INTERVIEW – Sean Smith Chats About New Album ‘Solo’

On the 20th of July, Same Difference star Sean Smith dropped his first ever album “Solo,” which you can now stream on all major streaming platforms!

We sat down with Sean via Zoom and had a lovely chat about his new solo endeavours, his charity single with Same Difference to help raise money for the NHS, and more! Here is what he had to say;

Let’s talk about your new album then. You’ve just released ‘Solo’, congratulations! Why don’t you start by telling us just a bit about it? 

Yeah, wow! So, it’s my first solo album. Originally, I was in Same Difference from the X Factor, which was brother and sister (hence mentioning the sibling thing earlier). It’s my debut solo album. There’s 13 songs on the first disc and the album is out on a two-disc CD, and we’ve released it on vinyl. It’s definitely the album I set out to make when I was a kid, I always wanted to have a solo album and I feel really, really proud it’s finally come to fruition! It’s very kind of, cool, up to date. It’s pure pop but with a different spin. I think I’ve managed to get my own stamp on my sound. I’m really, really proud of that. 

Yeah that’s good! Something that I’ve always enjoyed hearing about, is how albums and music come together. Could you maybe describe the process of making your album for us?

Wow really good question! I signed originally to Energise Records and it came up randomly, as I got a tweet from my now Manager just saying, “What’s happened now you’ve left Same Difference, are you up for recording more music?”, and straight away, I jumped at the chance. The more I chatted to Energise I realised it was a great fit for me. 

   So, that’s always the first process – getting a label. Or if you want to do your own music, you can set up in your own bedroom! It’s so easy to do nowadays, with promotion and all that kind of stuff. The way it worked for me with Energise, was ‘This is how we see your album going forward’ and they gave me a CD of demos. Some of them were sort of, yeah, straight away they’re fantastic, let’s get them recorded. Others I was not so sure about, so I thought ‘let’s see what we can do’. Throughout the whole process, the album probably took 4 and a half years, which is crazy! There’s been a lot of times when for example, a recorded song hasn’t necessarily worked and we’ve thrown it out. Maybe on other songs we thought it’s good, but maybe the production isn’t quite right, and try a new producer. There’s other times when literally I’ve sat with friends and just jammed with a guitar and we’ve managed to get something down that way. It sort of rolls, and the idea just blossoms. We ended up with these incredible tracks. There’s lots of different ways to go with it, but that was the way it worked for me. It is a process of elimination really. I think over all we probably had hundreds of tracks that we would listen to and try. It’s just a balancing act until you end up with the final product.

Out of a hundred tracks, how do you narrow it down to the ones that you want?

I think you just get a sense.  I know myself now as an artist, and I know the kind of vibe that I wanted to go with. I know the areas that I want to explore. So if they kind of tick that box, you give it a ‘yes’ and then you might go and record it and get a feeling that it’s not quite right. This is becoming an artist and finding your own sound and it’s something that is really important because it’s all got to flow correctly. It’s all got to feel right, and that’s the main thing for me. When I was with Same Difference and we were with a major label, everything was just kind of like, given to you. Like this is what we expect you to be and we just went in and made the best of it. Whereas this has been a completely different process. It’s been about me finding myself as an artist and putting forward what I really want to do.

That’s good! So, when I was listening to the album, I counted 16 tracks in total, including remixes. Which track do you think defines you the most and why? 

Oh, my word, that’s a massive question! I think ‘Fire’ is a really cool one. It’s got a really cool remix on there that’s been released as well. It defines what the sound is all about. Also, one I’m closest to is called ‘Never Gonna Change’. I wrote that with a friend of mine when I did the ‘We Will Rock You’ stage show, the Queen/Ben Elton one. I wrote that with the guy that played Khashoggi. The backing vocals is the girl who played the Killer Queen, so I felt like that was a collaborative effort. It’s also had my emotions piled into it as well. So, I think that’s a defining moment for me as an artist, because all of my creativity has been poured into it. But, I think ‘Fire’ and ‘Magic’ are the ones that define what the album is all about. 

That’s good! So, correct me if I’m wrong because I’ve only just seen that Same Difference made an announcement an hour ago. You’re releasing a song to raise money for the NHS, is that right? 

Exactly, yeah! It’s been an odd one this, because obviously it just so happened that the pre-orders came out today, and it’s the day after my album only came out yesterday! To be honest, we wanted to give it a bit of a wait so the album could gain some love and some following, and then the Same Difference one came about. Because of the pre-orders, we had to announce it today, which is mad! It’s split opinion a little bit, but the thing is it’s one of those, as soon as the song came through, it was so obvious that it was a Same Difference record. It’s got that sweetness and that love to it, and it really fitted the whole vibe of the NHS. It’s all coming together as a collective to raise money to fight against Coronavirus. 

   It’s gone off on the internet, my phone’s been going off non-stop, saying Same Difference are back together! We’re not back together! That is long gone in the past. It’s all about nostalgia. Giving a nod to the past. It was always something that had a very clean-cut image, and I think that’s something that we kind of need to come back to at the moment. I find a lot of people have got an opinion on this or that or the other. I want us to come back to, we are a human race, we all want people who are going to fight against this virus. When the virus initially started I felt because everyone was out clapping and there was a whole lot of love with united support to fight against it. I feel like maybe as things have been going on people are getting a bit stressed, and wondering what’s next. 

   I feel like the record is reuniting us and reminding us about that. It’s perfect timing. We just heard the news that the CD sold out instantly, pretty much. We only made 100 limited editions. It’s partly because they don’t count towards the chart, it’s more for the collectors. We want to give it a chance. I think if it does do well in the charts then it’s just going to roll on. More people will hear about it, so we can actually make a bigger donation to the charity. That’s the plan, and push people towards the digital also. It’s amazing – Thanks to everyone who has already purchased it! 

It’s all to a good cause as well, so that’s really nice! 

   Yeah exactly, that’s the main thing. NHS Charities Together, they are an incredible cause.

Exactly! So, you’ve actually been a performer for pretty much your whole life, haven’t you? What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far and why? 

I always go back to the X Factor tour back in 2008. Because for me, that was like a massive arrival for us. It was sold out arenas all over the country, and everywhere we went it was just crazy. We had screaming people outside hotels, we couldn’t get on the bus because people were stopping us from going along. It was literally almost like Beatle Mania back in the 60s! There was so much love around it. Although, at the time it was quite stressful and you felt continually like you were on show. I look back on it now and it was such an extraordinary time of my life. There’s been other times as well, like ticking the box of being one of the leading roles in ‘We Will Rock You’. I remember watching that when I was younger and thinking I love this, this is so cool. To get the chance to do that was incredible for me. There’s been lots and lots of special moments. My first ever solo gig to a huge crowd was, again, special because it was a new step in the right direction. 

So, with all that in mind then, and everything you have learned from your own experiences, could you give us your best advice to someone who wants to be in the music industry?

I think you’ve got to develop a hard skin, because when you’re putting yourself out there it’s going to split opinion, you know? Music is subjective. It’s one of those things where I might like a certain artist or a certain track, and you might really vibe off of something else. It’s just an opinion, and people are happily going to give you their opinion. It’s not always great, so you’ve got to develop a hard skin. Also, remain true to who you are as an artist and as a person. If you believe in it, that’s all that matters, because the thing is, when you’re putting yourself out there, if you don’t believe in the product then it stands out loud and clear. If you truly believe in it, and you know you put out the best body of work that it can be, you have to stand by it with all your might and push and hope for the best.  

You know what? Whenever I’ve asked that question in other interviews, they’ve had pretty much the same answer. It seems to be the golden rule there!

100%. I think anybody who does this, are to be commended. Also, the bigger it gets, the more pressure people are under. The more they feel like ‘wow, we really want to bring this person down’. So, it doesn’t surprise me that people end up with mental health issues. You’ve just got to stay strong and believe in what you’re doing.

Saying that then, if you could change one thing about the industry, what would that be? 

It’s so difficult, because I’m old school. You’re young, so you know the vibe of everything now, but to me, I remember when I was a kid and I used to save up my pocket money and go and buy the records. Now you’ve got HMV, but I remember when it was Woolworths where you could pick up your sweets and your CD in the same place – it was like ‘wow! This is awesome!’. All of that has sort of like, died out now. If it was up to me I’d go back to those times. I remember when I’d purchase something, it was like a statement, ‘I love this artist and that’s why I bought it’, and I’d play it to death! I feel like that kind of thing has died out, which is why I still make sure that I get the physical copies of the CD’s, and I’ve also done the vinyl, which is a really cool way to go about stuff. For me, that’s one thing I’d change. I’d take things back a bit to the physical world. Having said that, who wants thousands and thousands of CD’s stacked up in their house? So it is cool that you have it at the touch of your fingertips. I’m kind of torn.

I definitely feel like it takes the excitement out of it though. I used to love going and buying physical CD’s.

Yeah, for me it was like that was the only way to do it. By saving up your money and going to get them. I remember I’d want a really obscure CD, going up to the store clerk and saying like, ‘can you search out if you’ve got this album?’ and if it was in I’d think – I can’t believe it, this is amazing! That’s kind of been taken out of it now, because you know if you want to find something, it’s out there. You just search it. It loses a lot of that excitement, but at the same time it’s beautiful that you can pretty much get anything. Music definitely meant a lot more to me when I was younger and I was finding myself, you know? 

Yeah definitely! We actually want to know who you are listening to, so can you tell us your top 3 songs currently on your playlist? 

I’m really loving Tom Walkers’ new record, I think it’s sick. I think it’s called ‘I Will Wait’. Everything that comes on I can’t help but edge the volume up! I’m a big fan of Imagine Dragons, and Mumford and Sons, that kind of stuff. That’s what I always listen to. Ella Henderson’s new record I’ve heard and again, I thought that was really cool. Is that enough?!

Yeah that’s absolutely fine! This is quite a tough question. What’s one thing you wish someone would ask you in an interview but nobody ever does? 

I don’t know! I always like really juicy interview questions to take you away from the norm. But I sometimes don’t like answering them! I don’t know! That’s a great question! I guess, nah I’m dying here. 

Ok that’s fine, haha! Let’s change it up a bit then – what question do you like being asked?

I really like it when we play a game or something! Like I’ll ask a person a question, and then you ask one, and then weirdly enough before you know it you’re talking about crazy stuff. I often like to play that game with people, where you can’t ask the same question twice. Then you think ‘oooh I wish I asked that to them, because now I can’t get the answer back!’. It’s a great fun game to play with people.

I’ll have to keep that in mind and start using them in my interviews!

  Yeah, you know, like on ‘Friends’ years ago when you have to answer quick out of two, it always tears me up!

Haha! Okay, so this is actually the last one I have for you before I let you go. I just wanted to know what was next for you and your music, can you tell us of any future plans? 

Well the news got released today about the Same Difference album that came so far from out of the blue, which I’m really, really proud of, and every penny from that makes a difference that goes to an NHS charity, so it’s good all round. It’s good for everybody and it’s about digging deep to give. I think we’re at a point now maybe that it hasn’t been forgotten, but people are trying to move away back into civilisation and real life… But we still need to remember that the NHS needs support in case there’s a second wave. We need to be prepared for everything.

    Also, the singles really, really good! I think my music is developing into a whole new direction now, as well. I did a record with a band called ‘The Red Bear’, which was played out on Mother, Father, Son on BBC2 drama. We ended up releasing that song because we thought if it’s on BBC2 you’ve got to give people the chance to go out and get it if they like it. It’s still to this day my highest streamed record, so it was obvious we were onto something there. Those guys write banger after banger after banger. It’s so easy to just go in and jam with them, get a vocal down. Not sure what’s going to happen with that because we’ve got no plans – obviously we’ve got the album, the Same Difference Record. Everything’s just too much for people to understand, but that for me is the future. Those guys are so exciting. The cool thing about that is, I’ll be fronting a band, something I’ve always wanted to do.

Thank you so much to Sean for having a chat with us! Make sure you give his album a listen because we’re loving it and wish him the best of luck. Follow his Twitter for more updates! 

Let us know what you thought of Solo over on our Twitter! – @aboutthe_noise