Today Samia drops the fifth and final single off her debut album, and it’s a shimmering, Francis Bacon-inspired breakup number.
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“I was really sad on tour and I had just been through a really brutal breakup and I was just behaving recklessly as people often do in that situation,” the New York singer-songwriter told me over the phone last week. “I read this story about Francis Bacon and his muse, George Dyer, who lived this really reckless lifestyle that Bacon was almost enabling for the sake of his art. I felt like maybe I was both characters in my own story for a second. It just really resonated with me, that story.”
“Triptych,” featured below, begins with gentle guitar and fluttering vocals. The arrangement opens up around the one-minute mark, eventually blossoming into something bright and affirming. “I’ll be good to you,” Samia coos at the end of the track, possibly serenading herself: “I’ll be good to you.”
The song also arrives with a video directed by one of Samia’s best friends, Fred Hechinger.
“We met in acting class as teenagers and we always wanted to do something together and this is the first thing we’ve had the opportunity to do,” says Samia. “He’s a genius writer / director / actor. We had a million different ideas for a million different songs and I just let him take the reins on this one. He was like, ‘There’s gonna be a puppet, and then you’re gonna dance the puppet off. That’s all I can tell you.’ I fully trusted him. And [having watched] the video, I totally see how it’s a reflection of the story that I told in this song. It was super cathartic to be able to do all of that with him.”
“[I wrote the album] over the span of two years, from the end of 2017 to the end of 2019,” she says. “It was the first two years that we were really touring more than we were not. I got to write a bunch of those songs from the road and I think I realized in that process that it was the most conducive environment to songwriting for me. We were out with Hippo Campus, Cold War Kids, Soccer Mommy, Donna Missal, and Remo Drive.”
“The collection of songs is a reflection of that period of time in my life and I didn’t really know what I was trying to say until I had said it all,” she continues. “There was a general theme that I was aware of from the beginning: deciding whether to lean into a fear of being alone or allow myself to lean on community. I was waiting for the answer to that question to finish the album, and I sort of got it at the end: I think it ultimately is about letting myself need people and accepting that I always will. Maybe that can be okay.”
Samia is the sole lyricist and vocalist on The Baby, but she worked with a handful of producers to bring the record to life. “I tried to work with a lot of people I didn’t know and that was harder than expected,” she says, “so I basically begged to work with my friends: two members of Hippo Campus—Nathan Stocker and Jake Luppen—and then our friend Caleb Hinz who’s a producer and has one of my favorite bands of all time, The Happy Children. They produced it with my friend Lars Stalfors. They were the easiest and best collaborators I’ve ever worked with, and it wouldn’t sound the way it does without their influence, even just as people.”
Asked where the title The Baby comes from, Samia says “it’s a similar sentiment to the needing people thing.”
“When my friends leave a room I say, ‘Who’s gonna watch the baby?’ and I guess I’m the baby,” she explains. “It’s just a way to guilt the people I love into not leaving the party. And my parents used to say ‘swear on the baby’ to prove they were telling the truth about something. I was also the baby.”
Samia—born Samia Finnerty—cut her teeth in New York City’s live music scene as a college student. At the time, she was booking gigs through a fake manager.
“It was my freshman year of college and I was trying to play at places that I didn’t have any draw,” she recalls. “It was just my friends coming to these shows, so I wouldn’t have been able to book the shows and also I was a 17-year-old girl, so I thought if I made up a pretend middle-aged man who had experience in the music industry, then I could book shows that I didn’t deserve. It totally worked!”
“I just had a fake email and we would send these long, verbose emails with this guy’s name and signature and then I had a fake voicemail for him that my boyfriend at the time made,” she adds. “We only ever landed gigs that way—that’s the reason that we ended up being able to get any attention from anyone in the industry.”
As a songwriter, Samia is inspired by Father John Misty (“my favorite songwriter”), Angel Olsen, Brittany Howard, and Okay Kaya. “I think those have been some of the biggest influences in the last two years for me,” she says.
“I’m attracted to confessional honesty and passion. My thing with songwriting is I don’t really care what it sounds like as long as long as the person who’s singing it cares about what they’re saying. I’m really turned off by apathy, so anything that is the opposite of that.”