Sam Fischer is another perfect example that music doesn’t have an expiry date. You can release a song that may not perform the way you would expect or want it to at the time, but a few years later it could have a beautiful resurgence. And that is exactly what has happened with his breakthrough single ‘This City’ thanks to the viral nature of TikTok.
The now Los Angeles based singer-songwriter moved to the big city of dreams from Sydney six years ago. But things didn’t go quite smoothly at first. He was working every day at an Australian meat pie shop and spending every cent he earned to stay alive and meet as many music industry people that he possibly could.
Feeling a little bitter and confused by his new found address and the way of life that circled around him, he wrote ‘This City’.
After being initially released in 2018, it started being used on TikTok in 2019 with people filming different videos that range between vulnerably beautiful and incredibly creative.
With now over 1.4 million posts from the original song, it has been added to heavy rotation on radio and has introduced him to a huge worldwide audience.
I recently chatted with Sam Fischer about the viral success of ‘This City’ through TikTok and discussed his favourite videos from the app which includes an interesting link to the Netflix documentary ‘Tiger King’. We also explored the evolution of his artistry between writing ‘This City’ in 2016 and where he is at now sonically. Check out the chat HERE;
THOMAS BLEACH: ‘This City’ is a reflection on feeling lonely and disconnected after moving to Los Angeles from Sydney, and was your way to come to peace with those feelings. So can you explain how the song sonically came together in the studio?
SAM FISCHER: The day I went into the studio I was feeling like crap. I didn’t want to be doing music, I didn’t want to be writing and I wasn’t in love with anything I was making. I was honestly losing myself. I was getting so wrapped up in LA and feeling so out of place that It felt like LA didn’t want me as much as I wanted LA.
So that was my mood that day. And my producer Jimmy Robbins had those chords and that guitar pattern, and it felt melancholy enough to word vomit all my feelings out. We wrote the song in about 40 minutes with Jackson Morgan, and the version that we ended up putting out was the original demo from that session.
I tried to go back into the studio and re-work it, re-sing the vocal and do a big production but nothing felt as authentic as that demo which is funny because we recorded it in the kitchen of a Airbnb in West Hollywood.
It’s exactly how I was feeling at the time. It was written in 2016 in a time where I was dealing with a failed record deal and feeling like a failure in general. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it because they weren’t real problems.
I didn’t think anyone would care about the song because I didn’t think anyone cared about me. I just thought they would hear the song and be like “oh boo hoo, a privileged boy who doesn’t feel like he belongs in the city”. But what ended up coming out of it was a universal message of not fitting in and feeling lonely but realising that you’re not alone in feeling those ways.
TB: The lyrics are so vivid and honest. What would you say is your favourite lyric from the song?
SF: Probably the first two lines; “I’ve been seeing lonely people in crowded rooms. Covering their heartbreak with new tattoos”. I love that line!
TB: That’s my favourite line from the song too! It has such a cool and vivid imagery to it.
SF: Thank you! In that moment I was questioning what it would look like if our souls were above us and looking down at our bodies.
I was at an industry party in LA and everyone was dressed up in the coolest shit they could find and every conversation was very surface level. It sucked. Nothing felt real. It made me question what would’ve happened if we all came to the party as our truest selves. Like, what would we find out.
So that line was everything I was feeling from that party and just how a lot of interactions felt like in LA in general.
TB: It’s been quite a little while since you wrote this song, so how are you now feeling about the big move to LA and this new city that you call home personally and as an artist?
SF: If I’m honest with you, Sydney will always be home to me. My wife and I live in LA more because it feels like we have to be here instead of really wanting to be here and making a life here.
I will say that LA is great when everything is going good, but it’s really tough when it’s not. It can be a really lonely city even though there are tonnes of people because you don’t really see people you know walking down the street. Like you never really just “run into friends” like you do in Australia.
Unless you have a lot of money, it’s also really tough. It stops you from going out. The first year I was here, my wife and I were in a long distance relationship as she was in Boston, I had no money and I was working as a delivery boy for a Australian meat pie shop in Downtown LA *laughs*. I was using any spare cash I could to go out and try and meet people that were any in shape or form in the industry. I would meet them, buy them a drink and schedule a meeting the next morning and make sure it was a breakfast, lunch or dinner meeting so then I could eat that day.
It’s been a hustle. LA has given me a lot and I’m so grateful to be in the position that I am right now.
TB: You originally wrote ‘This City’ in 2016 and then released it in 2018 where it got some traction but simmered until recently thanks to TikTok. So where in the TikTok story did you start to realise this track was having quite the resurgence?
SF: I mean, to be honest I had no idea what TikTok was when the song decided to go viral on it *laughs*. I was seeing on the YouTube audio clip that people were writing “I’m here because of TikTok” and I was so confused.
I think it was March 2019 which was a year and 3 months after I originally put the song out, and I got a message on Instagram with a link to a TikTok video going “is this your song?”. So I finally downloaded the app and clicked on the link and was in shock. I then clicked on the sound link and saw that there was 300,000 videos made to it. I was like “what is happening”.
Now there are 1.4 million videos on the official audio, and there are people who have done different versions of it, so there is about 3.5 million videos on TikTok to the song which is absolutely insane.
The label also told me that it’s been viewed over a billion times which if I think about it too much I go into a spiral *laughs*.
TB: ’The City’ has gone absolutely viral on TikTok with over 1.4m posts using the song. So what has been one of the strangest TikTok’s you have seen to your song?
SF: Oh my god, so many *laughs*. One of my favourite ones is of a bunch of racoons in different dumpsters and they are just chilling. It’s so random but so great *laughs*.
But oh my god, you know the new Netflix documentary ‘Tiger King’?
TB: Yeah, it’s gone so viral!
SF: Yeah well Doc Antle’s son is Kody Antle and he made a video of him on TikTok playing with tigers to ‘This City’. It was the coolest and weirdest thing ever. Kody and I have been messaging back and forth on Instagram and for all this time I had no idea.
TB: Oh my god! Once you put two and two together did you freak out?
SF: Yeah, now I’m like NO! It’s horrifying *laughs*.
But yeah, ‘This City’ has been used for so many things, it’s crazy. Yesterday there was a video that went viral on TikTok and on Twitter with like 2 million views of this gender reveal party. But it was done from this couple’s apartment in isolation, with the person in the apartment block on the opposite side filming them. ‘This City’ was playing while they did the gender reveal and everyone was cheering and it was beautiful.
TB: Did you cry?
SF: Look, I was a little emotional! *laughs*.
TB: It’s been two years since the original release of ‘This City’ and the ‘Not A Hobby’ EP. So reflecting on your sonical journey, how would you say you’ve grown from that EP to where you are at now as an artist?
SF: When I put out that EP, I had just got dropped by a label and I had all this unreleased music and I just felt like I needed to put something out. So I put out my four favourite tracks.
So for ‘This City’ to be the one that connected so well with people and the one that is the most genuine representation of me as a human, the music now is sonically soul inspired, lyric driven and the production is very live.
It’s a cohesive body of work that represents my life over the past three years and the relationships that I’ve experienced that aren’t necessarily romantic but the people that come into your life and change your life in different ways. It’s the state of my mind from the past three years of being dropped and having to pick up the pieces and rebuild myself.
It’s a lot more personal. It’s not the happiest of projects *laughs*, but it’s honest. There is live string, live piano and a lot of live instrumentation. I also wrote it with a very small handful of people instead of doing the rounds of sessions. It’s predominately produced by Ryan Marrone, as well as Jon Hume from Evermore.
TB: Timing is a really interesting thing, and with obviously having no idea how this timeframe would work with this song, did you feel like the chapter on that EP and those songs had closed?
SF: I feel like ‘Not A Hobby’ wasn’t even a chapter, it was a bookmark, and ‘This City’ was the next page.
The person I was when I wrote ‘Not A Hobby’ is buried pretty deep inside me. He doesn’t come out much. He was someone that wasn’t sure of himself, didn’t love what he was creating and was struggling being authentic. And now I’ve fell in love with what I’ve made and I’m very excited to get it out.
This time in lockdown has allowed me to fully finish the product, so they’re nearly ready to be released. It’s very honest stuff that people won’t really see coming. I’m painfully extroverted and a lot of people come to me with their problems instead of me telling everyone my problems.
Sometimes I just don’t think my problems are valid because being in a position where I have a record deal which is now my second deal and having a viral song that is being played on radio is incredible. And complaining to someone who doesn’t have that feels wrong and feels like it wouldn’t be taken seriously. So I wrote a song on the project called ‘Carry It Well’.
I was talking to my wife and unloading all of these emotions that I had been feeling. I was explaining to her that I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about this and it was just building up inside of me. And she said to me, “Just because you carry it well doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy”. I felt that deeply as it was everything I was feeling in that moment. So I wrote a song called ‘Carry It Well’ which encapsulates all of that, and it’s probably my favourite song on the new project.
TB: You recently re-interpreted ‘This City’ through a beautiful acoustic performance which is up now on YouTube and on streaming services. So how did you approach this version to give it an authentic refreshing?
SF: Well it was a one take recording and it was recorded with Ryan Marrone who has been producing my new project, and my guitarist Marton. It was recorded down half a step as I sometimes play it live that way, as it may have been a long week *laughs*. But I just wanted it to be as honest as possible and to capture what a live performance from me would be like. So there are no background vocals and there are no ad-libs. It’s just me, raw, stripped down and what it sounds like with just an acoustic guitar and vocals.
‘This City’ is out now on all streaming and online services!