by Sam Robinson
Earlier this year, Sam Ock released Grey, an album filled with funk fusion, a soulful sound and personal, self-questioning lyrics. Sam has a deep love for God and trust in him, and this was evidenced on this release (read our review here). I recently caught up with Sam to find out more about the album, whether it was difficult to be transparent, and what happened on his recent tour to Korea.
Where in the world are you today, Sam?
I am sitting in my home studio. It is currently 2am, and I am working on some mixes for J. Han’s debut solo album.
You’ve just come home from a tour in Korea. Can you give me a brief rundown of how that went?
It was a blur with all that happened, but also definitely a blessing. I got opportunities to perform in places I never thought I would be, and I have grown even more of a heart for my cultural motherland. I got to perform on TV, radio, and also at my very first solo concert ever, which was a nearly sold-out show at around 750 people! Praise the Lord!
Are many of your fans there non-believers, like your success in Japan a few years ago?
Yes, I would say that in Korea, a large amount (but not a majority) of my fans are non-believers. In Japan, I think just being consistent with statistics, most of my fans are non-believers, and I know for a fact that many of them have never heard the gospel.
Now let’s talk about Grey. How long did it take to record this album? Did you record this one in your basement, as you did the Move EP?
From conception to final product, this album took about a year and couple months to be completed. I did all of the vocal recording and production in my basement studio.
There’s a lot of deep lyrical content on this one. Did you take your time to soul-search as you penned them down?
Yes, the first half of the year when producing this album was spent mostly in deep thought and reflection. I would go through many personal experiences which I would then mentally note or jot down in a notebook. Many of the lyrics are either messages to myself, or actual thoughts I had during the course of the making of the album.
I was surprised when I heard this album for the first time because you really are very transparent. Is it difficult to be like that on an album?
I think it is difficult to be transparent when you have set the expectation as such that it doesn’t facilitate honesty or authenticity. I have been given much grace in my local church and community of friends and family, who have embraced me in all of my weaknesses and have loved and exhorted me continually with the truth of God’s Word. So it is much easier for me to be transparent in my expressions, because I know I have the support of my fellow brothers and sisters, and also know that I certainly am not alone in my experiences.
Thinking about the track What Have I Done – you say, ‘I can’t trust my own heart because it keeps feeding me lies.’ It’s a real reflection on the fallen state of humanity, and your own heart. What can you tell me about that line, and that song?
There was a point in 2014 where I fell into a season where I felt like I was losing the fight for hope. My sins seemed perpetual and unfading, and my heart would fight against any truth that was given to me. It was in those moments of great difficulty and hopelessness where I was reminded how truth must exist outside of human experience, and that my heart was not exempt from that. I must know that hope exists whether I felt it or not, that love was real whether I felt the emotion or not. That line is an expression of frustration and desperation, to tell myself that my hopelessness is not the end, but just a mere lie according to what the Word of God tells me, in Psalm 42:5 – “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation”
There’s a turning point on All (More II), which follows Made For More… There’s a sense of hope. What can you tell me about that movement?
While there are certain seasons of trial and tribulation in one’s life, there are also very real and present moments of joy and hope. Grey is an album of the two realities, black and white, existing within the human soul. While there is a strong reality of the darkness of light, as a Christian, there is also the unshakeable reality that is the hope of glory in Christ. The turning point in this album marks the change in season, the moments of hope that shine through what seems like a perpetual darkness.
When we last spoke it was about your Move EP and you had to sing high harmonies because you couldn’t find a female singer. Now you’ve got Ruth Cho popping up on this album – did you have some fun with her in the studio? And J. Han?
It was an absolute pleasure to have Ruth featured on the album. I respect her immensely and I am one of her biggest fans, so it was truly and honor and great experience to work with her. J. Han is a true friend, brother, and homie to me. He is someone I can always have fun with, and he truly made the perfect contribution to my album.
Is there a big idea or key message to Grey?
The big idea of Grey is that we live in a world that is unclear because of the war of darkness and light, present inside the life of every believer. It is an expression of that war which takes place within the soul: the moments of defeat and despair, the moments of victory and joy. It is an expression of true life, and it is meant to be an encouragement and exhortation to the listeners, that they are not alone, that there is a reason for hope. It is extremely personal, but seeks to relate to many different persons.
What does the rest of 2015 have in store for you? Can we expect more new music from you or AMP?
Lots of music to be made! AMP is currently in the production process for a new release, and Good Fruit is planning on a few more release this year, many of which I will be involved in!
Grey by Sam Ock is available now on iTunes.