Catch Sampler Answer performing live at the Clash x Farah in-store shopping event in London on August 25th - RSVP NOW!
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"I remember even when I worked in Jamm, which is a music oriented job, it wasn’t me thinking about my own brain and my own life," says Maurice O'Connor – the 21-year-old Dublin-raised Londoner who goes by the name Sample Answer.
Upon hearing O’Connor’s beautifully crafted, soulful pop tunes – that he currently performs as a one man band, in order to “get everything he has in his head out there” – it’s evident that only a life dedicated to unlocking the most creative part of his brain would achieve introverted, melancholic pop songs with this much edge.
And, while it may seem a bit of a cliché, it’s unsurprising a bit of struggle has been met along the way, in sustaining a life outside the prescribed 9-5 path. "I’ve moved a lot and was made homeless for a while, then this guy from the open mic circuit took me in and I slept on his couch," he says. Odd jobs came and went, too: "I was a flyer boy for ages, and you think, oh great, you get to chat to some good looking girls. But no! They hate you more than anyone."
"I was one of those guys you'd see outside Camden tube," he recalls. "I had really bad CD's that I made, they had no case on them, they were wrapped in paper. I'd sell maybe one, maybe get paid from a gig, or maybe sell another. Then Brixton Jamm really helped me out, gave me some bar work and I was a little promotions assistant for a while. I was living next door to it."
But, whilst these jobs were a compromise in terms of O'Connor engaging with his creative spirit, they were about as accommodating to his ambition as could be, thanks to the loose structure. Especially as he gets into exhausting patterns to get to his best stuff, which lays deep in his subconscious: “Sometimes you just get overloaded, especially if you're going for days writing tunes.”
It’s this immense physical, and emotional dedication to his art that’s set him apart from the majority of singers busking a living around London, and has led him ever closer to a long-term career as a singer-songwriter.
His first real gig of note was extraordinary. Before he started working there, he dropped in one of his crumpled up CDs to Jamm, who then booked him into support Peter Doherty. He lights up as he recalls the experience: "It was so rock 'n' roll, man. Anything went, people would start throwing shit - it was a total young expression of angst, and it was awesome."
With his trail set ablaze by the Jamm, he’s been on an unrelenting sprint since. He went on tour with Gabrielle Aplin, stepped up before Damien Rice, and has played Latitude festival, among others. His life also took a turn for the best when Hugh Fothergill stepped in to produce his debut EP that spawned the incredible single 'Good Boy'. A couple of EP’s later, he’s ever closer to making his debut album, and he’s in the best possible creative zone. “Things are pretty good at the moment," he tells Clash. "I’m living in Battersea and getting on with the landlord. I’ve got my mac, and microphone, and all that malarkey...”
And we're eager to hear what comes next from one of London's most exciting young musicians.
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Words: Cai Trefor