Sammy Duke shares new single, “Speed Of Life” (Interview)

Sammy Duke

Sammy Duke encourages empathy on jangly, inspiring “Speed Of Life”

New mindsets and new beginnings can be challenging to usher in, but Waterloo, ON-based folk-rock artist Sammy Duke, aims to motivate and inspire in his new single “Speed Of Life” from his album of the same name.

Using imagery from a real-life motorcycle ride heading southbound towards Lake Erie, Duke sings of chasing the horizon on a long-and-winding journey rife with highs and lows. He leaves the city’s concrete jungle behind, along with the billboards and neon signs and all the information overload that leads only to complications. Soon, we’re in nature on the bike beside him, experiencing the fear and exhilaration of roads unknown:

Moving fast to roads uncharted: the pressure runs high
Without knowing what lies ahead, we look to what we’ve left behind
But as we set our gaze to the horizon, and see this new world unfold
We’ll keep our sights on the pathway to where our stories will be told…

Duke’s voice is husky with experience, but the guitar is jangly, and the beats head-bopping and upbeat, and so we begin to have faith that this journey just might lead us to somewhere okay.

“For many of us, it can be a frightening experience to step into an unknown future – and it’s important to recognize that these feelings are entirely normal,” Duke says. “It’s our choice whether we use each new experience to spread love and empathy, or to remain stagnant and choose a path of selfishness. Many of the songs on this album reflect an eagerness for new beginnings, and stepping forward from the darker parts of lives.”

Listen to “Speed Of Life” below, and find out more about Sammy Duke via our mini-interview.

Care to introduce yourself to our readers?

Hello! My name is Sammy Duke, and I’m a one-man band and singer-songwriter from Waterloo, Ontario. In addition to my own music, I have toured regularly alongside a few Canadian artists, including my good friend Alysha Brilla for several years. I’m also a music educator, leading drumming circles, school workshops, and the like.

Outside of music, I ride a motorcycle, drink copious amounts of tea-based beverages, and have an obsession with chasing thunderstorms.

What’s it like being a musician in Waterloo?

Though relatively small, the music community in Waterloo is full of exceptional talent. A substantial number of musicians call this region home that tour nationally and internationally in different band setups. As this area is heavily tech-focused, there is also some unique cross-connection between both the arts and tech sectors which makes for some interesting events and/or collaborative efforts. Seeing so many great artists jammed into a relatively compact arts community is warming.

Who or what taught you empathy? What changed that for you?

This is an interesting question, as I don’t think this can be answered in a single moment. Instead, I view ’empathy’ as a lifetime development of something that is inerrant within those capable of this type of connection and should be seen as a sign of their personal emotional and mental maturity (noting that this type of maturity can be expressed in other manners aside from just empathy).

Ultimately, through various unravelling of different life experiences, including different types of relationships, discussions of faith and spirituality, and an open view to trying to better understand people’s lives outside of my own worldview, I believe this has contributed to this manner of thinking.

It is also worth noting that I do not believe there is an endgame at any point. I believe this is something that must be continuously exercised over time. Just as an artist never stops practicing their art form, so must a person continuously practice their ability to empathize with the experiences of others.

Who was the first artist to knock you sideways?

At age 13, I stumbled across the music of a Finnish progressive metal band Nightwish. They hadn’t quite broken out of the European market at this time but are now recognized as the frontrunner of the symphonic heavy metal genre – blending elements of classical, folk, cinematic, and countless other genres into an incredibly eclectic sound. My young ears were absolutely blown away by a group that could fuse so many different sounds together. To this day, they are one of my all-time favourite groups.

I even had them sign my ukulele once when they performed in London, Ontario. The keyboardist/band leader seemed a bit confused that I was getting them to sign a ukulele. Won’t ever forget that expression on his face.

What’s the one album by a Canadian artist that everyone should have in their collection?

Tough question! There are so many spanning such a wide variety of sounds and styles.

But if I had to choose only one: I would go with The Visit by Loreena McKennitt. Absolutely timeless in every manner of the word, by the hardest working independent musician in Canadian music.

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