Ten years ago, when Australian singer/songwriter Sam Sparro’s Black and Gold became a global hit one of the mates he met when he moved to London released a cover of the song in the midst of promoting her own debut album.
Her name: Adele.
“At that point Adele and I were drinking buddies in London,” Sparro laughs. “Looking back it was amazing she did that, and she brought such a different flavour to it.”
Exactly a decade ago this week Black and Gold was sitting at No. 4 in Australia, where it would peak for a fortnight.
The song spent 32 weeks in the Australian chart, reached No. 2 in the UK and was nominated for a Grammy after becoming a US Top 20 club hit — frustratingly just a few years ahead of the American mainstream discovering electronic and dance music. Katy Perry also covered the song, as well as Ella Eyre.
“It some ways it doesn’t feel like 10 years ago and in some ways it feels like 1000 years ago,” Sparro says of the anniversary. “Time starts moving really quickly all of a sudden when you’re not in your twenties anymore. It speeds up. And you also stop caring.”
Sparro, 35, followed Black and Gold with 21st Century Life and Pocket from his self-titled debut, which went gold in the UK.
After collaborations with Basement Jaxx and Wale, his second album, Return to Paradise, followed in 2012. Sparro has spent the past few years releasing his own EPs, one-off singles and collaborations including with Adam Lambert and Nile Rodgers, the Bloody Beetroots, a duet with Kylie Minogue onIf I Can’t Have You(“that was a pinch-me moment, she is one of the nicest, warmest people and has always been so supportive of me”), last year’s Triple J hit Back to the Rhythm with local act Luke Million and a recent Sylvester cover (Stars) with DJ Honey Djjon.
While many know him only for the instant classic Black and Gold, Sparro doesn’t stress.
“As time’s gone by I’ve stopped thinking about it. It really doesn’t have anything to do with me. Success and failure are completely out of my hands and they’re not for me to meditate on. As I’ve gotten older and wiser my job is just to create and make things that are important to me and let go of the results.
“It’s amazing to have created something that reached that many people and is really special to a lot of people. I’m really grateful for that, but I don’t know what’s instore for me in the next chapter of my life. I’m grateful I can still create music as my job.”
Sparro will return to Australia in December to play Orchestrated, a Ministry of Sound concert where dance anthems are played by an orchestra – following hugely successful shows last year.
This year Sparro will be joined by fellow vocalists Alison Limerick (Where Love Lives) and Crystal Waters (100% Pure Love, Gypsy Woman) — Sparro used to encore with Gypsy Woman at his live shows and recorded his own version a b-side.
“I’ve been fortunate to play with an orchestra a few times now, it’s amazing. There’s so much power behind you. You just feel you have this whole army of people carrying you.”
While he’s tight-lipped about the setlist, it will include his material as well as club classics from the likes of Fatboy Slim and Moby and others. “I really want to honour the dance anthems that as a young queer person were really inspiring for me.”
Sparro has nearly finished what will be his third album, with work on hold while he prepares his upcoming wedding to DJ Zion Lennox in California.
— Sam Sparro (@samsparro)
The album’s concept is inspired by his cassette collection as a 10-year-old, with influences ranging from Madonna’s Erotica producer Shep Pettibone to the Club Kids scene to his heroes Janet and Michael Jackson.
“It’s like a love letter to my childhood. It’s made for people to dance to. This album is about being in love, about people coming together. Despite all the horrible things that are happening right now there are so many things to celebrate and life is amazing, so I’m writing about love and unity as an act of resistance.”
As with his recent releases, Sparro is taking the independent route to keep his freedom — and sanity.
“It’s actually been more lucrative and I’ve had way more peace and happiness in my life since not having to deal with a major label.”
He’s also ready to navigate the new world of releasing an album in the streaming market, where listeners have short attention spans.
“I’m not one of those people who thinks all the best things have already happened in the past, but I also appreciate really tactile things like records and cassettes. I’m making a record I want to be consumed as a full album with interludes and it tells a story and is a musical journey.
“As culture and music unfolds, I’m still trying to figure it all out, as everyone else is. It’s so saturated now. Which is good and bad. Growing up in a time where there was really big superstars that everybody in the family listened to Michael Jackson, or at least in my house they did, music was more intergenerational. The way people consume music now is very individual and personal, they have their own headphones on. There’s less common ground but in a weird way, but also more individuality.”
Ministry of Sound’s Orchestrated: The Strings Of Life Tour, HOTA Home of the Arts Gold Coast December 7, Wrest Point Lawns Hobart December 8, Margaret Court Arena, December 9, ICC Sydney Theatre December 14, Kings Park and Botanic Garden Perth December 15