Parlophone's Nick Burgess & Mark Mitchell on Sam Ryder's star quality and 'epic' Eurovision campaign

Parlophone's Nick Burgess & Mark Mitchell on Sam Ryder's star quality and 'epic' Eurovision campaign

UK hopes rest on Sam Ryder and his anthemic song Space Man at Eurovision in Turin on Saturday (May 14).

Following a poor run for UK entries in recent years, Space Man is among the favourites for the contest this year.

The buzz around Ryder is thanks to a stellar team, including Tap Music, who took control of this year’s UK entry selection. You can read our digital cover story here featuring Sam Ryder, Tap and Parlophone.

Here, in a bonus unpublished section of the interview, Parlophone co-presidents Nick Burgess and Mark Mitchell share insights on Sam Ryder, the campaign and Eurovision

On signing Sam Ryder

Nick Burgess: “He came to us through his own talent, through his TikTok, his incredible ability to build a community. And we looked at it and we thought, ‘Is he just a TikTok artist?’ - we were doing our due diligence on him as an artist. I was like, I don't want to sign someone who's got a great voice who can sing covers, unless he can write a great song. We put him in the studio with Amy Wadge and Max Wolfgang whilst we were looking at the signing. And the first song I got sent was Space Man - I couldn't believe how good it was. We had no idea whether he was a writer or not, but just the lyrical themes that he came up with, the song and the delivery… Basically Space Man is the reason we signed Sam, we loved the song. It made me feel like, ‘Okay, we've got a proper writer here, we've got a true artist’. 

“We signed him pretty much immediately on the back of Space Man. [But] we didn't want to put Space Man out as his first ever release, because we felt it was such a special song and we wanted to build up to that. We originally just wanted to find an audience for him, just put out music, let him become an artist; let him transition from being a singer on a social media platform to being a true artist, doing shows and building him up. Space Man was a song that, after we had the demo, we put him in with an incredible Canadian producer, Koz - he produced Levitating and most of Dermot Kennedy’s music. I am a massive fan of his. He produced Space Man, and we absolutely loved it.” 

Mark Mitchell: “I remember just after he'd signed actually, we filmed a piano version of the song with Max Wolfgang playing and Sam singing in the studio. It was an incredibly special bit of content, and it's rare that you get something that you could just show to pretty much anyone and they're like, ‘Oh my god, that's an incredible performance and the guy can really, really sing’. So we knew that Sam was of such quality and that track was really, really special. We always had, and we still do have, huge hopes for that song. We were holding it back for the right time. So as Nick says, when Ben [Mawson at Tap] came along, it all fitted into the plan really.”

Space Man is the reason we signed Sam, we loved the song

Nick Burgess

Sam Ryder’s star quality 

NB: “Sam had the key ingredients that you need to be a great artist, which is a genuinely great voice, a great songwriter and a unique artist personality that was likeable, and genuinely authentic to who he is. So we just thought he has the three key ingredients, and he proved through his social media with his entrepreneurial spirit that he can connect with a large audience without any real help. He brought in Diplo, Martin Garrix, Sia, Justin Bieber, Alicia Keys, they all connected with him without anyone forcing them to, they were all in his DMs and saying, ‘Wow, I love your voice’. He had that star quality as well that you don't see every day. There are millions of singers out there on social media platforms who don't create that amount of connectivity, especially at the highest possible level.”

Sam Ryder’s fan club

MM: “We've had some really, really good support: Scott Mills has been a huge fan of Sam since day one, he's an early follower on TikTok. And Scott's also a big Eurovision fan, so that all came together really, really nicely. And then Sam has been out in Europe doing a huge amount of promo. We filmed some of the video out in Bulgaria, so we did a TV show over there, and then he's been slowly going around multiple territories: the Nordics and Central Europe, and the Balkans doing promo as he would anywhere really but, obviously, with the Eurovision tag. It's taken him slightly further than we normally go [with a new artist].”

Sam Ryder’s British pop lineage

NB: “It was definitely never a song for Eurovision, it was just that Ben and Ed [Millett] at Tap heard the song and said, ‘This has the ability, lyrically, to be a global [song]. It's a true British song in [the tradition of the music] legacies of David Bowie, Queen and Elton John, and it's an epic-sounding production from Koz. And they just felt that this song had the ability to connect with a European audience - that was it, it was quite a simple conversation. They believed in the quality of the song, and they believed in Sam's ability to sing live, because we all know he can sing. Again, we thought it really fell into the classic British heritage of the pantheon of great British songs, from Bowie to Queen, with a very modern twist on it, a very '22 feel to the production.”

On taking Eurovision seriously

NB: “I just don't think we've taken it seriously [as a country until now]. Look, with no disrespect, I think the acts that have been put forward, a lot of them haven't even got record deals. I don't think they are at the highest level where our European competitors are taking it - they put up their best artists into this competition, because they want to take it seriously. It's a bit like going into the World Cup or the Champions League with a third division football team in a way and trying to win it. We're trying to win it, we believe Sam has the ability to be the best talent in Europe. 

“I don't think that psychology around Eurovision has been correct, in terms of people's perceptions of it and how that has damaged the quality of the artists going for it. I think that maybe the better artists haven't wanted to put themselves in that position. But I think we felt brave enough and confident enough that we could compete and succeed.”

Sam has an ability to treat the occasion with respect, and he just flies through it

Mark Mitchell

On Sam Ryder’s campaign

MM: “He's just genuinely a very open and honest person. And he goes into doing promo with open eyes, and a very positive attitude. He’s just really good at connecting with people. And he just goes in and does it, and does a really, really good job. That makes everything a lot easier because you know you can be put in situations, like Bulgarian TV programmes or German radio shows or all the many things you have to do when you go through as an artist. And a lot of artists find that quite tough, because it is really, really difficult. But Sam has an ability to treat the occasion and the people he's talking to really well, with respect and he just flies through it. It's a delight.”

NB: “I think Sam's just incredibly appreciative of the job he has in the world. He loves singing, he loves performing. It's never seen as a chore for him, he just lives to sing and he's an incredibly positive person. And he's taken this opportunity and absolutely run with it. And it's been an incredible thing to watch his ability to just go, ‘Yeah, I'll do that’. He'll go over to European countries and he just wants to make friends over there. I think that's another thing that we realised, that the UK does have a little bit of a bad rap in these things. So he really wanted to go over there and prove to people that he wanted to make friends with everyone, there's no cynicism, there's no arrogance from it. And that's what we loved about Sam, his enthusiasm for being an artist is pretty unparalleled in the industry at that moment.”

Click here for our Eurovision digital cover with Sam Ryder, Tap Music and more from Parlophone.


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