sam de jong

Sam de Jong made his start in the music industry at 16 years old as a touring drummer. His production, song writing and musicianship has been lent to a vast array of chart-topping artists across multiple genres, including Little Mix, Muse, Marina, Gary Clark Jr., Thirty Seconds to Mars, Lennon Stella, Noah Kahan, Alec Benjamin, Jamie N Commons & Robinson.

Sam signed with SonyATV in 2016 and is now based in Los Angeles, working with some of the industry’s top writers and producers including MoZella, Emily Warren, Joel Little and Mike Elizondo.

We asked Sam to answer a few questions about his recent work, his experiences in LA, and the role that APRA's SongHubs program has played in his career.

It’s been a big year for you in the producing and co-writing world. Tell us about one or two highlights.

This past year has been exciting for sure, I’ve been fortunate to work with some insanely talented artists like Little Mix, Gary Clark Jr (featured on the Justice League movie), Thirty Seconds To Mars, Noah Kahan and Lennon Stella. It was a great experience working with Marina in both LA and London on her first new album in 4 years - her voice is stunning! I’ve also have the privilege of working a lot with Alec Benjamin who is such a brilliant story teller and manages to capture so much emotion in his songs. Producing a remix for Muse was also a crazy moment as I grew up obsessed with those guys!!

What are some of the key things you have learned about collaborating with other songwriters and producers during your time in LA?

I think collaboration works best when you realise that you’re in the room for the specific skills you bring and you don’t have to be good at everything! I’m also learning that the best songs come from a real emotion that someone shares about what’s going on in their lives and seeing how that can relate to others. It’s a form of therapy I guess haha so it’s super important to spend time chatting and hanging out at the start of the session so the studio feels like an open space where everyone feels comfortable to be honest and creative and go there with a song. 

Are there any differences to the way producers work in the US compared with New Zealand?

I think the main thing is that the energy in LA is on another level! There are so many ridiculously talented writers and producers that you can’t help but feel lifted and motivated by just being here. It’s great to see so many Kiwi artists doing so well overseas at the moment and it’s cool seeing how US producers and labels are watching what’s happening down in our end of the world and taking inspiration from it.

 How did you end up based in LA and signed with SonyATV?

LA’s definitely the home of pop music and I’d been wanting to work there since I started making songs. I met an incredible songwriter Mozella (Miley Cyrus, Charlie Puth) at Songhubs Auckland in 2016 when we collaborated on ‘Kind of Love’ with Maala. She invited me out to LA to do sessions and meet people in the industry and started mentoring me which was a real confidence boost. She also introduced me to the amazing team at SonyATV and that’s where our relationship started.

Do you feel like some of the connections you made and skills you learned during your SongHubs experiences in NZ have helped you in the US?

Songhubs is an important initiative because it focuses on collaboration and creativity and you end up with great songs as a by-product! One of the best parts is the nightly listening sessions - it pushes everyone to do better each day because it’s amazing how fast you hear what needs improvement when you play your songs to other people haha! I still work a lot with some of the international collaborators who I met at Songhubs like Mike Elizondo and Emily Warren.

Are you able to pick any songs you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of, and tell us what you like about them?

I wrote and produced a song called “Breakaway” with Lennon Stella and Jarryd James which I love. We were at a writing camp in the hills of Nicaragua in 2017 and these huts had been transformed into studios essentially in the middle of jungle. This song came from a raw and honest emotion which resonated with what Lennon was going through at the time – plus her raspy voice over that beat is beautiful and haunting all at the same time!

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