Sam Tsui | Singer & Songwriter

So being a well-known figure, there are going to be a lot of things about you out there on the Internet — some things true, some things not true, a lot of speculation — what level of privacy do you think should be afforded to celebrities?

Well, it’s a very interesting question especially in this day and age where social media plays such a big part in an online presence and in building a fanbase online. And yet, especially someone like me who is primarily thus far an online figure, you know there is this sense of accessibility that I really like that if someone likes my music they have a direct line to me on my channel and through my Twitter and things like that. And yet, that sort of sense of transparency is a tricky area, because at the same time, my Twitter and my Facebook and all those things represent me. Giving people access to that, it’s always a tricky subject because I want to maintain some sense of my actual friends and who I know in my daily life, and yet I also do love sharing who I am with everyone around the world, so it’s a new challenge I think all people who are in the public eye online today sort of have to face.

Does it ever get uncomfortable for you when you’re out and people recognize you?

That’s one of the coolest things that could happen, because when I’m performing it’s all online, so I’m filming it in front of a camera, posting it online, and then it’s sort of sent off into the ether, and people are watching my performance but I don’t get to be there for that unless I’m doing a live show or something. So whenever I meet someone on the street who recognizes me from my work it’s incredible because it reminds me that yeah, when these numbers are going up on the hits and all that stuff, that actually is real people who are appreciating what I’m doing and who I’m making happy with my music. So if anyone ever sees me on the street I’ll take a million pictures, I’ll sign whatever because it means that I’m accomplishing my goal of making people happy through my music.

Going back to YouTube now, Kurt Hugo Schneider recently signed with Alloy Digital — have you signed with anybody?

Yeah, so as I told you, my channel was started about a year ago, so for this first year it’s really been about growing it, and it was actually kind of cool having been a part of the Kurt Hugo Schneider channel which obviously took off and is huge, so I got to sort of experience that growth and then to get to sort of start again and start a new channel and see how the fabric of YouTube and digital music has changed has actually been really interesting. So I’ve been growing that channel, and yeah, it’s gotten to the point that it’s become something in it’s own right, and I’m really excited about that. So I did; I signed with Fullscreen. It was great to have sort of a network of people and a family there to support me, and it was a great thing, so I’m really excited about that.

There are a lot of YouTubers out there that wonder whether they should sign to a network. What do you think the advantages or disadvantages are of signing with a YouTube network?

Obviously, you know, doing content on YouTube it can be very sort of isolated. Especially when Kurt and I were doing videos at school, it was really just sort of the two of us, and we were obviously building this global network of fans, but the actual production side of it was pretty small scale, and so the great part of a network of some kind is that it opens you up to a community of people who are all doing what you’re doing and can connect you all, and you can share resources and learn from each other. And sort of to just have that support and be part of a family of people who are doing the same things as you is really valuable as a content creator, as a YouTuber.

Can you tell me about your upcoming solo album?

Absolutely. This is something I am so excited about, and in some ways I feel like I’ve been building toward this the whole time. A lot of YouTubers have sort of released original material intermittently with their covers, but for me I really wanted to have a debut album that was something very distinct and something that sort of was an event, and so I had been writing songs over the past three years and have really held off on releasing them because I wanted there to be a debut album that people could get their hands on and say, “This is who Sam Tsui is, this is his first album.” So I’m really excited that I’m finally ready to actually put it out there, and it’s going to be a full 12 to 14-track original album. It is all produced by Kurt Schneider, so it’s going to be really good and accompanied with some awesome music videos. People love our videos, so I’m incredibly excited, and I think it will begin a new phase of what I’ve been doing because I’ve obviously continued to do cover stuff and medley stuff, but I’m excited to show who I am as a musical artist and as a songwriter, so I can’t wait.

What have you written about in some of your songs?

Well, I come from a musical theatre background, so I think that storytelling and situation is so important in songwriting — and don’t get me wrong — I love today’s pop music, and I love dance music, but that’s something that I think is lacking in a lot of the biggest artists is this sense of specificity and story, so I definitely write about real situations to me, but I write about them in a way that is accessible and really tells a story melodically.

Tell me about the series of concert tours you’re having with Kurt.

Well, as I said, one of the things about YouTube is that we always film our videos beforehand and then put them up, and then that video is online for perpetuity, but it lacks this sense of live performance that is so awesome. And one of my favorite parts about music is the live concert music experience, and so one of the things I’m going to be doing with Kurt is hopefully a series — we are doing the first one on November 17th, but hopefully it will be a series of live-streaming concerts. So they will be on YouTube, and they will sort of look like a YouTube video, and we’re doing them in a studio with good cameras and stuff so it will look like the quality that fans are used to seeing in one of our videos. It’s not just like a webcam set-up — it will look nice, but it will  be completely live, so fans will get to comment in real time. We’ll respond and have little chats in between songs, and it’s going to be really exciting. It’s not just us; we have other artists like Megan Nicole and Max Schneider and some other big YouTube names that are going to join us, so hopefully it will be a really cool event and ideally the first of many, because I think there will be something really exciting about watching a video on YouTube in the YouTube screen but knowing that it’s happening completely live. I think that will bring a new level of excitement to the YouTube viewing experience.

Can you tell me about the next video that you’re doing?

Yeah, well, because we’re working on this album, we definitely want to ramp up our video productions and make sure that for the next couple months, we’re still bringing people lots of content, so there will be a lot of videos in the coming weeks and months. The next one I’m really excited about is a duet with the incredibly talented Megan Nicole. We just recorded it last night actually, and we’re going to do a video this weekend. It’s a mash-up. It should be really cool, really fun, so I’m excited about that.

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Photography by Melly Lee
Wardrobe by Lauren Nakagawa
Special Thanks to Diana King

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