Sam DeRosa
Photo: Naserin Bogado / Press

Introducing: Sam DeRosa

Singer and songwriter Sam DeRosa is blossoming into one of the most powerful solo artists in recent memory. She participated in the songwriter competition show Songland, where she coincidentally ran into her old classmate, Charlie Puth,and presented the electric pop ballad called “Pill For This” that detailed the immediate post-breakup pain, with production that was described by one of the judges as “trekking through the mud” and slowly sinking in, never being able to reach your end goal.

Though it was not the chosen song, viewers of the show deeply resonated with “Pill For This,” making her following rise and proving her mainstream success as a deeply personal songwriter. Since the episode aired, DeRosa has been hard at work writing more hits, most notably Dixie D’Amelio’s No. 1 hit “Be Happy,” and has been working on her own solo projects. Her latest EP, The Medicine, continues the central metaphor of physical remedies for an emotional issue that was established in “Pill For This,” but tells the story of overcoming her first heartbreak. DeRosa sat down with us to talk about her singing journey, the story behind her Songland debut, and secrets of her newest EP.

Do you remember the moment you first sang? How did you feel and what song was it?

My first song singing in public was “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid. I was 7 and I remember my legs couldn’t stop shaking from nerves! A few years later, I sang my first original song. During that, my hands were shaking as I played the piano. But that time it was from pure excitement. I really love performing and I still get those jitters — that’s how I know it’s still as exciting as it was then.

What made you want to pursue songwriting? What inspired you to take that step?  

My friend once told me “you have a better chance of getting an apple if you sit under the apple tree.” He was talking about being in music and pursuing my dreams of writing and performing. Even though it was scary and competitive (and still is!), I felt like I wanted to feel like I earned whatever I would get. I wanted to be in the thick of it. I swear it’s the middle child and New Yorker in me.

How did you get on Songland? What was it like running into your former classmate Charlie Puth, and how did you feel throughout the entire process of the show?

My getting on Songland is actually a funny story. I never signed up! I had a meeting in Los Angeles when I first moved. This person happened to be friends with one of the people casting the pilot. Unbeknownst to me, she sent her my songs and the rest is history. I was SO scared in the beginning and nervous pretty much the whole time, but the cast and crew of that show are quite possibly the coolest people I’ve ever met. They made me feel comfortable and they made it fun instead of scary. When I met Charlie again, I was fully ready to reintroduce myself because there was no way he’d remember me. But I walked out, and he said hi to me and told everyone my name. HE remembered me — and I still can’t get over that. It shows how cool and normal he is to remember someone from so long ago and be so kind and humble.

How do you feel now, having been a songwriter for so long, and finally taking a turn behind the microphone?

I’ve always believed being an artist is a destiny thing more than something you should force. I have Songland to thank for my current situation because I’ve always wanted to tell my own story. I’m OK with other people singing my songs for life, but there have always been those few that I knew were a part of my artist career, if I got the chance to have one. When they told me on the show that I should keep my song and be a recording artist, it not only gave me the confidence to believe it but it also gave me a platform by revealing the song on television. I am thankful beyond words because it’s a risk every day to do what I’m doing but people are choosing to listen and support me.

After appearing on Songland, how has your life changed?

I have signed a record deal since Songland and been given the means to make music that I want to make. I’m able to continue my career in songwriting but have this outlet that I’ve always wanted. My social media following has also increased, which has been fun because I’m interacting with new friends constantly and hearing about what my songs have done for them. I am thankful for the moment I had on Songland because it helped me get started in my artist career.

Did you expect the response to “Pill For This”?

NO. Haha. I wrote that and pitched it to every record label. Nobody wanted it! I truly chalked it up to my needing to work harder and the song not being good. That’s what was so wild — we can doubt ourselves so quickly as creators when our careers are based mostly off of people’s opinions. After the episode, I woke up to my song being No. 4 in the country and 10,000 new fans telling me how much they needed that song. I cried. I still do. Without Songland, that song may never have seen the light of day.

How do you describe yourself, as a musician and writer?

I would say I’m honest and I don’t settle. Definitely a perfectionist but always a fan first. I can’t make music if I don’t feel inspired. When creating, I am a bit all over the place. Picture a hurricane of ideas, emotions, chords, and melody. That’s me for a few hours but then it always comes together somehow!

Tell us about the inspirations and theme behind your debut EP, The Medicine?

This EP was based off of my first adult heartbreak and a lack of closure. The songs came pretty quickly because once I realized what I was doing, I knew how I wanted it to sound, feel, and look like. I wrote the first song, “Pill For This,” and was ready to give it away. I had no idea I was writing for my first body of work. Songland exploded that and it actually became part of my first body of work because of the show! We have all been that person who wasn’t able to say goodbye or who is still waiting for answers…that’s what my inspiration was behind this project. I learned that closure starts from within and it’s OK if that’s how the story ends.

Which song off of the EP feels like it’s the most representative of you?

I love them all for so many reasons. “The Medicine” feels like most current and prevailing because I’m very much moved on from those feelings, but a song can come on or whatever else and I can find myself thinking about exactly where I was and how I felt when my heart was broken. For that, it feels very representative of me. My heart is on my sleeve and I’m always finding ways to hold on to anything I used to love, even if it hurt, because I’m thankful for it.

When all the pressures of the industry get to be too much, what centers you and brings you back to your passion for songwriting and singing?

A few things! I HAVE to put my phone away. It really helps to disconnect and spend time with my thoughts. I’ll write them down or just process them. I also love doing mindless tasks while random music plays in the background — like cleaning, organizing, or walking around (I know — so weird, but it helps). I’m also very into fitness. A workout every morning and a quick meditation or deep breaths will help me let go of what I can’t change or deal with at that moment. The songs tend to come after that!