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Interview: Sam Yung

My guest today is Sam Yung who is famous on YouTube for doing piano and strings versions of various songs. Songs such as Bruno Mars’s Locked Out Of Heaven (video above), Katy Perry’s Roar and Paramore’s Miracle (Piano Version) Paramore. He has also created his own original tracks as well such as A New Horizon, With Light and Surface! This is how the interview played out!

3.47: How long have you been making music for?
Sam Yung: I’ve been making music since a young kid, I even remember using a cassette recorder to record this really cheap Casio keyboard I used to have! I guess I started to make music ‘seriously’ when I was about 16, and that was writing standard songs, and original piano compositions.

3.47: Was this something you always wanted to do?
Sam: It’s definitely something I’ve always wanted to do from a young age. My parents have always been so supportive, and never forced me into taking something up if I didn’t want to. I just remember always being fascinated with the piano, and cliche as it sounds, knew I wanted to be a part of music! Since being a young kid, I’ve gone on to study music at college, so yeah, It’s definitely something I’m keen to be a part of in the long run.

3.47: Are you surprised at how big you become?
Sam: (Laughs), I wouldn’t say I’m ‘Big’ exactly, but it definitely has been a pleasant surprise to see so much positive feedback from people. The internet is an amazing thing, but it can also be super negative. Luckily most of the feedback *touchwood* so far has been really positive. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that there are so many different ways people can get their name out there, especially with social media with this like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They’ve all been great ways for me to share my music with people, and a great way for me to interact with the people who listen to my music.

3.47: What was your reaction like when you saw the feedback coming in about your music?
Sam: I guess it was reassuring to see the feedback from people. I do actually sit and take the time to read comments on my videos, and it just makes me super grateful and happy to know that people seem to be enjoying what I’m putting out. I’ve also been super fortunate to have support from some of the people who inspire me. Special mention has to go to Blake from ‘Versa’, who from day one has always been so supportive of the music I make. He always takes time out to check out a new arrangement I’ve done if I send it over to him, and always has nice things to say! Also, a few times Hayley Williams and Jeremy Davis from Paramore have given me amazing support and feedback on some of the arrangements I’ve made. It’s just nice knowing that these guys are the guys who inspire me, and they’ve actually taken time out to check out my stuff. I’ll forever be thankful for that!

3.47: How hard has it been making the piano versions of songs?
Sam: For me, It’s not necessarily hard to make piano versions of songs. I like the challenge of trying to re-work a song, so that I can put my own spin on it, but also keep the core of the original. It’s a pretty natural process in that I’ll hear a song, or a song will be stuck in my head and I’ll just think ‘Hey, that would sound super neat as a piano arrangement’. I’ll then mess around with some ideas, maybe change the chord progression, work a string part in, and layer harmonies or something. I also have a habit of making ‘happy’ songs sound super depressing too… (Laughs). (In a good way, according to the comments I get!) Usually the recording process is really fast as well, I usually finish most arrangements in an hour or so.

3.47: What do you do in your spare time?
Sam: Nothing too crazy, pretty normal stuff! Hang out with friends, family, watch films, go to gigs, sometimes just chill and do nothing…I’m a huge tennis fan as well!

3.47: You done a few piano versions of video games, do you play many yourself?
Sam: I actually do play video games! Much, much more when I was younger! My problem now, is that I’ll buy games, but just not have time to complete any of them, so I end up with a pile of games just sitting there that I just never get around to finishing. It’s really bad! Video game music is one of the biggest influences on my original music though, and I’m planning to do a lot more video game arrangements on my YouTube channel in the future. I think video game music is severely underrated and not given the credit it deserves. It’s not as bad now, as I think people are slowly starting to realise that video game music can actually be pretty damn good. Oh, and Pokemon is still awesome in 2014, and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise 😉

3.47: Can we expect more original music from yourself soon? Personally I loved your track Surface!
Sam: For sure, you can definitely expect a lot more original music from me soon! I’m always dabbling and writing random bits of music, but I’ll tend to only upload or share originals that I feel is good enough to share. I definitely plan to put some more time aside for writing original pieces. Oh, and thanks a lot! Surface was a bit of an experimental one for me. It’s something a little bit out of my comfort zone, but it was something I definitely felt like writing. I thought ‘Ok, I’m going to write a piece of music that isn’t JUST for piano and strings’, and that was kind of the result! I’d love to write more band based music as well, hopefully more original music that sounds similar to ‘Surface’!

3.47: What’s your favourite song at the moment?
Sam:I think my favourite song at the moment is ‘My Only Friend’ by ‘Phantogram’. It’s just so dark, and gritty and totally heartbreaking. I highly recommend people to go check out their second album, ‘Voices’, it really is incredible! They’ve had a couple of appearances on late night shows across America, so if the name ‘Phantogram’ rings a bell, that’s probably why!

3.47: What can we expect from you in the future?
Sam: Who knows?! (Laughs), of course I’ll still be making arrangements, but I really want to get into scoring for film or TV one day. I’ll be working super hard on writing my own material in the coming years, and hopefully that and a lot of hard work may take me there.

3.47: Do you have any other hidden talents?
Sam: Er…when I raise my eyebrows, my ears also raise as well. Does that count as a hidden talent? (Laughs)!

3.47: If you had the power to run your own label, what would you call it?
Sam: Hmm, probably something totally boring like ‘Yung Music’. Or maybe ‘Sam Yung’s Minions’. Nah… I’m just kidding!

3.47: Given the chance who would you love to work with?
Sam: A dream collaboration would be to either work with Joe Hisaishi, or Nobuo Uematsu. Both are huge inspirations to me. Of course, I’d love to work with Paramore and maybe record some acoustic piano sessions with them. That would be super awesome. I also just generally want to work with anyone who shares the same artistic vision as me. I really believe you can learn so much from other people, and it may just open your eyes and give you a new perspective on some things.

3.47: What’s the best advice you been given?
Sam: The best piece of advice I’ve been given is probably, ‘Nothing is as good as it seems, Nothing is as bad as it seems’. My dad used to say it all the time, and I suppose that was just a long winded way of telling me to stay grounded. It also says no matter how crappy a period of time may be, it will pass.

3.47: Final question! Anything you want to say to your fans out there?
Sam: Just a big huge thank you for your amazing support, you guys are completely awesome, and I hope you guys stick around to see where music will take me in the future!

3.47 would like to say a massive thank you to Sam Yung for spending the time doing the interview! Until next time guys!

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