The Aussie-born, LA-based singer-songwriter opens up about going viral on TikTok, supporting Lewis Capaldi and promoting his music in lockdown.
Perhaps one of the first artists to experience of how TikTok can create a viral hit, Sam Fischer only discovered his single ‘This City’ was being used on the social media site once it had gained hundreds of thousands of shares. The sudden interest came as even more of a surprise considering he was no longer actively promoting the track, which was initially released as part of his debut EP, Not A Hobby, two years previously. “I noticed people commenting on the YouTube video for the song, saying: ‘I came here from TikTok’, but I didn’t even know what TikTok was. Then someone sent me a message on Instagram, and it was a link to a video. I clicked on it, and the sound they were using was ‘This City’, but it was all chopped up and screwed, and my name wasn’t on it. It had about 300,000 videos made to it, so I called my manager freaking out, and we begged TikTok to put the official audio on.”
While Fischer worried he might have already missed the boat, the official track only continued to gain traction. To date, ‘This City’ has been used in 1.7 million TikTok videos and has gained over 100 million streams on Spotify. As we speak, he finds himself in the unusual position of experiencing the peak of his success during lockdown. “I never thought I’d be here, so regardless of what’s happening around me, it’s amazing, and I’m really grateful for it. Did I think I’d be promoting my single worldwide from my apartment during a global pandemic? Absolutely not. But it’s been cool.”
While ‘This City’ is Fischer’s first big hit behind the mic, he’s penned tracks for lots of big names in the industry, including Ciara, Keith Urban and Jessie J. Last year, he also supported Lewis Capaldi on his US tour and flew out the day after his wedding with his wife, Erin, who sings his background vocals. Capaldi’s own stratospheric success seems to have been prophetic for Fischer, who watched him climb the ranks. “I remember seeing him play in East London for around 200 people. But I don’t think he can walk anywhere in London without being mobbed by 200 people now. It’s been amazing to see his journey.” And experiencing the rush of playing to huge crowds has only fuelled Fischer’s desire to get out there performing again, especially now that his track is so recognised. “All I’ve ever dreamed of is playing a song and hearing the entire crowd sing along to every single word. I feel like that might be possible right now – but we’re in lockdown.”
While some artists shy away from talking about their ambition, it’s refreshing to hear Fischer admit he’d like to be a household name. His pop-RnB sound and emotionally-charged lyrics have taken influence from one singer-songwriter that everyone’s heard of. “Ed Sheeran has been such a massive influence on me,” says Fischer. “I’ve been listening to him since he was putting out Soundcloud demos in 2008. I think he’s the best songwriter in the game; the way he’s able to take such a simple concept and say it in a way that no one else has said it before, that’s what I’m striving to do as a writer. If I can emulate a tenth of his career, I’m doing something right.”
Though his optimism and excitement to perform and create is evident, it hasn’t always been smooth-sailing for Fischer. After booking a one-way ticket to LA in 2014 to pursue a musical career, he soon ran out of money, couldn’t pay rent and ended up couch-surfing for half a year before being offered a friend’s car to sleep in. When he eventually scored his first record deal, he was dropped before putting out any music. Around that time, in 2016, was when he first wrote ‘This City’, which describes his fraught relationship with the so-called city of dreams. “LA and I will always have a love-hate relationship. I’m not sure if it’s my forever home, but it’s kind of where I need to be,” he admits.
But having now found his feet in his for-now home, Fischer has found it cathartic being able to revisit the track. “When I put it out in 2018, I was afraid that no one would care, so it’s validating to know that people want to hear more,” he explains. “I feel like I’ve really found myself, and I’m in a completely different mental space. The song came from quite a heartbroken place, and now it’s become more of a song of hope and not giving up, even when it gets bad.” And while sharing his story has felt daunting in the past, Fischer is ready to open up. “When you write for other artists, each session starts with an hour, or two, of talking. You listen and take their stories and turn it into a song. But when I’m writing for myself, there’s a lot more thinking about me. Dissecting yourself can be fun, and it can also be devastating, but it’s been interesting getting to know myself and what I want to share.”
Fischer will be releasing new music this summer, with what sound like equally thoughtful and personal tracks to ‘This City’. “It’s more of my perspective on life, based on what’s happened to me over the last couple of years,” he says. “I’m excited for everyone to hear it. I want people to know who I am and that I’m more than one song.” So keep an ear out and an eye on TikTok; it looks like Sam Fischer isn’t going anywhere soon.