If you tuned into Sam Ryder’s BBC New Years bash (opens in new tab), you’ll know he throws a great party. A former wedding singer who honed his stage chops at receptions across Essex and the South East, he knows exactly how to get a crowd going. From Taylor Swift and Bryan Adams mega-hits to an I Believe In A Thing Called Love duet with Justin Hawkins, it was gloriously, gleefully uncool fun for the whole family.
But ask Sam about the music that really shaped him, and things get a little spicier – and a lot heavier. The pop hits are still there, but he’s at least as quick to enthuse about Iron Maiden, Metallica and Queen, reflecting years of guitar geekery, closed doors and short-lived bands (including rock and hardcore groups as well as busking, wedding and club gigs).
It was during the pandemic that his fortunes began to change. He amassed legions of Tik Tok followers with assorted covers, before Space Man (opens in new tab) was picked up by the BBC as the UK’s Eurovision contender for 2022.
“It [Space Man] came out of absolutely nowhere in ten minutes with two friends of mine, and it changed everything,” he remembers. “The song was written a year and a half before that phone call ever happened, so it was laying sort of in wait. And it’s a joy to sing. It’s technical, it’s imaginative, it’s humorous. It paints a picture of something that I’ve loved since I was a kid; space and space travel and the wonderment of that.”
He adds: “And I got to put the guitar solo in it for the Queen’s Jubilee. That was really fun.”
From his parents’ records to formative heavy metal tastes, 00s guitar greats and the sugariest of pop heart attacks (the good kind), this is Sam Ryder’s selection.
- Freddie Mercury – Living On My Own
- Iron Maiden – The Evil That Men Do
- Queen – Too Much Love Will Kill You
- Billy Joel – The Entertainer
- Metallica – Whiskey In The Jar (Thin Lizzzy cover)
- Shadow King – I Want You
- S Club 7 – Reach
- Green Day – Basket Case
- Iron Maiden – Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
- Paul Simon – You Can Call Me Al
- Queen – Killer Queen
- Tina Turner – Proud Mary
- Metallica – Astronomy (Blue Oyster Cult cover)
- Sam Ryder – Space Man
- Cher – If I Could Turn Back Time
Sam Ryder’s debut album There’s Nothing But Space, Man! is out now. Look out for Sam Ryder’s Soundtrack Of My Life feature in the new issue of Classic Rock, which is out this week.