At 16 years old, Sam Way was scouted in London while on a day trip with his mother. One year after that, he found himself with a full-time modeling career that required him to travel around the world. Almost all of that traveling was alone, so he began viewing his notebooks as his “silent companions” with whom he would share his secrets, observations and thoughts. “Without knowing it, they kind of laid the the foundations for my songwriting,” Way tells tmrw.
The role that seemingly disconnected habits, moments or people—like those seminal notebooks—had in molding Way is the central theme of his latest single titled “Made of Clay.”
“‘Made of Clay’ was born in a week from a self-imposed songwriting challenge,” he says. “I was away traveling again and was feeling like so many aspects of my life were just out of my control, and I was becoming more and more aware of how much the people in our lives effect us too; how just one person can literally change everything you think you know about yourself, or the life you lead. ‘Made of Clay’ is also about surrendering to that lack of control, to trusting it in an almost spiritual way, to know that you are always changing, that change is life and to witness that change in yourself not knowing where exactly who you’ll become.”
The song features Way’s ethereal vocals atop swelling instrumentals. One line is particularly powerful: “My lessons are only mine to learn.” Lessons is plural for a reason. He can’t pinpoint just one difficult learning experience that crafted him into who he is today. Rather, his mind flashes back to a stretch of time.
“Being truly honest with oneself is hard, looking back at my many lessons learnt the hard way, I’ve often felt so blind to myself,” Way says. “Like, I wished I could have seen that before, but I guess I feel new perspectives, although challenging, often point to a time of great growth. When I was 23, I started developing a really unhealthy relationship to food, the gym and my body image at large. I got so low and depressed and sick that eventually I just had to get help, and that in itself—in the asking for and seeking help—became a catalyst for a great change in me. I think now more than ever, in these crazy times, it’s important to really feel that whatever you are going though, you are not alone. Do not suffer on your own like this. There is help out there, you just have take the bravest step of helping yourself first.”
Way has been songwriting for about seven years now. He has kept thousands of people company with music, whether it be through a cover of Halsey’s “Without Me” or his 2015 single “Stargazing.” As much as listening to Way helps people, he also benefits emotionally.
“This is, in earnest, one of the most profound things, when a complete stranger reached out and shares how a song you made moved them or helped them though a hard time or whatever it is, it’s the highest honour you can get,” Way says. “I imagine it like this: that each song I release is like one of my children, so it’s like being a proud dad, seeing them giving themselves, being listened too, valued and going to becoming meaningful in other peoples hearts.”
Music is not the only outlet Way uses to connect. Last September, he released Reflections. The limited edition book—only 200 copies were made—includes personal diary entries, previously unreleased song lyrics poems and other musings. Way provided an excerpt to tmrw in order to fully convey the power in vulnerability:
Why I write—I write to pick apart, to destroy, to make sense of chaos, to crystalize my liquid thoughts. I write to see my soul, to glimpse yours, to understand where I’ve come from and where I might be going. I write to make a difference, to open myself and others, to unite hearts and yoke minds. I write because I cherish words, what they can inspire and how they can liberate. I write to wrestle with my demons, to cleanse, to heal and exhume. I write because it’s like therapy, only with the person who knows me better than anyone else in the world. I write because I like stories, because I want to thrill my children before they go to bed with tales of life, love and adventure. I write because I’m compelled to, as though my hands, scrawling fervently through the small hours, were a vehicle for something else, something bigger than I will ever be. I write to wake up to the now, to this moment, and I write too simply because I am forgetting, and this makes me sad.
I write because I love to write
And that reason alone is really the only one that truly matters…
Way brings that intention with him every time he sits down to pen a new song. “Made of Clay” proves that, and there is more “cinematic, folk-pop storytelling” tracks to come from the vault this year leading up to his forthcoming album.
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Photo credit: Kirk Truman