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Gay Times Summer 12 - Issue 407

Sam Sparro

It seems like only yesterday that we met Sam Sparro on a wet, miserable day in London, before we’re on the phone again while he’s in LA.

Somewhere inbetween he’s been lying in the hills in the lower canyon of Hollywood on our hi-glam (exclusive!) photoshoot. And it’s not just us reeling from the results.
“It was good actually, it was definitely a new experience,” says Sam somewhat coyly. “It was really sunny but quite cold... But it ended up being really fun. I liked playing with the vintage loungewear and pool wear.
“I’m definitely a very sexual person, but I’m quite private about it, so to do something that’s more suggestive like that, it was a challenge.”
It’s true though, the genteel Mr Sparro hasn’t been one to indulge in the whole tits out naked celebrity trappings.
“You know what, I was really trying to avoid it. How he [Justin Monroe] got close to me doing it, I don’t know how it happened,” and he gives out the first of many laughs. “I did, and you know what? It was quite liberating in a way. I take myself quite seriously in a lot of ways, I’m always nervous of that sort of thing overshadowing the work.”
WELL. For our sixpence worth, the opulent glamour of these shots – with their air of Errol Flynn, the bus boy holding a cocktail just out of shot, the day off spent lounging in the sun (it certainly doesn’t look cold from where we’re sitting) – doesn’t seem to distract too much from his latest album. In fact, it ties in rather nicely, since it’s called Return To Paradise. And though we wouldn’t go as far as to label it something ridiculous as ‘anti-pop’, ‘futurist funk’ or ‘disco retroviral’, it does buck a lot of modern pop trends.
“I guess I was just thinking that pop music and pop culture has gotten so aggressive and polished,” explains Sam. “It’s been polished to within an inch of its life, like everything’s been run through a billion robots, and it’s just come out as like this plastic, perfect thing with enormous, big tits. I went the other way and was like ‘okay, I’m not going to fix my vocals, I’m going to leave them raw. I’m going to record live stings and horns, live drums’, and just have a bit more soul and warmth, but it’s still inspired by dance music.”
One of our favourite tracks on the album is The Shallow End, a perfect example of his unpolished but perfectly sharp, funky pop edge. It’s commercial, but subtler than his career definiting megahit Black & Gold.
We get round to the old (topic) gay-men-in-pop, that will come up every time we interview a gay man in pop, until everyone just Gets Over It.
“A gay man in pop music is nothing new, there’s been gay men in pop for the last 30, 40 years.” Good point. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we practically INVENTED it. Sam goes on to list some examples to add to the ones we give of Scissor Sisters (page 34) and Bright Light Bright Light (page 16), before going on “and certainly ones that we don’t even know what their sexuality was. But I think to be open and honest about it is maybe like a newer concept. I think it definitely has its challenges, there’s still a lot of prejudice in the world, but for me it’s the only way that I could live my life and be happy, to be honest about who I am.”

To read the full article, pick up the latest copy of GT out in all good retailers, online and downloadable on your iPhone or iPad.

Words: Bob Henderson

Photographed for GT in Hollywood by Justin Monroe

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