Deutscher Sam Barbera Moonlights as a Musician
Deutsch LA makes it a priority to foster a growing and diverse culture. Whether it’s funding the Side Project Project or hosting DLAMC (our Motorcycle Club), DLA is no stranger to supporting its employees’ personal ambitions. The latest example (and a first in our new series Deutsch Headliners) is BEGINNERS.
You’ve probably heard them even if you haven’t heard of them. Their songs have played on The CW’s Vampire Diaries, ABC’s Selfie, and even aired in a European commercial. They’ve opened for big artists like Walk the Moon, Tove Lo, and Yacht, and they’re about to perform at this year’s SXSW Music Festival during the ASCAP Showcase on March 18.
Sam Barbera, front woman, is a respected Senior Concept Producer at Deutsch LA, and if you’ve ever worked with her, you know the type of dedication she brings to everything she does. When she isn’t bringing great ideas to life at work, she is jamming with her badass band and creating music that’s best described as dark garage rock with a shimmering electro-pop veneer.
We spoke to Sam about her passion for songwriting and love of music:
Q: What inspires your music?
Honest experiences inspire my music. The key to being an artist who people connect with is being super honest. (Sometimes in a way that makes you uncomfortable.)
A lot of my lyrics are about darker experiences or the tiny moments of hope in my life.
Most of my songs are relationship driven. A lot of musicians write to appeal to everyone, but I think people identify with specifics. Trying to appeal to everyone makes it feel insincere.
Both of my parents are musicians, and I started playing guitar and writing songs from a super young age. Before I had a guitar, I would bang on the dryer like a drum and sing.
Q: Since you love writing songs so much, did you ever consider copywriting as a career?
Yes, I actually loved writing and was pretty accomplished at it during my college years at Indiana University. I have a complicated relationship with writing — I’m good at it, but it tortures me. I become obsessed with making it perfect.
Q: What contributes to the stress of writing for you?
When writing lyrics for songs, you have to have clever wordplay and an interesting insight. And in most cases, you have to rhyme. It’s also about phrasing AND the sing-ability. Even if the phrasing and rhyming are right, some words just don’t sing well, like “b” words. They just sound bulky when you sing them!
Q: What’s your process to write a song?
The filter you use for writing a song is very different from the filter you use for normal writing. I write all of my melodies first with complete gibberish (verses, pre-chorus, then chorus, etc.). I’ll even record harmonies in gibberish. When you’re doing it in gibberish, you can do whatever’s best for the melody and the lyrics don’t get in the way. Lyrics are important too, but when I’m writing a song, I have to perfect the melody first.
For me, songwriting is an emotional stream of consciousness. When I’m working on the melody (in gibberish), a lot of times the lyrics just surface. Words just come out. It’s like an exorcism. Most of my songs develop from that — words that match the mood of the melody.
Q: Does your career as a musician overlap with your career at Deutsch?
Yes — both of my jobs are a great deal about collaboration. I collaborate on everything I do. I’m a huge proponent of getting outside of your own head, bouncing ideas off of people, getting a different perspective on things. Sometimes with songwriting (which is so personal), you can get inside your own head and lose perspective and lose the big picture. You learn so much through collaborating. I’ve found that the more I collaborate, the more I learn and the faster I advance as an artist.
Q: Are you the same person onstage as you are in the office?
I think I’m more tortured onstage than I am in my normal life. I channel all of the anger and pain that’s inspired my music, and performing is a release for that.
Onstage, you take on a persona. You have the responsibility of being a performer, but you have to be honest in what you do. You don’t want to be an actor, you just need to be a larger-than-life version of yourself.
Vulnerability is key. You have to be comfortable with looking stupid or at least not looking “pretty.” What makes a performer attractive is not giving a $%#& what people think about you.
Q: Are there any bands BEGINNERS has been compared to?
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Santigold, Chvrches, Tegan and Sara, Phantogram.
Q: What’s the first concert you ever saw?
Elton John and George Michael.
Q: Do you have a favorite place to perform?
Portland at The Wonder Ballroom.
More than two million people have listened to the BEGINNERS on Spotify, and that number is growing every day. Check them out here.