision and the night ended with me jumping on top of the couch, saying “F*** that. I will not be part of something that takes away my creative control.” And that was my decision made.
John Murch: The first time that I met Sam Buckingham was on the 11th of May 2011.
Sam Buckingham: Good memory, wow.
John Murch: Yeah, it’s a good memory because it was a good gig, and we were watching Lissie together, and we were waiting for Washington to take the stage at my local, that is quite a while ago. And I knew from that point that you were on a journey with your music career.
Sam Buckingham: That gig, that was an amazing gig actually, I remember that so vividly and actually I got that gig because I emailed Megan’s management and I said, “Hey, I heard that you’re doing this tour and you don’t have supports for Adelaide and Perth, can I be the opening act? You don’t have to pay me, I’ll get myself there, I just want to come and sing.” And that’s how I got the gig, they just decided to give me a shot. That was a really good lesson in asking for what you want.
Sam Buckingham: But where I was musically, those shows actually happened just before I got on a plan to go to Europe for six weeks Which was where I met my partner actually, we met over there, he’s Australian, but we met over there. I was writing my album I’m a Bird at the time, and actually after that night at The Gov, I felt so inspired that I went back to the hostel where I was saying, I was just staying in a dorm in the local hostel. And I wrote a song, which is Hit me with your Heart, which ended up on my album I’m a Bird, and I loved the song so much that I played it the next night at the next gig. Got an incredible response for it, and that was a really important moment for me in understanding the power of surrounding myself with music and people that inspire me. And the magic that happens when you are willing to put yourself in that place, and be in that space. And I’m like everybody else, I have imposter syndrome and I think that I don’t deserve food at the table or a place on the stage. I have those moments and every time I push through that fear and that feeling and I step into a space that I’m afraid of, magic happens. And that really happened to me.
Sam Buckingham: So after I finished those shows I went to Europe for six weeks, and I was writing, I had my little Mini Maton with me and I was writing and demo’ing for my next album, I’m a Bird, while I was traveling through Barcelona and we drove from Paris down through the South of France, and ate a lot of cheese. And I went and saw a whole lot of…, There’s all sorts of things that just opened my eyes to the world. And then I came home and got into recording the album.
John Murch: But that all started, as you mentioned, in Adelaide, South Australia, as things do sometimes.
Sam Buckingham: Yeah, yeah you know, it’s the place to be.
John Murch: That was 2011, you had very much an open heart, you were seeking to make connections at that point, and you did it sounds like romantically and continue to, we’re now eight years later, and the passion is still there for the music, what different direction are you now taking musically?
Sam Buckingham: That is a cool question, and it’s something I feel like I’m asking myself every day, I feel like my songwriting… As a songwriter, everything’s shifting all the time, as a human everything is shifting all the time. So I don’t feel like I’ve ever stayed for too long in one creative cycle, if that makes sense? So I view everything as a cycle so you have the peak of it and everything’s happening and going well, then you’re creating this awesome output and then it all dips down and you get ready to share it with the world. You share it with the world and everything peaks up again and then you need to soften back in to yourself, and fill your cup so you can and reach the next peak of the cycle. So I feel like, at the moment I’m more focused than ever on the lyrical content of my songs. I’ve always been all for the lyrics, but in the past when I’ve been writing, it’s whatever lyrics have stumbled out of me, that’s the song that’s being written, and I either accept or reject it.
Sam Buckingham: So a song will come out, and I’ll be like, “No that doesn’t really feel right, I’m not going to use that song,” or a song will come out and I’ll be like, “Yeah, that’s what I want to say, oh that’s not exactly what I thought I was going to say, but I think it sounds good, so I’m going to play that song,” and if it feels good, I go for it. Whereas now, I find myself really sitting down and asking in the moment when I’m writing the song, what am I trying to say here? What is the point that I want to get across? What is it that I need to really express? And basically I’m asking, what do I need to tell myself right now? What do I need to remind myself right now? How am I really feeling, what I really need to tap into myself right now?
Sam Buckingham: And actually, this morning is a really good example, I was writing this morning, I ended up writing for about three hours and completed this song, which I’m so proud of and so in love with, and as a songwriter the last song you always wrote is the best song you always wrote, so at the moment I’m on this high, I’m like, “I just wrote the best song ever.” That was with the three-hour intensive sit up, pay attention, write this song, really work it until I was really 100% happy with it. In the past, if I wasn’t feeling that fire within 10 or 15 minutes, the song would get scrapped. Whereas now, it’s almost like I’m tuning in on this deeper level of, okay, I feel like there’s something there, I haven’t quite touched it yet, how can I touch it? How can I reach it? And then I’m doing that work to get there.
Sam Buckingham: And also apart from lyric writing and really paying closer attention to that, I’m also experimenting with some new instruments. So I’ve got an electric guitar which is the new love of my life, and a loop pedal which is the actual funnest thing that I have ever created with. So some of the songs that I’ve already written, I’m changing them into songs that are performed with a loop pedal. And then some songs that I’m writing, right now in the moment, I’m writing with that instrument in mind. How am I going to use this in this song? I’m writing with that in mind, and that energy in mind that, that can be created as a solo artist with the loop set, that is super duper exciting to me, and I’m loving playing around with that.
John Murch: Is this there a level of acceptance, you were mentioning there, you know three hours, to allow a song to actually have a little bit more life in your day than previously?
Sam Buckingham: Yeah, totally. I think that the biggest practice of my life has always been patience, so much so, I actually have it tattooed on my wrist. It’s the word that I always have to remember and I constantly forget, and that’s really what it’s about for me. It’s having the patience with myself, having the patience with my practice, being willing to suck for a little while, until I reach where it is I want to reach. So a lot of it is about removing the ego from the process and going a little bit of a deeper layer under that and saying, “All right, what’s in here and how am I going to draw it out?” Instead of, “Oh it didn’t just come out straight away, I must suck, I’ll have to go and do something else.”
John Murch: That’s very counter to how our culture is these days, of the social media world of likes and shares and everything else, how are you focusing yourself Sam, to actually live in this world that is patient?
Sam Buckingham: God, I don’t know, it’s like a constant daily… how I’m focusing myself? I have a lot of practices and I have a lot of… I guess not rules, but for lack of a better word, in place that I worked out over time worked for me, so I have some practices like my yoga practice, which is a daily practice, which helps me to ground and stay present and not get so easily distracted, and not drop so easily into that egoic chasing mindset. But, I also have a lot of rules as well around putting my phone on airplane mode, that’s a massive one. So when I’m creating, when I’m writing I just flick it up and put on that little airplane sign, and then I actually move my phone out of my sight so that I can’t be distracted by whatever is asking for my attention at that time. So, that really helps, and I just have to fight myself a little bit, to be honest, to be really honest about it.
Sam Buckingham: I have to look at what I’m doing that’s sabotaging my effort to be a great songwriter or to have the life that I want and then do the opposite thing.
John Murch: You’ve stated that you’re actively pursuing betterness. Firstly betterness, I don’t know is a word, but let’s go with it. Actively pursuing betterness-
Sam Buckingham: I’m a songwriter, I can make up words if I want.
John Murch: Actively pursuing betterness.
Sam Buckingham: I think that I’ve spent a lot of time in my career trying to get heard, because that’s when you write songs and you want people to hear them, and you try to get heard. And that is fair enough, and that makes a lot of sense. I know why I did that and that’s okay, but I’m not so interested… okay this is strange, because I think I love what I’m doing more than I ever have and I care more about what I’m doing then I ever have, and it matters to me to make an impact and do great things more than it ever has. But I’ve stopped trying to get my music heard and instead I’m just trying to be better at what I do, and then send it out into the world. And, for me that’s just a little bit of a mental shift away from that external validation, which I have needed for a long time and into that internal validation where I am proud of what I’m creating on a deeper level.
Sam Buckingham: And where I’m actively trying to one-up myself every time I’m creating something, as opposed to actively trying to get someone else to tell me that I one-upped myself. There’s a concept in evolutionary psychology of the external audience and the internal audience, and the external audience matters because you need to know that you are appreciated in the world. And you need to know that you have value, and you need to know that you have a place and we are social beings and our whole society is built on this structure of providing value to each other. So the external validation actually is important. It actually does matter, but it doesn’t mean anything if your internal audience is saying, “Hah, you didn’t really try that hard on that thing. You put in 50% of the effort that you could of.”
Sam Buckingham: And, so I’m focusing on betterness. I want my internal audience to be proud of me, no matter what the external audience says.
John Murch: Let’s briefly look at the external audience, because what you are now doing, is you’re actually engaging them through the Patreon system and actually sharing when you’re ready, demo’s and the like, to get that feedback, I would think. Talk to me about that balance of when you’re ready to give that for that external feedback?
Sam Buckingham: Yeah, that’s a really tricky one, because in order to share a song, you have to be willing to have people say, “Nah, not that into it.” And for me, I go to Patreon and share these new song demos when I feel like it’s got something in it. And I’m asking my fans what they think, and I’m asking my fans, “Hey, should it be on the next album? Hey does this resonate with you?” Not because I want them to say, “Yeah, you’re awesome.” Or, “No, you’re not awesome.” But because my music is here to serve the people that want to hear it. So, as I’m working towards creating a new album, I’m going to put on it the songs that matter deeply to me. And there’s a whole process that happens in writing an album and ending up putting it together, where, I don’t know how it works for other people, but for me, like I’ve just got an ongoing list and I’m crossing something off the list and adding something to replace it, or I’m moving something from the maybe list, into the definitely list, or from the definitely list into hell no list, and it’s like constantly shuffling around as my life keeps changing and as my writing keeps evolving.
Sam Buckingham: And as I keep figuring out, what am I trying to say. What do I want to be giving here and to share on Patreon, is me saying, “Hey, my internal audience is really stoked with this for x, y, z reason.” And I usually really go into that and I share that and I say, “Hey, I love this song because… I was playing around with a new finger picking pattern that I’ve never tried before and this thing came out and so I’ve never actually written in this style before, so I’m really stoked that this happened. What do you think?” And I always want to know what they think, I always want to know whether it’s really gelling for them, but part of sharing it with other people, is about knowing how I feel when I share it with other people.
John Murch: That’s what you were saying before, is having that internal confidence first, before getting the external input, not necessarily view, but input of.
Sam Buckingham: Yeah, totally. And actually what I do now, also is when I write a new song that I’m really stoked with, I play it to my partner, because he will tell me the truth every single time. So, I want to hear his real true feedback. But what also happens in that moment, is when I’m playing it to him, I’ll either feel pumped and stoked and whatever the hell he says to me after that won’t make a difference, because I’ll be like, “That felt amazing and this song rocks.” Or, I’ll be playing it to him, and there’ll be some point in the song about, “Oh, I feel embarrassed. Oh, I feel not quite right.” And that will show me that, “Ah, when I’m sharing this with someone, I’m not actually saying what I wanted to say because my internal audience didn’t feel totally dazzed by that.” So it’s in the sharing I’m able to then check in with myself.
Sam Buckingham: But that aside, I mean I also really want to know what my fans think and I uploaded a demo a couple of months ago called, Real Life and they just loved it. Everyone was just like, “This is amazing. I just cried. This just felt so good. This song’s beautiful.” I shared this tiny little snippet because I don’t share the full songs with anyone other than my patron. I’ve shared tiny little snippets on Instagram and Facebook, and the same thing happened. I got messages and comments and all this stuff. People were saying, “Yes, yes this song, I feel it.” And so, that was just this strong clear message that the people who I’m making music for, felt something real when I played them that song.
Sam Buckingham: I went, ” Oh f*** it, I’m going on tour with this song. I’m going to record it and release it as a single and people love this song and want to hear it, so I want to play it.”
John Murch: October 2019, you will be doing a tour named, Real Life on the back of that very single, within the lyric it talks about the weight of a promise. How do you weigh things up in your life because you’ve got another song called, Weight, that talks about that walls of a partnership?
Sam Buckingham: Yeah. Yeah. Well two very important songs to me. My song, Weight, which is really new which is only released on Patreon, that was inspired by someone very close to me, going through some things in their relationship. Them going through that experience bought up a whole lot in my own head and heart about similar experiences that I’ve been through, and things in childhood and things like that. So, the line in Real Life, “The weight of a promise,” interestingly fell into that other song somehow. What that line means is when I was 21 or so, no when I was actually exactly 21, when I turned 21, my dad… at my 21st birthday party which I didn’t want to have, because I actually hate having birthday parties. I hate being the center of attention, unless I’m on stage or doing an interview. The rest of the time I just want to be in the background.
Sam Buckingham: So, I didn’t want to have a 21st birthday party, but everyone convinced me to do it, and my dad, who is the most beautiful man in the whole world, he did a little speech and he said, “I’m so proud of Sam, she’s so wonderful and her songs are beautiful and I think she’s brilliant and I think one day she’s going to be really big.” And in that moment, I was so embarrassed and I made some quip about, “Ah, do you mean big like size-wise, because I don’t want to be big.” And he was like, “No, I mean you could be really big.” And honestly from 21 years old, that expectation stuck with me until very recently, that expectation of you have to reach this pinnacle of external success, and that’s really key about this whole thing. And that’s just really been with me, to be honest, for a really long time. And really gotten into my head and really stopped me from living in the way that I want to, in a lot of ways.
Sam Buckingham: Even though I’ve had a wonderful life, but there’s always there lurking in the shadows and interestingly I actually said to my dad recently, I said, “Hey, remember how, when I was 21 you said this thing?” And I relayed it to him, and he went, “No? I don’t remember saying that.” I said, “Oh well, I’ve been carrying it around for a really long time, and I’ve been really feeling like this great expectation,” and I said, “I really have to live up to that and it’s really stressful.”
John Murch: Wrote down his phone number and went, “And here’s my address.” You know, “Anytime you actually want to talk about it maybe?”
Sam Buckingham: Yeah. Yeah. He said, “I’m really sorry about that, I didn’t mean to actually upset you.” I just went, “Oh, my god, I just carry these things around and he doesn’t even remember saying…”
Sam Buckingham: To your question of how do I weigh these things up and I don’t know, I feel like, I don’t know what everyone else’s experience is like, but I feel like I’m constantly trying to weigh up what is most important and what is not, and what I need to hold onto and what I can let go of. And, I think that it’s like a daily practice for me of letting go and of finding what I want to pay attention to. I don’t know if I have an answer of what to do, to really weigh things up in life. I think you just have to pay attention every minute and tune in. And I guess, for me a lot of that is where my yoga practice comes in, of mindfulness and when I teach yoga. I talk a lot about being the observer and just paying attention and observing what’s happening without judgment, without labeling right or wrong, good or bad and just saying, “Hmm, this thing is coming up. Mm, this feeling is happening. Mm what’s this about?”
Sam Buckingham: And being really curious about the experience and going from that place as opposed to going from a place of trying to fix something, or trying to figure everything out or labeling something as it should be this or it should be that. I guess, these days I’m really trying to just observe and weigh up from there.
John Murch: Currently in conversation with Sam Buckingham, her Real Life tour is happening throughout October, support including Camiel Trail, Hannah Acfield as well as Jane Caldwell, will be on the tour at various stops along the way.
Sam Buckingham: Yes.
John Murch: Those three will be joining you. Camille Trial by the way has a debut single on July the 22nd, it dropped called, Humming Chain. Sam Buckingham is our very special guest on radionotes. We’re going to get back to yoga right now, as we mentioned there was an 18 months worth of travel, and part of that was going to a yoga farm, and nowadays you find yourself three days a week, I believe, as part of the Wave Yoga + Living Yoga Centre experience. When did yoga start?
Sam Buckingham: I practiced a little bit in high school for school sport, it was an option in school sport and I’m not super sporty, I love moving my body but I’m not into team sports and all that kind of stuff. So I chose yoga because I felt it would be the easy option, and to be honest in high school I hated it. I just thought it was so boring. I was like, “What is that smell? There’s incense, why is everyone talking so quietly?” And the concept of this moving slowly, tuning into my breath, as a 14 or 15-year-old, or however old I was, just didn’t make any sense. I wasn’t really into it for a really long time, and then I once or twice went to a class with a friend who was into it, had a good time and there was an exceptionally wonderful yoga moment in New York City, and I was actually staying with Kyle… my partner’s best friend, without Kyle, he was back home in Australia.
Sam Buckingham: But I was in New York, doing some songwriting and stuff so I stayed with Anthony and his wife Kate, who are beautiful people. It was the first time I had ever met them, but the second night I was there, and Anthony said, “I’m going to yoga tonight, do you want to come along?” So I went along, I think it was the night before Valentine’s Day, and so it was me and Anthony my partner’s best friend, and a bunch of other people in the room. And the teacher said, “Well seeing as tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, we’re going to do partner yoga.” So, everyone partnered up and Anthony was the most embarrassed person in the whole world, we only had met two days ago, I was his best friend’s new girl friend, and all of a sudden holding each other in all sorts of awkward.
Sam Buckingham: But, practicing yoga really started for me about seven years ago, there was actually a yoga studio just around the corner from where we were living in Fremantle, we were in Western Australia at the time, and as soon as I went to this first class something just clicked. And, even though I had been on and off and not really thought much of it for a long time, I just knew that this something that I needed and something that I wanted. I actually started because I had quite a lot of lower back pain. The lower back pain actually cleared up pretty freakin’ quickly once I was practicing regularly, but I stuck around because I wanted to learn how to do a headstand. So that’s why I showed up every day, because I wanted to learn how to stand on my head, which ended up taking me quite a few years. By the time I actually reached that goal, I realized that the point of yoga was not to stand on your head at all, and I was hooked by the meditation, I was hooked by the movement. I was hooked by the teachings and the philosophy.
Sam Buckingham: Yeah, it’s been my love for now-
John Murch: And you found the patience to-
Sam Buckingham: for the next few years.
John Murch: You found the patience to actually stand on your head?
Sam Buckingham: I found the patience to stand on my head, yeah. I got there, now when I’m up there I feel like an upside-down queen.
John Murch: One of your targets, one of your visions of things to do is to get vocal lessons from New York’s very own Vinetta Fields, when were you first introduced to Vinetta’s music? For me it was Johnny Farnham, Amazing Grace, what was it for you?
Sam Buckingham: Well do you want to know something? I actually have not ever heard any of her music. So, a couple of friends of mine have done vocal lessons with her, her name has just come up in conversation a couple of times. A friend of mine Timothy James Bowen, who I toured with a couple of years ago, and he’s a wonderful, wonderful singer and songwriter. Yeah, her name came up with him and we talked about it and then my friend Hannah Acfield, who’s playing on a couple of the shows in Two-up, she had taken a couple of classes with her and you know what she said to me, it’s about a year ago, and she said “You have to have voice lessons with Vinetta Field, like you just have to.” Because I sing quite a lot of gospel soul, I’m actually I’m honorary member of a gospel choir up here. I can’t go to practice anymore because they meet on a Tuesday night, which is when I teach yoga, but I still hang out with them and do gigs with them sometimes. I just get to be a part of it without being able to go every week.
Sam Buckingham: But, she just said to me, “You have to go and have voice lessons with her, she’s the actual best,” and I just trust my friends. And so, until you asked me when did I first come across Vinetta Field’s music, it literally never occurred to me to look up her music.
John Murch: Maybe just walk into that room and go, “All right. I know you’ve worked with Johnny Farnham, you’ve come with good recommendations, you sing gospel…
Sam Buckingham: And go for it.
John Murch: … let’s do it.” And it might work fine.
Sam Buckingham: Yeah. That’s so indicative of my personality too. I was like, “Oh, yeah. That sounds like a great idea. I’m going to make that a huge goal of mine, based on a feeling.” Planning on making that happen later in the year, so that’s very exciting.
John Murch: The upright bass was also on this list, what is it about the upright base and what’s the target like for that?
Sam Buckingham: You know what? It’s just always been this thing where I’ve just whispered to me in my mind.-
John Murch: Now have you ever heard the upright bass or have you just seen one?
Sam Buckingham: – the upright bass. *loud hearty laugh* Nope. Oh, that’s the burn of the day, I love it, that’s great. I have seen it and heard it. I think I’ve even touched one, once. I’m very familiar with how the upright bass sounds. Yeah, it just sounds so sexy and the feel that you can get from it, and you know I’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredible upright bass players, namely Zoe Hauptmann and Dan Stanley Freeman. Zoe played on I’m a Bird, and Dan played on The Water, and also toured with me when I did my band tour for The Water earlier this year. Anywhere that I see someone playing an upright bass, I will stop and I will sit down and I will listen for hours on end. I just love the sound of it, I love the feel of it, it’s just so rich and deep and mellow, and I’ve not put a timeframe on that one, that’s something that is going to happen, when it happens. To be honest actually, also on that list is to take guitar lessons.
Sam Buckingham: I am actually a guitarist, so I’m a singer and a songwriter, I write my songs on guitar and I perform with guitar, but I’m completely self-taught. And back to the whole patience conversation, I have never actually been patient enough to take guitar lessons, and actually sit down and practice what my teacher says. So I’ve tried it a bunch of times, I was given my first guitar by my Uncle John, who is an incredible guitarist, classically trained and he’s a guitar teacher, and he tried to give me lessons and I quit those, within a few lessons. And then when I was living in Sydney, I went and saw a teacher there and quit those. When I was living in Perth, I saw a teacher there, quit those, then I moved here. And when I say, quit those I mean after one or two or three lessons. “Oh, too hard.” So I just remained self-taught for a really long time, and I’ve actually now, I’m very proud to say, that I’ve been regularly going to guitar lessons for the past two months.
Sam Buckingham: And I’ve been coming home and practicing what my teacher gets me to practice. That’s actually how a lot of my newer songs have come out, from sitting down to practice guitar and then finding a new cord or some new way of playing that inspires me, and that’s what I said to him, I was really honest when I turned up to guitar lessons with this guy, Matt Armitage and I said, “Look, I really suck at guitar lessons. I am very impatient with them. And I’ve discovered perhaps that the only way to make me stick with lessons is to give me another reason to come to practice.” So, somehow it’s not good enough for me to just say, “I’m going to practice my instrument.” That doesn’t inspire me. But maybe if we try putting everything in the context of songwriting, in the context of learning a song that I really, really want to play in a specific way. No, not good enough to just say I want to learn a song, because I can just pull up Google and do a simple version.
Sam Buckingham: For example, I really want to play, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, Bob Dylan, I really want to play that in this really particularly fingerpicking style, so I’m practicing that fingerpicking style at the moment so that I can do it. I probably will never play it at a gig, it’s just for my own personal enjoyment. So, anyway we’ve cracked the code and we’ve discovered that if we put it in context of me being able to take, whatever we’ve learnt in guitar school, and come home and write a song with it, or come home and practice so that I can learn one of my favorite songs, then possibly, potentially setting myself up to be patient and to keep it up.
John Murch: This is also heading towards the covers record you were mentioning as well. This would be a great outlet for that.
Sam Buckingham: Yeah, potentially. That’s a really good point. I’ve not actually really thought about that, but yeah, there’s a couple of songs already that I know I want to record for the covers album, and there’s a couple of spots on there that’s up for grabs, yeah, actually that’s a really good point. I’m going to keep that in mind, it might go to my lessons, thank you.
John Murch: Let’s head back to the yoga and patience, or patience and yoga, they both go hand-in-hand, what have you been getting from the yoga practice internally, what has Sam been getting?
Sam Buckingham: Wow. You know what it is, is that by dedicating that time to myself and to my practice, and going deeper into the spiritual side of things and the philosophy side of things, by connecting to myself in that way, it has allowed me to connect better with others, and with my work, with my creativity. And I think for me that, I didn’t realize that was going to happen. But, I actually started noticing that the more time I gave to myself, the more I prioritized things like yoga practice, I mean, that was the jumping off point. But then it snowballed into a whole lot of other self-care practices, I suppose you could call them, and this is over a long period of time. But I’ve noticed that the more time I dedicate to things like yoga practice and then other self-care practices like rest, giving myself the time to be creative and putting good food in my body and a whole blather of things, then the more I’m able to show up in my life for my work in a better more productive, more creative way, the better I’m able to show up in my relationship.
Sam Buckingham: I mean, this has been a massive one for me, to be honest, I mean I really needed a big kick up the pants, and my ego really needed a big stabbing to be able to be in a relationship in the way that I wanted, and that’s the continuing practice. But, there was a time there when I actually really, only a few years ago when I really didn’t know how to love myself, inside of loving somebody else, and my yoga practice absolutely definitely played a huge part in teaching me and showing me how I could do that. And how I could show up, not only in my partnership and also with my family and with my friends. Show up deeply caring, deeply loving, really giving to another person or other people, but also keeping that strong boundary and that strong knowledge of who I am and what I need. And knowing that I’m the only person that can give that to myself.
Sam Buckingham: And not saying that in a, I am an island, way but if I need something, it’s my responsibility to create that for myself and I credit the teachings of yoga and the domino effect of that and the things that I’ve become interested in, and the practices that I’ve found, stemming from the yoga practice, I definitely credit that for those awakenings.
John Murch: What do you like about yourself now, through the process of yoga that you did not pre-yoga?
Sam Buckingham: Cool question. Firstly before I answer that, be very clear and say I am a work-in-progress, I’m absolutely not some enlightened being that is perfect and has everything sorted out. So this is a snapshot of this moment in time, and I will keep progressing and keep growing and keep learning. But now versus let’s say eight years ago, my shadow-self I think, is the answer to that question, my own darkness, my own ability to be sad, be a dickhead, be egoic, be selfish, all those things. I have learnt how to love that part of myself, the part that gets depressed if I don’t look after myself, the part that yells when I’m afraid, the part that chooses to stay at home and eat a tub of ice cream instead of going out and connecting with the world.
Sam Buckingham: Those parts of me that are, quote, unquote, not perfect. I’ve learnt to love those parts and accept those parts and know that it’s part of the three dimensional experience of being a human being. That’s freedom there, that’s ultimate liberation because it’s so easy to… and I have in the past spent a lot of time, fought that, or tried to push it down, or pretended that it wasn’t there. Because I thought that it was wrong and therefore I would see it in others as wrong as well and judge that in others, and living in that space is so… it just becomes so painful. You’re labeling everything as wrong.
John Murch: And of course judging it in others is really… apart from the otherness of it, is also putting a barrier between you and the connection with them.
Sam Buckingham: Exactly. And then as you say calling it other, and in actual fact realizing we’re all the same, there is no other and we experience these things in ourselves, other people experience those things in themselves, we are a collective. When you judge someone else for whatever they’re going through or whoever they are, then really I think that comes from a place of judging you, because we’re all the same.
John Murch: How important is the visual for you?
Sam Buckingham: Really interesting that you ask about how important visual has become, because we’re actually painting the house at the moment. It’s actually become so important to me that particular colors are in particular rooms, and colors really represent something to me nowadays, where they didn’t used to. I was actually explaining this to a friend of mine the other day, his eyes went wide, he was like, “Whoa, you are next level.” I was explaining this to a friend the other day, so I’m really into drinking tea. You know, he asked me what my tea ritual was, because I think everyone has a tea ritual. My particular one, I mean I have a specific way that the tea needs to be brewed, and the milk needs to be put in, and how long it needs to sit there for. And I need to leave the teabag in, while I’m drinking the whole thing, and the milk needs to be at a certain level then I need to slurp the milk off the top and then I need to add some more milk, like it’s all very weird.
Sam Buckingham: But the strangest thing about my tea ritual, or maybe it’s the most interesting thing, I don’t know, is that I choose my mug in the morning, depending on what kind of day I’d like to have. So, color-wise and pattern-wise, I have my particular mug, when I’m at home obviously, I don’t take all my mugs with me when I’m touring. That would be strange.
John Murch: That’s a little next level.
Sam Buckingham: Just a little. I take the mug off the shelf that best reflects the day that I want to have. So, I have my bright yellow mug, which is actually what I was drinking out of… well, my tea’s gone now, today. And I want to have a kick-arse day and I want to really get a whole lot of stuff done and I’m feeling powerful, or I know that I’m going to want to feel that way. Then I have my blue mug, for when I want to have a creative day. I have my soft beigey flowery big fat mug for when I’m having a self-nurturing day. The visual aspect of it, has become so important to me, colors and what they represent to me has actually become intensely important, now that you asked the question, I’ve realized.
John Murch: Painting the house. That sense of home, previous releases of yours have had a sense of water and escapism and nurturing tone, sure but is this next record going to be more of a home record, a centered record?
Sam Buckingham: That is a very insightful question, because it’s actually quite a lot of reference to home in there, but I’m not necessarily talking about home like where I live, with the hills and the beach and the cows in the backyard, and things like that. When I’m talking about home, I’m talking about home inside of myself a lot of the time, and it might make references also to my house and where I live. And where I live has actually become so deeply important to me, like my home, the exact area that I’m in, but also the general area. So I live right near Byron Bay, and my community, the other musicians, the people that have us come and sing in their cafes and restaurants and markets and bars and everywhere and people on the street and the energy of the place and what it represents has become massively important to me.
Sam Buckingham: But what’s interesting is I think, that this grounded sense of home and of community that I’ve found has then translated and morphed itself into a deep sense of home and groundedness inside of myself. That stability and that connection externally has helped me to find an internal connection, so yeah, I think the next album is going to be talking a lot about that.
John Murch: I want to ask you a question regarding Sea Shepherd, it’s part of that 18-month travel that you did, the environmental awareness that surrounds Sam Buckingham, in what way does that manifest in your daily life?
Sam Buckingham: That’s an ongoing, up and down battle for me, to be perfectly honest about it. So it’s something that really matters and especially because I feel such a deep connection to the ocean and to nature itself. I feel like I’m constantly battling with, trying to live my life and do everything else that matters, and being consciously environmentally sound. So, I try to reduce my plastic waste as much as humanly possible, not buying single-use plastic, eating food that is from the ground as opposed to in a package, and things like that. Really simple things, like using a keep cup. I feel like I’m never doing enough, And I feel like, no matter how much I do, I’ll never be doing enough.
Sam Buckingham: Like, I just want to be really honest about this here, it’s something that really matters to me and something that I’m constantly paying attention to but something where I constantly feel like I fall short. When I’m touring now I sell beeswax wraps. I used to make them myself so now my sister has actually started a business where she makes them, but now I buy them off her. And I talk on stage about reducing plastic waste and I tell people why I have the beeswax wraps. And on my last tour, I also sold ceramic-made keep-cups, which a friend of mine, from Byron Bay made especially to me.
John Murch: I mentioned Sea Shepherd, I’m wondering if there was some experience you had-
Sam Buckingham: Kyle and I lived for about six months on and off, all up about six months, on this little island in Honduras called Utila, so we actually originally went there because I really wanted to swim with a whale shark, and it is one the highest traffic places for whale sharks in the world, in a particular time of the year. And so, I basically told Kyle, we have no choice, we have to go. So I dragged him along, there was one yoga studio where I practiced twice a day and actually that’s where I decided to do my course to become an actual certified yoga teacher. I ended signing up with the local Sea Shepherd chain, who did night watch for the turtles when they were in hatching season, when they were nesting and hatching and things like that.
Sam Buckingham: So we would go at night and battle the dengue mozzies, camp out and watch the nests, make sure that people didn’t come and poach the eggs. And then keeping an eye on the hatchlings when they were going back into the water to make sure that they weren’t snapped up. That was really rewarding, I remember riding my bike home at 5 o’clock in the morning, or whatever it was, after a sleepless night out on a deserted island in this tiny little place, and just feeling like I was so connected to the world, the universe, and God, whatever you want to call it. I just felt so connected out there with the moon and seeing these amazing creatures, it just I guess, solidified that care that I have for the natural world.
John Murch: What’s keeping you centered? Is it the yoga, is it the partner, is it a combination of things?
Sam Buckingham: I’m not centered all the time. But, actually my sister sent me this awesome quote just the other day, she just texted it to me out of the blue, it’s a quote from, Eat Pray Love, which is one of my favorite books of all time, and this girl is one of my favorite people of all time, and the quote is, “Losing balance for love is part of living a balanced life.” And I would even change that quote a little bit to say, “Losing balance is part of living a balanced life.” And therefore, “Losing center is part of living a centered life.” And, “Losing anything is part of living an anything life.” You have to, well I personally have discovered for myself that I have to be willing to just be on the ride and I don’t think I’m keeping my center all the time.
Sam Buckingham: How I keep it when I keep it, is part-practice, part-discipline, part-luck. But a general sense of, “It’s okay, I got this,” is coming from my willingness to not have this sorted all the time.
John Murch: Slam-Poetry.
Sam Buckingham: Yeah.
John Murch: How’s it going, why’re you doing it, and is it rewarding?
Sam Buckingham: Okay, so it’s going very slowly. I have no idea why I’m doing it, I’m absolutely not planning on being some slam poet artist. It’s totally not about that at all and I think that part of going back to what you were saying about Patreon and what I’m doing on there. I’m a singer and I’m a songwriter and my career is based around that, and I’m just a person who has these curiosities that she wants to follow and while I take what I do very seriously as in, I want to do it really well and I want to really serve the people that are hearing my music. And, it matters to me because I love to do it so much. There’s all these other things, that are just like, “Well, F*** it, I just want to do that too, this Slam-Poetry.” You know I just kept saying to myself, “You should do Slam-Poetry.”
Sam Buckingham: So I’ve written a couple of things, and on my Patreon to certain people who have chosen this particular reward, I upload a surprise, spoken word piece. I’m actually going to my first Slam-Poetry event in a few weeks time. So I literally have never even been, or stood up on stage and done Slam-Poetry, but I’m going to my first one in a few weeks.
John Murch: Is it helping with the songwriting in terms of the rhythmic kind of rhyming?
Sam Buckingham: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that, that probably where it all stems from is, I started finding myself feeling really inspired by a certain kind of songwriting and a certain kind of placement of lyrics and things like that. So, that was, I guess a jumping off point and then somehow I stumbled across a bunch of spoken word pieces and it just woke something up inside of me. So, I’m noticing now when I’m writing it, not for every song, but I’m noticing now when I’m writing that I’m approaching phrasing really differently. And the lyrical content is quite different as well, inspired by that genre I suppose in a way. It’s definitely related to my love of songwriting, I think, that’s what it’s really about. And my love of words and the power of words and I guess just finding a new way to use my voice. I’m all about using my voice, so it’s really exciting to looking to new ways to make the world a little bit louder.
John Murch: Talking about words, what are you reading at the moment?
Sam Buckingham: I’m actually sitting right next to my bed, where all the books that I’m reading are piled up. So there’s currently eight books piled up, next to my bed, so I’ve got my songwriting book, which is that I write a lot of songs in there. I have the complete rhyming dictionary, which I read, in actual fact.
John Murch: Hang on. You read a dictionary.
Sam Buckingham: Oh, but it’s a rhyming dictionary.
John Murch: Okay.
Sam Buckingham: It’s not just any old dictionary. I have the Bhagavad Gita, which is the spiritual text of the world. I have attempted to read this about three times, I’m on my fourth attempt now, it’s a really dense book, really intense but I love it. I have yoga anatomies, so I’m reading a yoga anatomy book, I’ve actually already read this before. I had to read it for my yoga teacher training, that was when I did a text requirements, but I’m re-reading it. I’ve got The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, that’s a classic, I’ve read this one before, so I’m re-reading it now. Actually, I highly recommend you to go out and get yourself a copy of this book, it is life changing. And I have The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which I haven’t started yet but it’s on my pile.
John Murch: Over the next year, as you mentioned there’s a covers record on the way, but there’s so much more happening as well, get along to the Patreon, we’ll have the link in the show notes for people to get involved with that. You’ve done a number of supports as well recently, what are some of the things that we can look forward to, in the world of Sam Buckingham?
Sam Buckingham: The Real Life tour is happening later on this year, and we’re planning on doing a part two, early next year.
John Murch: I’ve been wanting to ask you, as we mentioned it’s been an eight-year journey that I’ve wanted to have a conversation with you, so thank you very much for this time today. It’s very much appreciated.
Sam Buckingham: Oh, pleasure. Thank you.
John Murch: What have been some of the most fascinating supports that you’ve done, or a support that you’ve done in that time?
Sam Buckingham: They’ve all just been awesome experiences. Most recently I toured with James Reyne, it was about two and a half months that we were on the road together. And then I also did some shows the next year following, on and off, I joined him for about half of his tour. That was a massive deal for me, and that was really eye opening in terms of, how much music is happening around the country everywhere, all the time. We were playing mainly regional theaters, up until quite recently, I’ve really only played mostly in metropolitan areas and a few smaller places, a little bit outside, but we were going to places that I’ve never even been close to. And so, that felt really inspiring for me to really start to understand the depth of music was happening all around the country and everyone loves music, everywhere.
Sam Buckingham: I know that sounds so obvious, but people talk about Australia being such a terrible place for live music, and people don’t care anymore and blah, blah, blah, there’s all these really negative stuff around it, a lot of the time. And you know what? I just don’t think that, that’s true. There is incredible music happening in so many places, and there are people that want to hear what we have to say, and that want to connect. That was this huge message that I kept getting on the tour with James. I also toured with Kasey Chambers before then, also a regional show, and that was amazing for so many reasons.
Sam Buckingham: Firstly, because every night I got to sing The Captain with her, and have hundreds of people singing along with us. So that was a real full circle moment for me, because I’ve always been really inspired by her music. That was just a beautiful reminder of how life can work in your favor, if you keep doing what you love doing. What was also really cool about that tour, was hanging out with her mum, Di, who is one of the most beautiful humans in the world and does all Kasey’s merch for her. Up until that point, I have been really embarrassed about selling my merch at gigs, like selling CD’s and like that, I didn’t have anything other than CD’s. I just sold my CD’s and I was always embarrassed and Di actually really taught me that I didn’t need to feel embarrassed about that, that I could have beautiful things, because she really puts a lot of work, and a lot of effort into creating really awesome interesting merch for people to take home to enjoy.
Sam Buckingham: And so, that really got me thinking about what kind of merch I wanted to have on my tours, and why. And so that’s when I started making the beeswax wraps, I started making them with the James Reyne tours. I want to be selling things that means something, and make a difference, and that matter. I wanted to say something with my merch, and so I was making these beeswax wraps which in hindsight was freakin’ crazy, I was literally driving around the country with bees, I was cutting fabric backstage. I remember one of the first shows I did with James, I was cutting the fabric backstage and he said, “What are you dong there?” I said, “I’m just cutting a bit of fabric.” He said, “Are you making t-shirts? Because I really like that fabric, will you make me a t-shirt?” And I said, “No, I’m making beeswax wraps, but you can have some of those.”
Sam Buckingham: I didn’t know how popular they’d be, I didn’t know… I just made 20, and they sold in the first show and then in between days, I would stop in a family member’s house, or a friend’s house, or whoever would be on the route that I was doing, and use their kitchen to make more beeswax wraps. So I was traveling with a crock pot full of beeswax, and I was getting more wax posted to whoever’s house I was staying at. Then I couldn’t keep up with the cutting, so I got my sister to cut the fabric and post it to me, for wherever I was going to be. Touring with Di really taught me that there was value in providing a product to people that they wanted, and so that started me making beeswax wraps. I did my first t-shirt printing which had beautiful artwork by my friend, Kate Carragher. She painted the most gorgeous humpback whale on this t-shirt and I put some song lyrics on there, “Let my fingers tell the tale, and my soul become a whale.” I wanted to just send more of that message about the ocean, and protecting the ocean and the beauty of it, so we did that through the t-shirts and then I added Keep-Cups. That experience just taught me so much about treating my music as a business but asking myself how to treat it as a conscious business.
Sam Buckingham: Anyone that has had me as a support on their tours, man I am just so grateful because I’ve gotten to stand in front of people and sing songs where I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to. So, gratitude for that.
John Murch: Sam Buckingham, an absolute pleasure. Thanks for joining radionotes.
Sam Buckingham: Thank you.