Internationally acclaimed singer, songwriter and vocal powerhouse I Used To Be Sam (previously known as Annie Goodchild) announces the release of their highly anticipated self-titled debut EP under their new creative moniker, out everywhere on 16 September.
Before Annie Goodchild, there used to be Sam. This realization marks the starting point for the release of the artist's most personal and impressive work to date. I Used To Be Sam steps into a complex journey of transracial adoption and self-discovery on their new EP - an explorative new collection of deeply personal, cinematic, left-field pop, all wrapped up in the singer's distinctively illustrious voice.
Featuring the EP’s debut single ‘Gentle’ which landed a premiere on Wonderland Magazine, as well as previously released singles ‘Mountains’, ‘Grateful’, album centerpiece ‘Seamstress’ - which landed a coveted spot on COLORS LISTEN and Notion Magazine - and newly released track ‘Forgiveness’, I Used To Be Sam wants to use her music to create a safe-space to bring people with shared experiences together, and open up the narrative around transracial adoption.
Growing up, I Used To Be Sam always knew they had been transracially adopted (the term for when a child is adopted by parents of a different race) and that they used to be named Samantha prior to being adopted. She says, “I remember fighting with my mom and saying how could you name me Annie after the most famous orphan of all time?! I was trying to figure out why so much of what made me different from my family was erased.” After taking a DNA test with Ancestry.com, she matched with a first cousin who helped her to track down their biological parents.
With this playing on their mind, I Used To Be Sam embarked on a grueling five-day songwriting trip in Berlin where she met a LGBTQ+ female producer of color, which is rare in the music industry. Feeling as though she was in a safe space to open up, she began to talk about the turmoil happening outside the studio doors. Usually a guarded person, she spoke candidly about meeting her birth father for the first time, and the agony of trying to reconnect with her biological mother. Her attempts to reconnect with their birth mother were met by re-rejection, leaving her feeling like “I was her dirty secret and a mark of shame”. As the artist recounted her experiences, “I looked up and the producer was crying. At that moment the name I Used to Be Sam came to me. I realized that I can’t make Annie Goodchild music anymore, because Annie was who I had to be to get to this point. I Used To Be Sam is the music I need to be writing. I came home and everything had changed.”
Emboldened to dig deeper, including other transracial adoptees on this project became increasingly important to I Used To Be Sam the more they educated themself on the adoption narrative. She says, “Our voices, our stories, our trauma and our successes are ours to tell. So I knew early on that even though my platform wasn’t big, it was big enough to share with other transracial adoptees (TRAs).”
From that moment, I Used To Be Sam Was born. Eager to learn and share experiences from other TRA’s (transracial adoptees), they started reaching out to adoptee communities through social media. Including other TRA’s on this project became increasingly important to I Used To Be Sam the more they educated themself on the adoption narrative. Across films, TV, social media or conversations at home, adoption is almost solely told through the lens of the adoptive parent. Time Magazine states that “there’s an impulse in the adoption conversation to paint the parent as savior”. This skews a very multi-layered experience for almost all adoptees / TRA’s. I Used To Be Sam says, “Our voices, our stories, our trauma and our successes are ours to tell. So I knew early on that even though my platform wasn’t big, it was big enough to share with other TRA’s.”
“One of the aspects to my journey and healing process through all this was allowing myself to get angry. We are taught by the act of abandonment that anyone, even those who are meant to love you unconditionally will leave you. So be malleable, be small, please the egos of those who chose you. Don’t be mad when they take your name from you to fit their idea of their own family. I was adopted into privilege - a middle class family who loves me. So to be told and shown by the wider TRA community that I’m allowed to be mad about my traumas, even though well intentioned, was truly a gift.” - I Used to Be Sam
The EP is a kaleidoscopic journey recounting I Used To Be Sam’s adoption story. Opening track ‘Gentle’ is a plea to be gentle with herself throughout this process, while ‘Mountains’ ties into the specific day on which she was adopted and explores the sensation of emerging up out of ‘the fog’; a term that some adoptees use to describe the way they feel, think, and operate while growing up cloaked in denial, conditioning and ignorance. ‘Seamstress’ is an ode to her birth mother and ‘Grateful’ is a song of reflection; for the work that she has done to get here, and also a thank you to the people in her life who have helped her get to this point. Finally, to close the EP, ‘Forgiveness’ has an almost mantra like quality, encompassing the realization that not only did the artist need to forgive those around them, but ultimately, they needed to forgive themself.
Having honed her craft performing live since her teens, playing in bands such as Melou and Scott Bradlee’s musical collective Postmodern Jukebox, as well as launching their solo career six years ago with the twinkling vintage sounds of their debut EP ‘A Random Physical Sensation’, all of the artists’ professional and personal experiences have reached a culmination with the release of this new music.
It is the mark of the artist making the bravest, honest, ambitious and most confronting music of their prolific career. Each track soars and skitters with crisp beats and dreamy soundscapes, sampled bodily sounds are retooled as percussion, the recorded voices of other TRA’s are included in the music videos and vocals from I Used To Be Sam’s own daughter feature on the EP, all while I Used To Be Sam’s distinctively captivating vocals waver and roar with a rawness that can only come from the deepest of emotions. The songwriting is every bit as experimental and thought-provoking as the journey that its author went on while writing it.
It’s a record that has not only been expertly and thoughtfully crafted, but a record which will act as a vessel to open up conversations around transracial adoption, raise awareness and bring communities together. “Being able to write and release this EP, I so desperately wished I had growing up as a transracial adoptee, has been really cathartic for me. I hope my listeners can take away the knowledge that everyone deserves to have their own experiences validated. That vulnerability is a power, and my music and voice are here for them as much as they are for me. I want the adoptee and TRA community to know their incredible worth and to know that they now have another small piece of music to mirror parts of their lives.”
“I’ve spent my life wondering about so much. Does she think about me? Can she remember my face? Do I look like her? Does she want to see me and meet me as much as I want to meet her? I got my answer and although it’s not what I wanted, “at least now I know”. As I said those words out loud the lyrics to the chorus were born. I created the music video with Jyri Passanen in a forest outside of Basel. It was really important to me that the song itself be more present in some ways than the visual. I didn’t want to sing directly into the camera much or have a strong narrative; but rather wanted the video to have a vagueness that could compliment the energy of Seamstress.”
“Do I feel whole?” They reflect. “Not even a little bit. But This EP feels like a gear just slowly starting to turn.” This is the first of many chapters to come for I Used To Be Sam.
At the beginning of the sprawling and folk-influenced track (which also references Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story of shame and redemption (The Scarlet Letter) the voice that opens the song is Goodchild’s own daughter. “I wanted to physically put my body in the music, almost as proof of my existence that was being denied,” they say. “I wanted to have proof that I’m not repeating the pattern. It felt healing in some ways.”
I Used To Be Sam is available everywhere 16 September