Sam Wood

Photo Credit: Gary Gilmurray

Course Studied: BA Music (Popular)

Year of Graduation: 2010

A graduate of our BA in Popular Music degree programme, guitarist Sam Wood is an integral member of Wayward Sons. His work with the group has led to performances at well-known rock festivals including Download and Ramblin’ Man and iconic venues such as the Hammersmith Odeon.

Here, Sam discusses the band’s songwriting process, the realities of life as a touring musician and his time spent studying at Leeds Conservatoire.

When did your interest in rock music begin?

I was brought up on my parents' record collection, which was mostly seventies rock (and the surrounding areas), so a lot of it was ingrained from an early age. I didn't always know I wanted to be a guitarist, but I knew I loved the music and wanted to play something. As time goes on your musical reach broadens somewhat (particularly when you go on to study as a musician), but I think there's a part of you that will always be incredibly fond of whatever it was that gave you that first sting of being really excited by music. I don't think that ever leaves you!

How did studying Popular Music at Leeds Conservatoire help facilitate your entry into the industry?

Well, firstly, and the most obvious answer is that in the music industry, as with almost any other, it's about who you know, and about being in the right place at the right time. Whilst studying in Leeds, I met several of the people that I would go on to be in bands with which, further down the line, would end up in me being asked to help form my current band Wayward Sons. If you work backwards down the timeline of things, there's no way I'd be doing what I'm doing now if I hadn't have studied at Leeds Conservatoire. 

The second is that studying in a place like that really gets you in the right frame of mind to go on and try and make a profession out of what you love. To want to make music your livelihood is something of a calling, and to suddenly be surrounded by so many incredibly talented people who all share the same dream is insanely inspiring. There's no better incentive for getting better at your craft than going from being one of the best at what you do in your own little bubble (as I'm sure is the case for many people in their schools and colleges before coming to Leeds Conservatoire) to coming to a music college and realising that there's some serious competition out there!

Was there much freedom within the degree programme to focus on the musical sub-genres that you are interested in?

Absolutely. Although what I found far more helpful was to be in a position to explore other genres that I hadn't encountered before. Whilst I do think that for most musicians there will always be one or two main styles or genres that we gravitate towards that create the core of our style, I'd dare say that it's almost essential to have a good grasp of as much other music outside of your own world as you can. Not only will it make you more employable (hopefully!), it has a funny way of working itself into your playing, and can come out in very cool and unusual ways. 

I think that for me though, the greatest thing that I learnt from the course was discipline. Discipline to practice, discipline to work with others in a constructive way (which is sometimes a lot harder than it sounds) and discipline to bite the bullet occasionally and take the risks and opportunities that might seem like a lot of effort or might not be worth it. In an industry where so much comes down to luck, you have to try and put yourself in the positions to be as lucky as possible!

Tell us a little bit more about Wayward Sons and your performances at festivals including Download and Ramblin’ Man

We've been incredibly fortunate to have landed some wonderful gig opportunities in the relatively short life of the band, and Download Festival and Ramblin Man were two of the most incredible shows that we’ve had the pleasure of playing. There’s nothing that beats the excitement of walking out on a big stage! It’s always a little daunting as there will be a great deal of people watching who don’t know who you are, so unlike at your own gigs, there’s a very real pressure there to try and ‘convert’ as many people who are watching as you can!

Wayward Sons are releasing a new album later this year, ‘The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be’. Can you tell us a little bit more about the songwriting process involved in the album’s creation?

The songwriting process for us is quite an organic one. Toby (the singer), will usually have a rough idea, sometimes fully formed, sometimes more bare bones, and we’ll work them through together in a room, as a band. The songs will then usually take on a form of their own with the involvement of everyone, which feels like a very nice way for it to work. I came to peace long ago with the fact that I’m not the world's greatest songwriter, but rather that my strengths lie in arranging or coming up with parts and sections to suit a song, so it's nice that between us we seem to get the job done!

Your work takes you all over the world – what has been your favourite venue and performance?

Whilst there have been some wonderful gigs and stunning venues that we've been lucky enough to play, without a doubt playing Hammersmith Odeon was the jewel in the crown, and one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It had always been the one venue that I'd always wished that someday I'd be able to play, never dreaming that I'd ever get the chance! I'd been to so many gigs there growing up, and so many of the bands and artists I loved had recorded iconic shows there - it really was a dream come true. 

What are the realities of life as a touring musician?

The reality is that you spend a great deal of time driving around in a splitter van! There's a lot of hard work and time that goes into things, and often for not a huge amount of financial reward, but the payoff is that you get to do something so awesome that it makes it all worthwhile! The biggest key to touring is to surround yourself with good people. We're lucky enough to be a band of people who get along and don't fall out, which is essential for spending weeks at a time in each other's pockets.

What is it like performing with musicians with decades of industry experience such as Toby Jepson?

It's a real joy, and completely different from any other band dynamic I've ever been involved in. With everyone else in the band having had a long time spent in the industry, all the pitfalls and problem areas that normally catch bands out (often money related...) are things that we're all very aware of and are on the lookout for, which hopefully make them easier to avoid! Toby's always been very vocal about wanting Wayward Sons to not just be Little Angels Mk2, and whilst at first the LA connection was something that was mentioned a lot, it doesn't seem to be a 'thing' for people any more, which is really encouraging, as it needs to be something that can stand up for itself. All we can do is try our best!

Find out more about studying BA (Hons) Music (Popular) at Leeds Conservatoire

Alternatively, discover Wayward Sons and their music

If you’re a student on the Foundation Year at Leeds Conservatoire, come along to hear Sam speak on the 12 December 2019.

Find out more about what our successful graduates have been up to in our Alumni Profiles

Are you a Leeds Conservatoire graduate? Reconnect with us here

Enjoy this clip from Crosswire Sessions: a series of performances from our Pop and Production pathway artists 🕺 🎵…
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