RIAA gold-selling artist Sam Tinnesz discusses his latest album and mental health journey.
Nashville-based RIAA gold-selling artist Sam Tinnesz knows how to write a hit song. With a collection of viral releases that have amassed millions of streams and more than a billion views on TikTok, as well as major TV and film placements, Tinnesz continues to win over new audiences with his evolving sound and genuine down-to-earth personality.
Join contributing writer Cynthia Gross as she connects with Sam Tinnesz to discuss his latest album, There Goes the Neighborhood, lessons learned from his traumatic experience being signed to a label, what he believes is key to creating a song that resonates widely, and how he discovered a sense of purpose after losing his faith.
Sam Tinnesz grew up in a musical household, and his earliest memories center around hearing songs his father played at home. It was not long before Tinnesz began to sense that he, too, had something of value to offer.
“I played piano first but was quickly forced to play guitar after I would only play music by ear,” he explained. “I fell into acting, musicals, choir, and other very dorky things that kept me practicing a lot of the key skills that I still use today. My dad passed at a young age, and in that moment, I turned to writing music to channel the loss and those really tough emotions.”
It was music that served as Sam Tinnesz’s companion while growing up in difficult, uncertain times. His talent and knack for songwriting were discovered by the powers that be, and Tinnesz signed his first record deal while a student at Belmont University. Soon after, he began touring.
Over the years, however, life on the road took its toll, and Tinnesz found himself needing to take a hiatus in order to focus on wellness. Forever a musician at heart, he turned to songwriting for other artists, a serendipitous decision that would change the course of his career.
“Honestly, after my really tough experience of being signed to a label, touring my ass off, and really almost losing my sanity being a part of a band… I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to be the artist again,” Tinnesz shared. “I started writing for others soon after I left my first band and enjoyed the process of writing and recording.”
In [ENTER YEAR], Sam Tinnesz met electro pop artist Ruelle, and their partnership marked a turning point in his journey. “My ride with her from 0 to 100 was really inspiring. I started using my voice again and putting it on random songs not thinking much of it. I definitely didn’t think I was an artist. I saw myself more as a writer, vocalist, and creative,” said Tinnesz.
While Tinnesz was in the process of finding himself, the universe was affirming that he, in fact, represented all of the above: writer, vocalist, creative, and artist.
“It wasn’t until I was literally sitting there with my gold plaque for ‘Play With Fire’ that I thought ‘wow, ok… maybe I am an artist!’”, Tinnesz reflected on his 2017 breakthrough single as a solo act. “From that moment on, I treated records differently and really made an effort to dive in headfirst and be the solo artists my fans deserved.”
“Legends Are Made,” another single from Tinnesz’s debut album as a solo artist, also went viral, with more than 1 billion views on TikTok and 113 million streams on Spotify. Throughout his career, Tinnesz has collaborated with a number of industry heavyweights, including Dashboard Confessional, The All-American Rejects, Kygo, and Royal & The Serpent.
When asked for the key elements that make a great song, Tinnesz shared, “I think making music from the heart and from a real place always helps a song to do well. Also, making a lot of music can lead to you landing on a few great and life-changing records. I love to think about the person I’m writing to when I’m making music and oftentimes, that’s not just myself.”
Empowering and anthemic describe Sam Tinnesz’s sound. His music has the power to transport audiences from a place of seeming defeat to one of grit and resilience. Tinnesz notes that this stems from his tendency to manifest where wants to be in his lyrics rather than his current state.
“Songs like ‘Legends Are Made’ and other empowering songs were written during some of the hardest moments of my life,” he explained. “I wanted to feel like those lyrics. I wanted to be unstoppable in that moment, so I wrote the anthem I needed to become that.”
Sam Tinnesz’s latest album, There Goes the Neighborhood, released February 2023, finds the artist exploring new territory sonically and thematically. The music video for “Prozac Perfect,” the album opener, begins with a warning label against the backdrop of a deranged laugh: “Fever, sweating, confusion, fast or irregular heartbeat, severe muscle stiffness or twitching, hallucinations, loss of coordination, may occur when taking Prozac.”
The song’s refrain – “Smiling on the outside but dying on the inside / Anything to get by / Trying not to flatline” – is immediately relatable in an era of carefully curated feeds that mask the realities of everyday life.
Like “Prozac Perfect,” many of the songs on There Goes the Neighborhood explore weighty subject matter, including mental health and heartbreak. In contrast, the energy of the song collection, which draws from pop-punk (FFO early 2000’s Weezer), is not only buoyant but tastefully infused with humor.
“You make me / Antisocial / My neighbors think I’m dead / I’m slipping off the grid / Not seeing anybody / Antisocial / Don’t know what day it is / I’m losing all my friends / But saving so much money,” Tinnesz sings in “Antisocial.”
Tinnesz, who is open with his mental health journey, notes that humor is one of the strategies he uses to navigate the complexities of life within a public-facing career. “Humor has always been the biggest tool for me to get through the hardest stuff. I think it’s mostly a ‘laugh so you don’t cry’ type situation for me,” said Tinnesz. “I will say though, I did years of counseling and work on myself while also taking medicine that helped me get back to my true self.”
Also healing for Tinnesz was processing his complicated relationship and subsequent estrangement with being a person of faith. “I grew up in a Christian home but somewhere around high school, I fell away from it all pretty heavily. There were a few things in my life that made believing in Jesus pretty impossible,” said Tinnesz. Drinking, abuse, and loss only grazed the surface of the dilemma.
“Later on in college and into my adulthood, I found a more authentic place in my faith that does fit with all of the mess,” Tinnesz added. “It centers around relying on redemption and grace even at my worst. I believe nothing in my life would be how it is without God moving and orchestrating the pieces. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to surrender to something greater and feel love pour out from somewhere higher.”
There Goes the Neighborhood includes gems from start to finish, so be sure to stick around. Two of my personal favorites close out the album. “Hardly In Love,” a heartbreaking, confessional piano ballad with sweeping orchestral elements, faces the reality of a relationship that is not meant to last with candidness and empathy.
“I’m not in love / I’m just lonely / Hardly in love / I’m just lonely / I don’t think it’s fair to use you like that / I don’t think it’s fair to use you like that,” Tinnesz sings.
The rootsy “33 (Good Die Young)” reminisces on the untimely loss of someone special. While regret is present in the song, so, too, is an affirming call to action: make the most of the time you have today because tomorrow is not promised.
Most importantly, Sam Tinnesz says he wants his latest album to remind individuals everywhere that we are connected both in joy and in struggle.
“I want people to know that they aren’t alone in their crazy thoughts, and they aren’t alone in being imperfect. Those are the things that make us human, and as long as we are being honest with ourselves and the people around us who love us, life will have its sweet moments in spite of it all.”
Connect with Sam Tinnesz at https://www.samtinnesz.com/.
Cynthia Gross is a freelance writer and award-winning spiritual pop artist based in Maryland. With more than a decade of experience as an executive ghostwriter, she understands the power of each individual’s voice to create positive, meaningful change.
Flow-bending artist aSanTIS discusses art, culture, and whether sound can solve the world’s problems in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
My interview with Amy Santis aka aSanTIS began in the most unexpected way. The Maryland-based flow-bending artist and lyrical storyteller came prepared to engage in conversation around questions I had posed – and she also brought one or two of her own thoughtful prompts based on her curiosities around my view of learning.
This practice of taking in her surroundings deeply through observation and inquiry has come naturally to aSanTIS ever since she was a young child. In terms of her early starts in music, she notes that she began as a discerning listener. “Just listening to music from my mom, on the radio, just being a consumer in the world of sound. But I think mainly, my mom has always loved dancing and listening to music, so that was sort of like second nature. We play music at gatherings, we play music in the car, and these songs are sort of like diaries that take us into a specific place.”
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