In barely a year, Sam Ryder has gone from unknown rocker/wedding singer to TikTok star to national hero. Today he’s talking to us as he heads home for a breather.
“I’ve got the rest of the day off when I get there,” the 33-year-old Essex man enthuses. “I’m going to make a sandwich, watch a bit of TV and just relax, because it’s been full-on!”
As we discover, beneath the sequins of Space Man, Ryder’s utterly joyful, Elton John-channelling pop smash at Eurovision 2022 in Italy, beats a heart full of guitars, rock, metal, pop and more.
The first song I remember hearing
Living On My Own, Freddie Mercury. I heard it in the back of the car as a kid, and I remember singing it as well, like ‘doo-doo-dah-doo!’ My mum and dad are massive Queen fans. I was raised with amazing music.
The first song I performed live
It was in school assembly. It was I Believe In A Thing Called Love by The Darkness and Basket Case by Green Day. My friend Dan played drums. I played guitar. No bass player. It would have sounded dreadful. They didn’t ask for an encore.
The greatest album of all time
Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son by Iron Maiden. Maybe in year eight, we were on a school trip to a nunnery, and in the bus for some reason, maybe it was some kind of divine ‘sign’, there was a CD on the floor. So I picked it up and I saw the coolest artwork ever – it was Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. I put it in my Walkman, but nothing would play because it was so beaten up apart from one song, The Evil That Men Do. I was blown away; the melody, the galloping, the power, the passion… I was an Iron Maiden convert from that day.
Brian May is my favourite guitarist of all time, but it’s so close. There’s so many, like [Eddie] Van Halen and Adrian Smith. But Brian May plays the guitar with a singer’s approach to melody. There’s some amazing guitar on the Made In Heaven album, the very last album with Freddie. And the intro to Killer Queen’s solo, it’s just glorious.
Freddie Mercury. He had everything. Even on the rare occasions where his voice was going, he had the courage to push through it. And that’s so cool. Because in the age we live in everything’s so… kind of pruned, and we only share our best moments. And Freddie, his whole career was the best moment, in my opinion. As a singer you can also find comfort knowing that he wasn’t afraid to go for it and have his voice break in front of a crowd, because there was passion there.
Billy Joel. There’s so many amazing songwriters, but right now he is the guy that springs to mind. His way with words is incredible. He’s really funny, and he’s not worrying about being funny. Like the way that he explains things in The Entertainer, such a great song, talking about the career path and this chaining to the industry that every person must feel at some point if they get the opportunity to be an artist.
The best record I've made
Space Man opened the doors to where I am now; the door to a building I’d been knocking on for so many years. This song came out of nowhere in ten minutes with two friends of mine, and it changed everything. Someone heard it from the BBC and asked if I’d want to sing it in Eurovision. It’s a joy to sing. It’s technical, it’s imaginative, it’s humorous… and I got to put the guitar solo in it for the Queen’s Jubilee.
The worst record I've made
I wrote a song when I was a kid called White Lightning, and it’s terrible! It still haunts my dreams. I remember writing it in the back of my science book, probably shortly after hearing Iron Maiden and thinking that I could do this Iron Maiden/Thin Lizzy thing.
The most underrated band ever
Lou Gramm once had a band called Shadow King, and I really love the [self-titled] album. Obviously we all know him from Foreigner, but his voice on that record is so good. It’s proper classic rock.
The best live band
You really can’t take that away from Iron Maiden. I went to see them when they were doing the Somewhere Back In Time tour. They had that era where they just started going back into their old catalogue, and it was a really big deal; like: “Oh my god, they might play Rime Of The Ancient Mariner!” or something.
The best cover version
Metallica’s Whiskey In The Jar is wicked. The whole Garage Inc album is amazing. I love their Astronomy as well, by Blue Öyster Cult.
My Saturday night party song
I love You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon. He’s an amazing songwriter as well. And it’s fun. It will put you in a good mood, and it’s a wicked festival song; like, the sun out, your friends and some drink and food [sings the chorus hook] It’s just a vibe, isn’t it?
My guilty pleasure
I was listening to S Club 7 the other day. I remember singing Reach in the school assembly once as well. So I guess you could say they’re my guilty pleasure. But not really that guilty – the song’s wicked!
The song I want played at my funeral
Oh gosh… If I Could Turn Back Time, Cher.
Sam Ryder’s debut album There’s Nothing But Space, Man! is out now via Parlophone.