When I initially call RØMANS, we are quickly defeated by modern technology. The next day, when my phone decides to work, I learn that after leaving school at 16 to pursue a career in music, Sam Roman taught himself to write and produce and subsequently spent a majority of his career behind the scenes, working with people like Mary J Blige, John Legend and even One Direction.

Recorded in the basement of his parent's house, his debut album, Overthinking (split into two parts) was released earlier this year and with the help and guidance of his record label, Roc Nation, he is now set to be a fully-fledged artist in his own right. When I speak with him, he tells me about the transition from writing for other artists, sitting down with Jay Z, experimenting with genres and the importance of being creative.

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Tell me a bit about yourself.

I left school at 16 and always wanted to do something in music over anything else. I tried various artist projects for years and it never really worked, looking back on it, it was ridiculous. I was really happy being in the background writing songs, it was only when I sort of started making music that was truer than the stuff before, I got signed to Roc Nation and now I'm releasing the debut album.

You started out as a writer and producer for other artists, how did that come about?

I think it was just a natural progression. I'd spent years working with people who were older than me and more experienced, honing my talents and I kind of decided that I just didn't want to be at the forefront but I loved music, so making it for someone else was just the obvious thing to do.

Was the transition from writing for other people to releasing your own music strange?

No it's been amazing; the first tracks on my album that I made in my parent's basement have kind of been a by-product of everything else. I guess it's just a conveyor belt process that I started making this music with a real purpose and that was kind of my creative outlook, now doing it consciously there's still a big difference between writing for someone else but it's cool you know, it always keeps me doing something new.

Do you feel slightly more pressure now that you're doing it all for yourself?

No not at all, I've spent years struggling to get a foot in the door and only really started working with slightly higher profile artists just before I signed to Roc Nation as an artist myself. That company have sort of taken me to a new level of writer and producer as well.

Obviously you mentioned that you signed to Roc Nation, was it hard in the beginning to get your own work heard?

I signed as a writer and producer initially, it was them who wanted me to put it out there myself. I'd finished this album and wanted to find someone else to replace me but they were really enthusiastic about me doing it. It was sitting down with Jay Z and him telling me what he thought it could be and how we could make it great.

>It's not often you hear people talk about 'sitting down with Jay Z' let alone having him as a mentor, what's he like?

He's amazing, really down to earth and he's so passionate. For someone at his level who is so busy, it's hard to find time, but he sat with me for hours and went through everything and since then, we met and I played him the album and it's amazing, he has so many different roles and he does them all so well.

Aside from Jay Z, you've worked with some huge names - Mary J Blige, John Legend, Kylie - what was that like and how did that happen?

From the day I signed to Roc Nation, I had this amazing opportunity to work with such a high calibre of artists. It's been amazing working with all these people who are legends and who I've been a fan of for years but then also other artists who aren't as established or that I wasn't originally a fan of. It makes you really appreciate people's art, not having any preconceptions; it's been amazing working with all of them.

Your debut album, Overthinking, well part one, was out in July, can you tell me about that? What went into making it? What inspired you?

Well I made the whole thing in my parent's basement pretty much before I was signed, there's one track on it that was after but it was all basically done before. I started it as a creative output because I was doing so much work for other people and a lot of pop stuff at the time, I needed some sort of output to experiment and made this body of work without even intending to release it, well certainly not release it myself and then with the guidance of my mentors at Roc Nation, I decided to make it my own.

And as I mentioned before, it's split into two parts, what was behind your decision to do that?

I just think that these days, the format of an album is only worth presenting if you're at a certain level, for an emerging artist like me, without a massive fan base, I think an album can be too many tracks to initially to get into someone. You're only going to choose your favourites anyway, so I thought releasing half of it upfront might be a bit more palatable. Also because it was quite a chronological process, with a bit of an evolution of sound throughout that, it made sense to release the first four songs that I'd made.

Your music is a bit of a combination of genres, where do you get your inspiration from as an artist?

There are so many artists that have had such a large influence on me, my shtick is that I searched for years to sort of pay homage to my influences, without trying to impersonate them, now I make music without a brief but it's very much influenced by what I love. It covers a lot of the bases that I love, you know there's Motown elements in there but they feel fresh because I guess it's my modern tastes in music that I lean on to make sure that something doesn't sound too dated and sounds a bit more cutting edge than the original thing that influenced me.

This is obviously a personal record; you recorded it at home, what are the benefits of doing that as opposed to being in a huge recording studio?

Well I had friends to help me, some great people, like Jimmy Napes, who I worked with on Disclosure. We're hopefully going to write a track together soon, we work in the same studio. You know I have the sort of outlook like Flying Lotus I guess, changing your environment. I started at home, which was a natural environment to make this album but now I've moved into Rak Studios, which is Abbey Road. There's been so many great albums created there, Radiohead, more recently the Sam Smith album; some amazing stuff and I think that's a really great home and I've tried to replicate a bedroom feel to my studio there - very much a creative writing room. It just gives me a more fresh perspective. It's still all the same gear but it's important.

As you came from a behind the scenes background to playing live shows, do you find your own gigs daunting?

No I love it. I wasn't always behind the scenes. From my beginnings playing in school concerts and stuff, to leaving school and being pushed into this artist thing and having to do club tours and all that shit, I got over that initial fear factor of it. It's something totally different because I've recently spent so long wanting to be behind the scenes, it does feel a bit odd, well it did at first but I absolutely love it now and it's such a huge part of this project because I have such a great band. The other thing is, I've only been touring in America living a very normal life in a tour bus and playing shows.

I saw you put out a call for artists to design you a tour poster and also remix one of your songs, do you think that kind of interaction with fans is particularly important?

Yeah definitely, the label had loads of ideas. I loved the remix idea; I didn't initially get the tour poster idea, as there wasn't a tour! But what I love is that there is this creative community of people that have grown up knowing what it's like to not have a laptop or an iPhone, but I feel like there's a real creative community out there, whether it's journalists or graphic designers and I feel like a kindred spirit to them so if I can incorporate them into my music that will be great. Hopefully I've earned some fans!

What does the future have in store for you? Do you have a list of certain things you want to tick off or are you just sort of going with it?

Yeah, I mean I definitely have a bucket list. I mean the main thing is that I don't want to be unconventional for the sake of it, I want to just be happy and I'm happy when I make music and whether that's touring four albums or touring two albums and then writing a film score or maybe a Broadway show then maybe I'll just retire to Jamaica. I still don't really know I just always want to be making music.


The second part of Overthinking will be out later this year. Check out the video for 'The Agony and The Ecstasy', which he directed for World Alzheimer's Day: