It wasn’t what he had planned to do – music was always his first love. But it was during a trip from his native Adelaide to Melbourne that a young Sam Clark first clapped eyes on a TV commercial that announced a magazine competition to win a role on ‘Neighbours’. After much prompting by a number of mates, he entered, auditioned and scored the gig.
Four years on, and his character Ringo Brown has become one of the most popular characters on the evergreen soap.
But Sam’s itchy feet have caused him to turn back to his first love of music – and last week saw the digital release of his debut single ‘Broken’.
We caught up with the young star to chat about ‘Broken’, Neighbours and about discovering the delights of Dolly Magazine.
“I was actually on holiday in Melbourne. I’d just driven over with a girlfriend at the time and this ad came on TV for ‘win a role on Neighbours’ and I was like ‘Huh – that looks pretty cool.’ She was like, ‘You should do that,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, come on – no experience – what chance do I have?’
Went back home and a guy in my band and his girlfriend had seen the ad as well and they said, ‘Have you seen the ad for Neighbours? You should try out for that.’ I was like ‘Alright, maybe I should give it a shot.’
“So I bought the Dolly magazine and got a funny look from the guy behind the counter, I’ve got to admit.
I then entered the competition which started off with a video diary. They had just over 7000 entrants, cut it down from there to 30 people from each state, then audition process, 12 people from each state, audition process, top ten, five guys, five girls. Yeah, I guess I got lucky,” he says, adding with a laugh, “Long time reader, first time Dolly competition enterer.”
With so many music stars coming from the Neighbours fold in the past (Kylie, Jason, Natalie Imbruglia, Delta Goodrem, Craig McLachlan, Holly Valance, Gayle & Gillian etc), we jokingly ask if it’s a pre-requisite these days for all new Neighbours cast signings to have the ability to sing.
“When I was actually trying out for the show, there were several different audition processes. I remember getting to the point where I was in the last five guys for the male role and I hadn’t said anything about the fact that I could play music. Then I got to the last five and I was seriously thinking I should say something.
“I remember speaking to (Casting Director) Jan Russ and I said ‘Now don’t know whether I should bring this up or not, because I don’t whether it will be a positive or a negative thing…’ I said ‘I can play music, I write music’ and she replied, ‘Just keep that to yourself’. Jan’s been someone that I’ve had as a mentor since. She introduced me to my management. She introduced me to my acting agent, so she’s been a big help.”
There’s also a certain stigma attached to any artist who dares venture from the land of soap into the world of music. But Sam sees his situation not as a stigma, but an opportunity and a firm foot in the door.
“It’s so hard as an artist to be heard even by any form of management, any sort of label. The industry’s also at a point where everybody’s scared to take a risk as well – that even if you do get heard, the chances of being kept on are so low. So, for me to get my foot in the door…. My management had to be tentative about the whole thing as well. ‘He’s a Neighbours actor. Is he going to be able to handle the music industry?’ It’s a melting pot of people going, ‘should I, shouldn’t I?’ and I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve been given the chance at being able to run with it.”
‘Broken’ (pictured) is Sam’s debut single. The track was released to digital retail last week and will have a physical presence with selected music retailers as of tomorrow. It’s the first taster of his yet-to-be-named new album, due sometime in the first half of next year.
In the clip for the single (below), he drives his own car – a 1974 Ford XB Falcon – it’s 13 years older than he is. And it’s obvious that he’s very much in love with it.
“I just like the old cars and I wanted to buy something that’s not going to be half it’s value in three years’ time. The opportunity came up to buy a car and I wanted to spend a medium amount of cash on something. I don’t have enough money to buy a brand new one. So it’s a car that I love as well as something that’s going to pay it all back in years to come.”
We also compliment him on his road safety credentials, pulling over to the side of the road in the clip before taking a call on his mobile phone.
“Absolutely. I can’t get into trouble with the law! We were actually shooting – we weren’t on a rig. Sam Clark – always doing the right thing by the law.”
But something Sam wasn’t quite prepared for during the filming of the ‘Broken’ clip was the improvisation required for said phone call. With his acting work usually entailing endless scripting, he got quite a shock to find out that there was none on the set of his debut music video.
“I got there and they said, ‘what we’re going to do is we’re going to improvise the phone call.’ It was my first video clip, first lot of improvising. Bang – just thrown in the deep end. So I watch it back now and I’m not really happy with it. I like the story behind the extended version, but I’d love to have the chance to film that bit again, I suppose. I just say ‘baby’ too much, I don’t know.
Sam’s debut album is set for release in 2010, but as yet, it’s still very much a work in progress, with ideas for new songs constantly popping up and a final decision on tracklisting obviously still a little way away. “It’s just the question of me constantly writing new stuff and in my mind better stuff. Do we put that on the second album? Do we put it on the first album? We’re going to re-record a couple of tracks anyway because I’ve re-written them since we originally recorded them. If we have to re-record a few tracks, why not add a couple more in? If everything’s set up, let’s do it then. So that would be ideal for me – add a couple, drop a couple, maybe have a couple as reserves or b-sides or just tracks to showcase later down the track – sort of a ‘where I was at’. ‘Cause they’re important to me still. I just think that I’ve written some other tracks that suit the album a bit better,” he says. But before he gets to that, he’s setting off on a trip around the East Coast of the country to head in-store and sign copies of the new single. Fans in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland will get to see him in-store (dates below) before he heads home to Adelaide to hit Westfield Marion. Is it a case of coming full circle – of the prodigal son returning? “Hopefully they (the people of Adelaide) love it,” he says, “It seems whenever I do an interview, they’re very proud of me and that’s very nice. And Adelaide is like that because I suppose it is to a degree a smaller city. I think that with that vibe, they really get behind their own.” Sam Clark’s debut single ‘Broken’ is digitally available now, with a physical single hitting stores tomorrow (Thursday November 19). His debut album is due for release sometime in the first half of 2010. Sam will appear in-stores at the following places and times, beginning tomorrow afternoon in Melbourne.Sam’s MYSPACE.
November 19 : Sanity Victoria Gardens (VIC) @ 4:00pm
November 20 : Sanity Knox City (VIC) @ 4:00pm
November 22 : Virgin Megastore Chapel Street (VIC) @ 1:30pm
November 26 : Sanity Macarthur Square (NSW) @ 7:00pm
November 28 : Sanity Greenhills Maitland (NSW) @ 1:00pm
November 29 : HMV Queen Street (QLD) @ 3:00pm
December 03 : Sanity Castle Towers (NSW) @ 7:00pm
December 10 : Sanity Westfield Marion (SA) @ 7:00pm