Park City musician, 16, continues to hone her craft
Sam Sullivan wants to pursue a music career
At 16, Park City-based singer-songwriter Sam Sullivan has already played a handful of live gigs locally and in Salt Lake City.
The rising junior at Park City High School has performed at venues like the Loading Dock and Kilby Court, thanks to her booking agency, Afton Shows. And she has worked with Mountain Town Music for some performances at Miners Park.
“I’ve wanted to perform live since I was little,” Sullivan said. “I have a fun time talking with the crowd between songs.”
Sullivan’s instrument of choice is the electric guitar.
“I started playing guitar when I was 6,” she said. “I learned flamenco guitar, which helped me with my plucking on the bass guitar.”
Her earliest list of influences is a who’s who of classic and glam rock — Brian May of Queen, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and soloist Mick Ronson, who played with David Bowie.
“I grew up watching DVDs of David Bowie concerts, and I was obsessed with Mick,” Sullivan said. “I mean, I wanted to be Mick.”
Sullivan, who takes lessons at the Utah Conservatory, also cites a diverse list that includes Motionless in White, Bring Me the Horizon, Korn, Marilyn Manson and Lady Gaga as other inspirations.
“My music is more the heavier rock style, and I get that from Marilyn Manson,” she said. “But I have seen Lady Gaga live and she was such a queen. I adored her.”
Sullivan also plays piano and viola.
“I’ve never had a piano lesson,” she said. “I just looked at stuff online and figured stuff out. It has helped me with music theory and how to read sheet music.”
The musician started playing viola in middle school.
“All of the students had to pick an instrument to learn and I picked viola,” Sullivan said. “Viola has helped me with vibrato and playing solos.”
Sullivan’s first experience with the bass guitar was through the School of Rock in Sandy.
“I was 11 when I started that program,” she said. “There was a band that needed a bassist and I did that for a while, and then played in a band called Sun Dog for a while.”
These days, Sullivan is working on her career as a solo artist, which poses new challenges.
“I find that I do get frustrated when trying to improve myself,” she said. “I’ll try to push myself to find new solos, and if I try to play a new solo and if I can’t do it right away, I’ll stop playing for a couple of weeks. So I need an extra push to keep me going.”
That push usually comes with seeing other bands play live.
“I like to see how they play and if they are really good, and I find myself wanting to be like them,” Sullivan said. “So I’ll go home and try that solo again.”
In addition to coming up with solos, , Sullivan is a lyricist.
“I’m very picky when it comes to writing lyrics,” she said. “I have this thing where I’ll write a song one day and think it’s the greatest, but then look at it the next day and delete it and start over.”
Sullivan’s lyrics are inspired by life experiences, both her own and those outside.
“I write about politics, current issues and things that happen in my own life,” she said. “I’ll write my own thought about an issue. It’s my way of getting my opinion out there.”
When writing about these topics, Sullivan uses metaphors and symbolism.
“I won’t write about these things too directly,” she said. “And that’s a fun way to write.”
The symbolism comes in handy when writing about herself.
“It is unnerving to put my thoughts out there, because I tend not to open up emotionally like that,” she said. “So when I do write about some personal stuff, it’s usually when I’m pissed off. I’ll grab a notebook and see what happens.”
Usually the music will come first in Sullivan’s creative process.
“There are times when I’ve woken up with a riff in my head, and I usually start with guitar chords,” she said. “There have been some times when a lyric will come to mind and I’ll try to build a song around it.”
Sullivan hopes to pursue music as a living.
“I want to attend the Berklee School of Music in Boston,” she said. “We just got back from a campus tour and I really like it there.”
In the meantime, the musician continues to write songs and play local shows.
Whenever she schedules a live performance, she will post the times and locations on Instagram and Facebook at her profile, @samsullivanmusic.
“I’m doing a lot of recording right now, so hopefully I’ll have something out before the next year,” she said. “I’m actually working on doing a cover of David Bowie’s ‘Time,’ from his album ‘Aladdin Sane.’ I want to get that on iTunes soon.
The Park City Museum will raise stories of the dead at the Glenwood Cemetery on Oct. 1.
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