Sam DeRosa shares what it’s like to be mentored by Charlie Puth, Ryan Tedder, Shane McAnally, and Ester Dean and the importance of Ryan Tedder’s advice “You have no control over who gets signed when you will get signed…the only thing you can control is the work that you can put in.”
Sam DeRosa was born on October 4, 1991, and she grew up living in New York. Both of Sam’s parents were living in the Bronx area of New York when they first met each other. The two of them met when Sam’s mother actually tried out to be a singer in Sam’s father’s band. Sam’s mom was chosen to be in the band and the two quickly started dating.
After dating for a while, the couple discovered that they were pregnant with Sam. They two decided to put their music careers on-hold to then make it their shared goal to raise Sam and her future siblings. As the kids grew older, the parents eventually found the additional time needed to play gigs in their home and at other local venues.
Often times, Sam DeRosa and her other siblings would go downstairs and listen to their parents performing and they would eventually just start making music together. Although Sam learned how to start writing her own new songs at a very young age she did not start sharing her original music with the rest of the world until she chose to compete in a local talent show and then decided to perform one of her original songs for all to hear. When the judges heard the original song they were blown away. From that point forward Sam only performed her original songs and began winning more and more competitions and trophies because of her ability to write, and perform original songs that wowed people.
Sam Derosa later went to graduate from the school of Berklee College of Music where she originally met Charlie Puth. Soon after her graduation, she co-wrote the song called “Broken” in New York City. Just a few years later, “Broken” became an incredibly popular song for the band “Lovelytheband” and her career in music began. Since then, Sam DeRosa has had the opportunity to compete on the NBC show Songland starring Ryan Tedder, Charlie Puth, Ester Dean, and Shane McAnally. Sam performed a song called “Pill For This” in front of the producers and ended up signing a record deal with Shane McAnally at Monument Records.
Pop singer / songwriter Sam DeRosa is now signed to Monument Records, yet she had to pay her dues for years singing cover songs, waiting tables, bartending and doing paid gigs for as little as $50. When being interviewed in People Magazine, Sam DeRosa said, “I’ve been waiting tables and bartending, singing cover gigs and missing holidays with my family for gigs that only paid $50. I always thought, there’s no way when you put this much energy into something that can’t work.”
Sam’s years of diligence and grit paid off when she was signed by the Grammy-winning producer, Shane McAnally to his Monument Records label. However, years before landing her deal, Sam once shared a class with hit singer/songwriter Charlie Puth when they were both enrolled at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. DeRosa said that the two of them became casual friends and they eventually went out to eat seafood together where they discussed their career dreams while enjoying clam chowder. The two had not seen each other since college and Sam was shocked that Charlie Puth actually remembered her so many years later.
https://www.samderosa.com/ – Sam DeRosa – Official Website
Sam DeRosa Performs – “Pill for This” (Original Song Performance) – Songland 2019 – September 3rd 2019
Sam DeRosa Reveals The Empowering Career Advice Shane McAnally Gave Her – November 6th 2019
Sam DeRosa performs “Broken” at the ASCAP EXPO – October 19, 2018
Sam DeRosa Facebook – @SamDeRosaMusic
Monument Record Signs Pop Artist Sam DeRosa – September 5th, 2019
How Songland’s Sam DeRosa Went from Charlie Puth’s Classmate to Rising Star – People Exclusive – September 24th, 2019
Sam DeRosa on Songland – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Songland
Tell everybody, what’s your name?
Okay, go for it. What word of encouragement would you have for my daughter, and for the young ladies out there, young men out there who are, those 10-, 11-, 12-year-old songwriters, what advice would you have for the Angelinas of the world?
First of all, hi Angelina, thank you. I would say two things. One is, make the music that you want to hear, and that you need to hear, not what you think you need to make. And two, listen to everything, get inspired by everybody, use your cellphone, use your notes, something your mom or dad says could be an inspiration for a lyric. Those are the best stories of songs. And just remember that inside of you there is a fire that you are naturally born with.
I’m a super fan of OneRepublic, I’ve been a fan of Tedder’s writing and production for so long. So, seeing him in person, just being a normal human being in front of me, was crazy. They had said, “Hey, just so you know, every producer has a piano or a guitar, they may make some suggestions.”
But when they started singing, I mean, they knew what key the song was in already, they remembered the melodies and the lyrics, and they just, they jammed on it for awhile. And I just remember, at one point, I said, “Ryan Tedder’s playing piano on my song.”
You can almost hear the audience singing along with it, 50,000 people. Could you drop it down? (singing)
Can I just have a little do-over with that, just a little, baby? Do it!
Okay, now, I got the little… Those little things you were getting before, on your arm?
Ryan Tedder is playing piano on my song!
Ryan Tedder is playing piano on your song right now!
This is happening! This is awesome!
Some shows don’t need a celebrity narrator to introduce the show, but this show does. Two men, eight kids, co-created by two different women, 13 multimillion-dollar businesses. Ladies and gentlemen welcome to The Thrive Time Show.
Yes, yes, yes, and yes, Thrive Nation! On today’s show, we have a superstar, a woman who’s en route to becoming a household name, Sam DeRosa. Welcome onto The Thrive Time Show! How are you, ma’am?
Oh, my gosh, thank you for that intro! Wow, I’m honored to be here! Thank you so much for having me.
Well, here’s the deal. My kids, we watch Songland. We’re sort of addicted to the show, and Ryan Tedder, who’s obviously one of the judges on the show, he and I went to college together. And when I started my first company, djconnection.com, he’s the man who sold me my first mike, and he would fill in on occasional DJ gigs for me, and then he’d sing at our wedding.
And so, I kind of knew him, in growing up, and I saw you on the show with him. What was it like to be on the show Songland with Ryan Tedder, and the other great judges?
Well, I think that… First of all, that’s such a crazy story, because I was such a super fan of OneRepublic, my whole life.
So I knew that he was from Oklahoma, and I was going to ask if there was a tie. So that’s pretty wild to even know that. But I think it was very humbling and wild, at the same time, because I never in a million years thought that I would meet all of those people, at the same time, do you know what I mean?
Right. All at the same time.
To be there in front of them, in that way, and not to just say, “Hi,” but to say, “Hey, here’s a song, let me know what you think”? It was very wild. I was extremely nervous. I remember, my knees were shaking, in my, below, in my shoes, as I was singing. Which was a little hard to keep balance when you try to close your eyes to sing.
But I’m a super fan of OneRepublic. I’ve been a fan of Tedder’s writing and production for so long. So, seeing him in person, just being a normal human being in front of me, was crazy.
Now, was that kind of surreal, when they started messing with your song, and playing with your song, and then, Charlie’s singing your song? Charlie Puth is singing your song, like… Was that surreal?
Yeah. That was wild, because I didn’t know what to expect on the show.
And I didn’t know how they were going to work it. They had said, “Hey, just so you know, every producer has a piano or a guitar. They may make some suggestions.” But when they started singing, I mean, they knew what key the song was in already, they remembered the melodies and the lyrics, and I was actually in that room with them for about 45 minutes.
So it’s crazy that they have to edit it, to just that little two-minute bit, but they just, they jammed on it for awhile. And I just remember, at one point, I said, “Ryan Tedder’s playing piano on my song.”
And Charlie looked at me, and was like, “Ryan Tedder’s playing piano on your song.” And just hearing him sing in the same key as I was also one of those moments, where you go, “Wow, he can really get up there.”
Now, you went to school, at the same school as Charlie Puth, is my understanding. And tell us about that story.
Oh, wow, yeah. So I started at Berklee. I transferred in. I went to school at Pace University, in New York, because I actually couldn’t afford Berklee. So I didn’t even think to audition. And I went to school to be a Spanish teacher, and after two semesters, I hated it, and so, I auditioned for Berklee, and got in. But because I got in, I transferred whatever credits I could, so that I could still graduate on time.
And basically, I had to take this English class. And I remember being so mad, because I was like, “C’mon, I already took English! I just want to take music, or whatever!” And I got in, and I had to take this English class. And his name had been called a few times.
And then, he never came, but I didn’t know who he was, or anything, until I started getting a little more involved in the Berkeley scene. And I heard about this kid who did a viral cover to an Adele song, and that it went on Ellen, and he became a star, and he was about to blow up. That’s what everyone was saying, “He’s going to blow up!” And that was the name of the kid who was in my English class, Charlie Puth.
Which is why he was never there. He wasn’t a bad student or anything. He was genuinely just on the Ellen show, and flying back and forth to LA, and working. So he sat behind me when he showed up. He was there about more than half the time, I would say. But I remember the teacher getting frustrated with him, because he was busy.
I mean, he was doing what everybody dreamed of doing. But I remember, that at one point, she was like, “You’re not going to pass this class if you don’t come, and you don’t do the assignments!” She made a joke of it, and I turned around, and I closed his laptop. And I was like, “Hi, I’m Sam. You’re going to fail this class. How can I help? We should be friends.”
I just introduced myself, and we just kind of had a little mini-semester, “Hey, how are you?” Friendship. And then I never saw him again, for three years.
And then, boom, I walk out onto Songland. And he was sitting in the chair. And I thought it was going to be Maroon 5, or something, because that’s how they had open called the show, and say, “Maroon 5.”
I’d no idea what I was in for, until that day, really.
How did your appearance come about? Because there are so many talented people out there, so many songwriters, so many people with great voices, I mean, just thousands and thousands. Was it serendipity, was it a plan, was it a move? How did you get on the show?
I think that’s a really good point, especially with social media. There’s so much talent out there. And you don’t know if you can trust these shows, or if it’s a good idea, and how you even get on there, is it fixed? For me, the inside scoop, I will say, that you guys are getting, which is cool, is that my Songland episode was actually the pilot episode.
Which is why I thought it was Maroon 5. If we filmed this pilot for this show, we had no idea if it was going to take off. And then it sat for about a year and a half, until my episode actually aired.
We were going to be the first episode, and then they moved us to the end. So, real quick, that’s a little back story. But I was sitting in Nashville, for a writing trip, just trying to meet some people, and write some songs?
And I received a phone call from the manager of Lovelytheband, which I know we’re going to talk about in a bit. But Lovelytheband, who had their hit song, Broken, he called me, and he said, “Hey, you. Curious to know if you’re looking into signing a publishing deal.” And I said, “Maybe, but they scare me, because I don’t know who I can trust. But if it’s life-changing, maybe.”
And he said, “Well, there are some people who might be interested,” and my management was already kind of talking about it, too, because that song was obviously taking off, and I was a brand new writer to the scene. So I said, “Cool, good to hear from you,” and that was it. And then, about two hours later, I’m still sitting at the same table.
I was at a restaurant in Nashville, called Edley’s, they have a great pulled chicken sandwich. That’s I was eating. I remember it well. And then, I got a phone call from this girl, and she said, “Hi, I’m casting this show, Songland,” and I thought it was a prank. I said, “No thank you,” and I hung up the phone. I hung up on them. I had no idea. I thought it was fake.
And then, a few hours later, they got in touch with my manager. And what had happened was, I had a meeting, some time that year, with a label somewhere. I don’t even know who. And I played them songs, for pitch, just trying to get sessions, anything I could get. I just had a meeting with someone who knew somebody, who said, “Oh, yeah, I’ll meet her for 15 minutes.”
I went in there and played a song called Playlist. And the people always say, “My God, your personality is so crazy, so funny. Have you ever been on TV?” And I always go, “Oh, man. I don’t know if I want to do that. I feel like I’ve gotten my sign, but it’s not a good idea.”
But this person had a friend, who casting the pilot for the show Songland, and sent my songs first. So they heard my songs, and then, I guess, they searched my social media, and that, and then, that was it. So I finally got on the phone with them, and I said, I was really scared to do the show. I didn’t want to do it. I’ve been called back for The Voice, and American Idol and X Factor, and all these things, must to be told no a million times, a million different ways.
I said, “I don’t want to win a career. I want to earn it.” So I said no again. And then I had the choice of signing a publishing deal or going on a television show. And again, I chose the publishing deal. I said, “I just really want to do this right. I owe it to myself, I’ve worked too hard.” So I chose to sign, and then the show talked to my publisher, and they allowed to me to go on the show anyway.
So I filmed the pilot for Songland, Easter 2018. And then, I found out, around the next year, that they were filming the rest of it, and that it was going to go. And I was the pilot, and that’s how it happened.
Now, did you have to keep it a secret, that you were on the show, for a year and a half?
You didn’t tell anybody?
You sign an NDA, and it’s scary.
Of course. You have to. But I mean, my family knew, certain people knew, because they filmed some behind the scenes stuff, so, of course. But I’m so scared of that stuff, that I was super tight lipped about it.
But it is, because it’s a show that they put so much love and energy into?
You don’t want to be the guy that ruins it.
Wow. So you, okay… So, I want to make sure I’m, there’s just so much exciting stuff here. So you’re writing songs, as a young kid in New York, right?
So, how old were you, when you started writing songs? And what did the process, what is the process for you like, when you’re writing a song?
So it started when I was little. I had a book of poems. I always wrote words, and I’m the middle of five children, and everybody sings. So it was kind of like, I wanted to find my thing. And it started with just a cappella sons that I’d sing to my mom, and she thought they were good.
But she’s my mom, so I always just had this, “You don’t want to only be that kid, who, your mom thinks you’re good, and that’s it.” So I always had that thought in the back of my head, I had to go and be better at it. And then I taught myself piano, and started writing on piano, and putting melodies to it when I was really young. Probably between eight and 12 is when they started really coming to fruition.
And then I, when I applied to Berklee, I played an original song on piano. I mean, I’m not amazing at piano, but I can get by. And I accompanied myself and sang the song. And they actually accepted me for that. That’s what they said the big kicker was, was my original. So I got in on that, and then, I just decided, I would do whatever it took, to just get in a room.
Because although I really wanted to be the one singing my songs, I was so scared to kind of put that out there, because I’ve always believed, it was a destiny thing. And I didn’t want to force on that anybody. So, even with Songland, I said, “Okay, here I ma, writing these songs.” I’ll give it up, and I’ll see what happens.
But I left Berklee at 20… I think I graduated. So I graduated at 21, and then, I was singing in wedding bands, and driving back and forth, Boston to New York, to try to get some sessions, and see if anybody was willing to take me into rooms. And that’s probably when I started professionally, was straight out of Berklee at 21, doing whatever I could.
I think I might have been 22, actually. But that was it. By 20, I was, right when I graduated, I just did whatever I could. And that’s how it started.
Where do the melodies come from? I mean, are you just walking down the street? Are you brushing your teeth? Are you eating a burrito, and then, all of a sudden, a song comes to you? I mean, what inspired… Where do the melodies come from? It’s maddening, to me, how great your stuff is, and where does it come from?
Oh, thank you.
Where does it come from? It’s awesome.
That’s so sweet. Thank you. I honestly feel like, I tell everybody, anyone can be a songwriter, if they have the patience, and they try hard enough. Because for me, it’s just, I start singing things around in my head. But I think lyrics come first for me, a lot of the time. And then I realize, that if I don’t have anything to say, I don’t have anything to sing.
Some people start with just melodies. I think I’m really a happy balance of both. But I’ll be brushing my teeth. Sometimes, it’s like that, you know that classic, you wake up in the middle of the night, and you have to pee? That’s usually when my ideas come.
And then, I’m like, “Okay, I got to make sure I write this down!” And then the next thing you know, I can’t sleep, and then it’s three in the morning, and I’m finishing a song. That happens more often that you think.
But I think it’s just that, when you’re tuned in, I think of it like a radio frequency. If you have the right station on, and you have that open line of communication with your inner songwriter and your musical self, I think it’s just always on. And people say things that inspire me, and I’ll start singing as a joke. And sometimes, I’ll keep it, and sometimes, it’s just, like you said. You’re brushing your teeth, you’re walking down a street.
Or there’s an old song, from years ago, that you want to try to take, and turn into something that could be more current, and bring it back to life. And that’s kind of how it happens for me.
Now, we have one of our show sponsors here, Charles Colaw, is in the studio here. Charles, how big are you? How tall are you?
And how much do you weigh?
About 250, okay? A massive man. If you Google search Charles Colaw, he’s a massive man, and he owns a-
A massive man?
A massive man. He owns, he and his wife own a chain of big box fitness centers. And Charles, did you have, do you have a question for today’s guest here?
Well, I was just, I heard her talking, and it just makes me think about, so much of, so many entrepreneurs, it’s like a higher power, in the middle of the night, when you got to go to the bathroom. It’s like, God’s just telling you something. It’s like, a higher power just says, “Here it is. Here’s your dream. Go do it.”
I think she said that it’s when you wake up in the middle of night, and you have to pee. I think a lot of 72-year-old men are going to start writing songs here.
Yeah, hit songs!
That’s it! I mean, hey, I always say, “Live your truth, live your truth.”
That’s what it is. But I really do think that sometimes I… This sounds so strange. But I really in my heart, like you said, if you have a purpose, and you’re meant to do something?
There’s no blueprint to this. And if I could bring this full circle, that’s something Ryan Tedder said to me. Because I spent a lot of my life comparing my journey to other people’s, and thinking that I had to do, however they wrote songs is how I had to write, or-
If they were able to do this, then I had to do that to get there, blah, blah, blah. So I had a very back door way of doing everything, because I had to waitress at Berklee, or I had to sing in the wedding bands, in kind of the way that Tedder came up, really. And I didn’t know a lot of that back story until later, but he said to me in the room, when he said, “I’m confused. It says you live in Boston, but New York, and you’re in LA? Where are you?”
And I told him the story, of how I, why I’m here now, and I moved to LA. And he said, “I just want to say something really quickly.” And I think it’s so important for people to hear, if you are an entrepreneur, or you’re just, you want to do more than just work for somebody else’s dream, and you want to start your own.
He said to me, “You have no control over who gets signed, when they get signed, who knew who, or how they got where they got, et cetera. The only thing you can control is the work that you know you put in. And so long as that goal is in hindsight, in the back of your mind, whatever you do will get you there.”
And then he said, I mean, you’re standing in front of us right now, aren’t you? And isn’t it weird, that you’re standing in front of Charlie Puth, after all these years?” And that is such a weird cosmic thing, when I said, “Yeah,” you know what I mean? Every table I waitress, every idea, every middle of the night pee, whatever it is, it gets you there.
I really do believe that there’s, there are definitely are paths you can take. But I don’t think that there’s anything wrong or right, when I think it’s just a matter of time, and not giving up on something.
That is powerful. You have no control over who gets signed, or when you will get signed, but the only thing you can control is the work that you’ve put in. I think that is so true. Now, Paul Hood, Paul Hood is a CPA. Not a musician, big fan of music, though.
Paul, you have a question for Sam, I think.
Yeah, I have a couple questions. First one is, Sam, and this could be a song, I think. You said, you don’t want to win a career, you want to earn it. So what does… I mean, why was that important to you? Everybody thinks of people that are in your industry as just, they really think, you got lucky, and you just got discovered. And they don’t really put together that you earned it. So why-
Why did those words come out of your mouth?
And I think, thank you for asking for that. Because I think what I mean by that, I don’t knock anybody who went on a show, and was able to take that next step forward. I think that really is a destiny that is meant to be yours. But what’s so hard about it, is people think, that you just kind of… A lot of these shows are lined up, to really design it, where it’s like, “Here’s Stacy. She was a dental assistant, and she just happened to see a sign that said, ‘Audition for The Voice,’ and here is she now, Stacy, a star.” You know what I mean? And it’s like-
Most of these people, deep down in their gut, really wanted this, their whole lives. And maybe they felt like, they were working really hard at it. But the second you come off of a show, I feel like, it’s so hard to break through that, “Oh, well, she just got really lucky, because she went on that show, and Charlie was there. And she just, somebody helped her, and got lucky with her.” And I said, “Man, I’m three years out of school. I’m going through the college debt, and where am I supposed to be? And I’ve had so many nos. I didn’t come this far, for people to think that I was some overnight success. I want people to know the bruises and the scars and the bumps.”
Because that, to me, is the story. And everybody on any of these shows has that same story, whether they are Billie Eilish or Pink or Kelly Clarkson or anybody like that. Everybody has that same amount of earn, but unfortunately, there is, to the mass media, everybody just thinks, “Oh, you’re that girl from that show.” And I guess that’s what I meant.
I’d wanted to, I had so many moments that had gotten me so far, I said, “Man, I don’t know if I want that.” And truly, what changed my mind was talking to the staff of Songland. They were unbelievable people. They just said, “Listen. You cannot get on this show unless you’re good. This is no fluke, where we laugh at you, this isn’t…”
They just said, “We want you to get on this show, because we want to show people the truth behind these songs. For every Halo, by Beyonce, there’s a Ryan Tedder and a bunch of guys in a basement till five in the morning, trying to get the lyric right.”
And that’s how… That sounds boring, right?
Right. Well, we teach at our office, that, at Hood CPAs, we teach that unearned wealth is almost always negative. And so, I just thought that was very interesting, that you said, very powerful-
That you earned, you wanted to feel like… Because you are appreciated more, when you’ve had to go through those knocks. Now the only other thing that I want to know is, why is your industry is so negative? Why do you got to break a leg? Why does things got to go viral, and why do you got to blow up, to be successful? I don’t understand!
I wish I knew that exact answer for you.
I don’t. But I was talking to somebody about this recently. I played a show, and I opened up for Andy Grammer, and he’s just such a positive person.
I mean, he is just a great guy. And he cracks me up, because he told the story of how he was always that, “C’mon, smile, life ain’t that bad!” And then he lost his mom, and then people were saying that to him, and he was like, “Man, shut up! I don’t want to hear that anymore!”
And he flipped his narrative back around, and said, “No, I want to be the guy who’s positive.” And I was like, “Man, I’m so happy to be sharing the stage with this guy, because I think I really needed to hear that.” Because I do feel, with the music industry, and social media, I think it all kind of ties together, with, everybody gets asked, but what’s your thing? What’s your story? What’s your brand?
My whole life, I was told that my story wasn’t cool enough. I have a pretty average middle-class life. My parents are cool. We never really had much, but I don’t have any crazy story, thank God. Thank God I have all my limbs, and everything’s okay, but it’s crazy to think that people start to think that they have to be negative, to get somewhere.
And I think that’s what was so wild about this experience, is, I am where I am, truly from just being really honest. I really didn’t fake anything or pretend anything. And the music industry has a way of making people think that they have to try to be something, in order to be successful.
But if anybody here is listening, whether you are in business or music, or you just want to paint, I mean, there is… Whoever you aspire to be, if you’re looking to someone else’s career, it already exists. And if you chase someone else’s story, you’ll be chasing forever. That’s at least how I saw it.
So I said, “The only thing I could do is just be Sam DeRosa, and I’m going to do my best, to just be as honest as I can.” And I think, somewhere in the process, I learned that I didn’t want to change, and try to be overly negative or overly anything, I just wanted to be me.
And I don’t want people to feel like, to be a musician, they have to self-sabotage, or constantly have relationship problems, to get-
Happy people can write sad songs. It’s just about the ability to go back to that place, when you need it, for the fuel.
What was your life like, growing up? You mentioned that briefly, you grew up in kind of a, was it middle-class? Or what did your parents do for a living? Was it a musical home? Tell us about how you grew up there.
Yes! It’s a fun story. My parents both were living in the Bronx. They are total Italians, born and raised-
In New York, and my mom and dad, when they were young, she tried out to sing in his band. And he accepted her as the singer, and he was the guitar player, and they started dating, and have been together since.
So they started a band.
That’s awesome! So they started a band, and you grew up hearing music, all throughout your house?
Yeah, so the way that it worked was, they were trying to make the band happen, so they called it Leather and Lace, after the Fleetwood Mac song, which is very cute. And my dad is like a prog rock guy. He loves Yes and Deep Purple, and my mom loves Madonna.
So it was a good mix. And when they found out that they were having us, they ultimately just kind of put their dreams on the back burner, and said that their dream was us. And so, they just wanted to be the best parents they could be. So, to help pay the bills, they brought the music back up. And they would do weekend gigs, and play weddings or nightclubs, or whatever they could. And they would hold rehearsals in our basement, and we have a two-floor creaky house.
So my mom would give us [inaudible 00:23:52], and put us to bed, and say, “Okay, goodnight.” And then we’d hear, (singing), and we’d be, like, “Wait!” That was my favorite song. I used to run downstairs with my siblings, and we’d hide behind the door. And my mom could hear us laughing, so she’d know we were there.
So she’d open the door, and we’d get to go in, and we’d sing with them, and we’d get a good hour of band practice in with the parents. And then, we would go back up, and we’d have to go to bed.
And you did covers, you performed covers at competitions, but my understanding is, at the age of 15, you decided, “You know what? I’m going to sing an original song,” and the judges gave you a great score. What inspired you to sing one of your own original songs for the first time onstage?
I’m so glad you asked that. I got inspired to write, to sing my own song, because I always lost.
I tried to sing other people’s songs, and I would lose, so badly! And I was the middle child, and my little sister was this Broadway dancer, so good. And my older sister just has this voice, she’s just amazing. And I would be in the middle, like, “Here’s Little Mermaid, Part Of Your World, here we go.” Close my eyes, like, “Oh, God, please do this right,” and I would just get so nervous. Because, I think I would get in my head is, “I have to do this. I have to be perfect.”
And I loved theater as a kid, so I thought I’d be so good at getting up at these competitions. But I psyched myself out so hard. And then one time, I had this high school boyfriend, we had a fight, and I was helping my mom clean the tables, the kitchen table. And I picked up the Morton Salt container, and on the back, it said, “When it rains, it pours.”
So I wrote a notebook, in my own notebook. I heard, “When it rains, it pours, but I feel like it’s been raining forever,” and a song started. And I was like, “You know what? Mom, Dad, can you come here for a second?” And I played it for them, and I said, “Do you guys think it’d be okay, if at this competition, we brought the keyboard, and I just… Can I just do my own song? I think I might be more comfortable.”
Something about me just wanted to be that person who got up there and did it. And I did. And then I wound up winning this massive trophy, and I think I won 200 bucks-
And I beat out all the dancers, all the singers. It was like, a competition of 500 people, and I won. From my original song, I got a perfect score, the only one in their history…
When I was a little kid.
Do you remember the melody to that song?
Okay. Can we find it anywhere on the Internet? You can’t just tell us, you won with this song, and not let us hear it somewhere. Can we find it somewhere?
Oh, you’re so funny! I have it. I have a really cheesy black and white music video to it, that I filmed, when I was 17, that’s on an unlisted YouTube link.
I will, 100%, either give you the link to it. Or I’ll send you the little MP3 of the piano demo.
It was called Hello Stranger. And it was about-
Can the world see it?
Giving all your love to somebody, and them walking away, and you realizing, when they came back again, that you didn’t need them anymore.
Can the world see it? Will you ever un-list it? Because this is exciting.
Yeah, I had it out, to my little home… I mean, I’ve been doing this for so long, I have to tell you, I had two EPs that I took down, because I was too scared, so it feels really good to have a song like Pill For This out, and just have it stay there, and say, “Sam DeRosa, you’re not taking this down.”
“You’re not running anymore.” I had released that, just to my hometown, and put it out. It didn’t really do anything, but I thought it was so cool. Just because I wanted to finish something. My mom always said that. She was like, “It doesn’t matter how well you do it, you just have to finish, because finishing is the biggest thing.”
So even when I’d get up there, and I would lose, I never cried when I lost. I was just like, “Cool, let’s go get some pizza.” Because my mom would just say, “Did you have a good time? Did you do what you said you would, which was, go up there, and try your best? Okay, cool. Go get some ice cream,” like, [crosstalk 00:27:33].
So, I feel like, that’s what this song was for me. I just wanted to try something else, and just say, “I did it.” So I did.
Well, I’m certainly not your A&R, or your PR, or even a mentor of any kind. But I would say, I love, I’m a huge music fan. My first big company was called djconnection.com, and we would DJ 4,000 weddings a year. And so many people would go up to me, and say-
Whoa! That’s a lot!
Yeah, it was awesome. And so, I made a life-changing amount of money with that company. But people would come up to me, and go, “How’d you start?” And a lot of times, when I would show them my original videos, of me DJing clubs and stuff, I found that it made me really approachable.
Because it’s like, when someone has a big company, it’s kind of hard to… And I think, the more old school stuff you put out there, I think a lot of your fans would like that. Because it’s fun to see where you started from, but I got to ask you this.
Wow. I love that.
You’ve started to land, you landed some co-writing sessions in New York. You landed these.
Can you explain, to our listeners, what a co-writing session is, and how that translated into Broken becoming a smash hit for Lovelytheband?
Oh, sure. So, co-writing is essentially more than songwriter in a room, writing a song.
So it’s, I’m co-writing, the same way you have a coworker. You’re not the only person in the office.
It’s my co-writer. We’re deciding to take on this song together. Sometimes you can start a song from scratch. Sometimes, I can walk in and say, “Hey, I have this crazy idea, called Pill For This, and here’s this idea,” and blah, blah, blah. Say, that’s how that happened, right?
Essentially, what happens with co-writes is, most artists today, now they’re starting to write their own music, or try to be in the sessions. But, for a long time, songwriters wrote for the artists. Now the artists are co-writing with their songwriting teams. So you have people like Shawn Mendes, who writes his songs with a lot of people, and sometimes, he has his A team, which are the same two people. They co-write.
Two or three people in a room, and you work on the song together. You both all equally input melody, lyrics, some times, some days more than others. You may be the person who’s a little quiet in the room, because your other friend’s on a roll? That’s okay, that’s just, sometimes that just happens. And sometimes, your job isn’t to be the A personality in the room that day.
Maybe your job’s to be the scribe, I call it, where you write a bunch of stuff down, and you take notes, and you say, “Hey, man, you said, ‘I like that you’re broken,'” or whatever that is, for example. So that’s what a co-write is. It’s just multiple people writing a song, and you not being alone in the process. You can write it alone as well.
But more than ever, it’s very rare that you find anyone these days, in the pop market, at least, that is writing a song completely by themself. That just doesn’t really happen anymore. And with producers now taking a piece of the publishing pie, because you can argue that, with drops, and all these new chorus things, that’s kind of a part of a song, is what they’ve deemed. So they’re co-writers too. So everyone’s in the room, everyone’s working together. So-
How often do you, when you’re in a co-writing session, tell your fellow co-writer, “Hey, listen. We need a little more cowbell on the track?” Remember that?
Ooh, I love that. That was actually a joke we had with our wedding band. We would yell it, all the time.
“We need more cowbell!”
“More cowbell, more cowbell!”
We brought one.
I used to play it when I sang. I beat the crap out of it.
That was my favorite part.
That’s beautiful now. So you, your song, Broken, tell us about what it was like to have a song that actually was played and listened to by other people beyond just your immediate sphere of influence.
I always say, “Thank you for not letting me release music to just my parents.”
I think Broken was just such a magical way about how it even happened, because I was in New York, and no one cared about me. And I was really trying to get in any rooms I could. And I met this guy, who was from my hometown, and he said, “I’ll introduce you to this producer. You’ll have to pay him for the first session, because he needs, he’s going to make a track for your artist project.”
I was like, “Okay,” so I saved up 500 bucks. And I paid this guy to write this song that never came out, ultimately. But I came prepared. And that’s another lesson that I will say is, it doesn’t matter if it’s two people in a room, or 200 watching you. It doesn’t matter if it’s Joe Schmo down the street, who wants to work on a song, or Shane McAnally and Ryan Tedder. Be prepared.
Because I don’t believe in luck, I believe in you being in incredibly over-prepared for an opportunity, so that when that moment happens, you’re just ready. So for me, what I didn’t know was, I went in, saved all my money, put 500 bucks in this kid’s pocket, and said, “Let’s work on a song.” And he started playing me, just like, some tracks to write to? And I said, “Oh, I brought a song.” And he was like, “What?”
So I play piano, and I said, “Here’s this idea. I hear the drums going like this,” and I kind of just started… And he got really excited, and said, “Oh, you’re a real singer-songwriter.” And I was like, “Yeah, sure. Thank you so much. Thank you. Yeah, let’s keep working.” And he said, “Let’s do more,” and I said, “Oh, I can’t afford you, so I can’t do it.”
Then he said, “No, no, no, this is something I do for one-off, just tracks here and there. But I actually would love bring you in to write for some friends of mine who are artists. I think you’d do a great job, or just be a great energy in a room.” And so, we just hit off as friends, and he started calling me for sessions. We’d work somewhat on my project, I’d work with other artists. There was a band called Young Rising Sons, there were just other people, here and there, that I would work with.
And then, along came Mitchy, and Christian, who was the producer for that one song that kept calling me in. Said, “Hey, my best friend’s in town. We have a bunch on the books, just me and you, could he come into one? I don’t want to cancel you, so I figured, I’ll say, ‘I won’t cancel her, unless we can all write together.'” It was his idea to just be respectful of my time, so that I wasn’t canceled. That was it.
I walked in, and I met this guy, and he was playing the guitar, and we had a great day. We wrote this song in June of 2016, just to show you how long this takes.
And then, I was in LA, 2017, got a call from Christian, saying, “Hey, they got signed. They’re a band now, and it’s going to be their first single.” I was like, “Wow, that’s amazing, congrats, can’t wait to see what happens.
And then, come 2018, I’m sitting in a café and eating a chicken sandwich in Nashville. And I get a call that the song is doing extremely well, that they think it’s going to be number one, in the next two months, and I was like, “No way. I’ll believe it when I see it.” And then it stayed there for eight weeks. It’s currently the longest running alternative rock song in radio history.
It’s been on more weeks than, I think the one that it beat, was Rise Against. It wasn’t Savior, but another song by Rise Against was the longest-running. It truly had the most weeks ever on radio. Not a number one, just in general. It still plays in the dairy aisles, in my grocery store, and it still plays in my gym. And honestly, that was just one of those moments that I said yes. I took the two-hour drive in. I said yes, I wrote the song, I forgot about it.
I just kept working hard at anything else I could. And, like Tedder said, you have no control. You only can control the work you put in, and that song truly changed my life. I’m so thankful to those guys, I’m so thankful to everything, and I was exactly where I was supposed to be. And I really believe that.
I have four questions for you in four minutes, so here we go. We recently interviewed Emily Warren, the songwriter for the Chainsmokers?
Desmond Child, the songwriter for Bon Jovi, and Ricky Martin, and all these big artists. I mean-
Desmond’s amazing, yeah.
And we’ve had so many fun guests on the show, and Desmond Child told me, that he said, last year, he had something like 500… I mean, seriously, it’s a crazy number, like, 500 million streams of Living On A Prayer? And yet, somehow, he got $6,000 out of the deal? How do you get paid as an artist? Because I think people think you get paid more than you get paid. I’m not asking for specific numbers, but how do you get paid as an artist?
That’s a great question. So there are mechanical royalties, and there are, how do I even put this? I’ll just say, there’s publishing, and there’s performance. What that means is, if you are the singer on this song, you get more money, because your voice is being used. If you are the songwriter on your song, you only get paid for the publishing of it.
And what I will explain that as is, if a song goes to radio, because radio pays out really well, you’ll make more money. If something goes to Spotify, one million streams is the equivalent of $5,000, and that’s for the people who are performing on it. The songwriters get significantly less.
So oftentimes now, more than ever, songwriters are trying to sing on the songs, just in the chorus, do whatever they can to get a little more out there. But you get paid through performance rights organization. So, performance credit is tracked by PROs, performance rights organizations. Mine is ASCAP. There’s ASCAP, there’s BMI, and there’s SESAC.
There’s no, you’re not signed, like as if it’s a record deal. It’s truly just, you need to join at least one, because they register all your songs for you, and track every time they’re played, every time they’re performed. If somebody, say you write a song for Taylor Swift, if she performs that song on her concerts, you get some sort of compensation for that. It’s not anything amazing, and that’s what we’re working ob right now. If anybody feels so inclined, Google the Music Modernization Act.
It’s a bill that just recently passed, trying to get better royalties for songwriters. Basically, we are being paid the same amount that, back in the 1940s, when piano players used to write scrolls for those jazz clubs, that would turn in the piano? That’s still what we get, for every song that’s sold. So we’ve made money in real estate, and all the cost of living has gone up, but songwriters still make the same amount that we did, that many… In over 100 years, we’re still making the same amount, so-
One million streams is $5,000?
What’d you say?
You said one million streams is $5,000.
Yeah, roughly about that, and that-
And a songwriter sees 0.00001-something of that, depending on the percentage. I don’t know the exact amount, but I know people who have written-
Massive songs that make under 50 grand, and you want to get what you can. But SoundExchange is also the website, if anybody here ever plays guitar on a song, something where they do make it onto the recording part? SoundExchange is another one that tracks. They track your royalties, and that’s kind of how it’s tracked, to my knowledge, really, is just that you have people who watch out for you, and make sure that you get paid your dues.
But currently, you get paid quarterly, or sometimes every six months. So whatever I made off Broken, you don’t hear, you don’t even know. You’re kind of just like, hand to God, saying-
“Oh, God, somebody help me,” for at least a year, until you see what you really, what really happens. Which is why these PROs will help you, and they’ll advance you money. That’s kind of how that goes. I hope I answered that question.
No, you did, you did. We had Ross going on our show, and Ross is kind of the songwriter spearheading this whole thing. I mean, he’s the guy behind this.
He’s the pioneer, man. Yeah, he’s unbelievable.
He’s the pioneer. Ross Golan is getting songwriters paid! Now I’ve got three more questions for you.
You’ve teamed up with Shane McAnally. He’s fell in love with your voice and your music. So what is your next project? Where can we find more about you, what’s coming out? Just tell us what the next 12 months hold, if you can.
Yup. I have an EP coming out next year, that will be five songs. I’m also working on an album, and I’m hoping to play a bunch of shows, possibly a tour. That’s the next year of my life.
Sweet! Kelly Clarkson, question number three here. Kelly Clarkson, what was it like to be on her show? And have you yet to recover from the shock and awe of being on The Kelly Clarkson Show?
No. I cried when I met her. They actually edited it a bunch, because the first two questions I asked, I was really crying, I’m such a fan. Life-changing. I think I’ll never get used to meeting people who have inspired me down this crazy journey that I’m on, and I’m very, very thankful for that moment, really, truly.
My final question for you. My daughter, her name is Angelina, and she really loved-
That was my grandmother’s name!
Really? And this kid is, we have five kids, we have four daughters. She somehow conjures up original melody and lyrics.
If I came out to you, would you potentially sit down with her, and teach her your moves? Is that possible, if I flew to you, just wherever you want?
Especially because you’ve taken the time to put me here on your show. I’d love to meet your daughter, and something that I will say, that I still try to do, is for the last three years, I’ve gotten back to Berklee every summer, and taught a songwriting…
I’m just one of the members of the staff. But they have this, something called the Day Sessions, which is for kids ages 10-14, and it’s a one-week program. I do all four weeks.
And you put on a show, and you get to take some classes, and I just really find myself feeling inspired by young creators, and I only got where I am, because people were kind to me, and just gave me a chance. Because I didn’t know anybody. And I would be completely honored to meet your daughter.
I appreciate her so much. First of all, hi, Angelina, thank you. I really mean that, I really would. And if I could have the time to help everybody, I would.
Yup. I hear you.
But specifically, this sounds like, “Hell, yeah.” That’s a “Hell, yeah,” from me.”
Yeah. Awesome. And then, what word of encouragement would you have for my daughter, and for the young ladies out there, young men out there, who are, those kind of 10-, 11-, 12-year-old songwriters, what advice would you have for the Angelinas of the world?
I would say two things. One is, make the music that you want to hear, and that you need to hear, not what you think you need to make. And two, listen to everything, get inspired by everybody, use your cellphone, use your notes, something your mom or dad says could be an inspiration for a lyrics. Those are the best stories of songs. And just remember that inside of you there is a fire that you are naturally born with.
And if you’re not careful, you’ll spend too much time trying to be somebody else, or trying to give other people what you think they want. Listen and feed that fire, because you don’t want that to go out. That’s what makes you you, and that’s why your music deserves to be heard. So take your time and work really hard.
Sam DeRosa, what’s your website, so all of our listeners can find more about you?
Oh, cool, it’s www.samdesroa.com, S-A-M-, D-E-R-O-S-A, dot com.
Sam DeRosa, thank you so much for your time, I hope you and your mother have a great rest of your time together this Christmas holiday. And on behalf of the entire Thrive Nation, of about a half a million listeners, we thank you so much for imparting your words of wisdom on today’s show.
Thank you so much. I’m a big podcast fan, and I started listening to you guys, when I heard that we were going to be chatting. I love your show. I’m very much inspired by you guys. I just want to thank you so much right back, and yeah, seriously, thank you for taking the time. I appreciate it so much. And happy holidays.
Thank you so much. And now, without any further ado, three, two, one, boom!
It’s 7:00 a.m. in Nashville. I just got here, and now, I’m going back to LA, at six o’clock tomorrow morning, because I’m going to be the guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show!