Interview: Founder Richy Muirhead talks about the 2020 Scottish Alternative Music Award (SAMA)

The public vote is now open for the Scottish Alternative Music Awards (SAMA): the annual celebration of the best in new Scottish music. This year’s live ceremony will take place online at 6.30pm on Wednesday 18th November via a new partnership with live streaming platform Twitch.

In what has been a precarious year for everyone involved in the Scottish music industry, events such as this are more important than ever in supporting and shining a light on our country’s musical talent.

We caught up with the award’s Founder & Creative Director, Richy Muirhead, to see what’s happening with this year’s SAMA.


SAMA Live Awards 2019 at Saint Lukes, Glasgow. Photography by Neil McKenzie

How are things with you?

I’m good thank you! Enjoying having the awards back on and working remotely with my team, we are super focused on the main awards ceremony later this month on Twitch! It’s been nice to support the artists involved, you know?

You’ve moved this year’s event online, how’s that gone for you so far?

Yeah, moving the event online has been difficult, just because it’s a new platform altogether for us. We’ve been studying how to do it by talking to people who have been doing it, that’s been helpful. You just have to go for it and give it a good bash.

A main objective is to make sure that everyone can stay tuned into the event. When you’re at home there can be a lot of distractions and it can be quite easy to forget that something’s on or miss it. Normally the event would be around 3 hours long, sometimes longer, that’s a long time for people at home to tune in for.

We’ve had to adjust the length of the show and the length of the performances as well. But I think that we’ve going to have something exciting to share – we are all excited for the 18th.

You’ve a couple of cracking live sets lined up for the event.

We do. We’re working with Nova Scotia the Truth who just won the Scottish Album of the Year, which is amazing. It’s a really important moment for hip hop and grime in Scotland; I think it’s a big boost to that community. We also have Walt Disco playing, they’re a lot of fun and have a lot of energy, playing; they’ve been working really hard for the last couple of years.

Both of those artists were nominated last year with us so it’s nice to keep the relationship and keep them involved, cause they’re doing really good and we want to support them.


Nova Scotia the Truth

I guess that’s what it is: not just picking someone up and then discarding them? It’s trying to keep things going and showing a bit of commitment to people, having a bit of trust in what they can do?

Yeah, that’s it. There’s a structure within the SAMA where if you’re nominated we can share support, opportunities and advice from many of our partners, these include Musician’s Union, Help Musicians Scotland, Creative Scotland, Sound City, to name a few.

It’s trying to be supportive, as you said, when the nominations are over we don’t want it to be over; we want to do what we can to make sure it’s useful for all the artists involved.

Which of the categories are you most excited about this year?

Best Live Act is always really interesting, for me. However, this year has been different because I think I’ve only been to maybe ten gigs all year. So we’ve changed the award slightly this year, so that artists who have been doing really interesting shows online are eligible.

But, I think in general, the four artists on that particular award – Calum Easter, Free Love, Kapil Seshasayee, and Still House Plants – are pretty incredible. So, I think that’ll be the one for me. It’ll be nice to get back to gigs sooner than later, it’s been a terrible year for that, as a music fan and someone that used to go to gigs all the time.

At the core of SAMA is just this love for all of the artists we have here in Scotland, to try and bring a sense of community together and to shout about what there is out there. I think a lot of people maybe don’t understand that there’s way more than your really commercial people that you hear about in Scotland all the time – this is an opportunity to discover the other side of that.

Do you think that, in Scotland, outside of that commercial line, there are too many talented artists making incredible music that just don’t get access to column inches and to other ways of getting their work noticed day to day, week to week, month to month? Personally, I think that’s the case.

I think it’s improving, but I agree with you that more could be done. I think it comes down to resources, at the end of the day: time, money, effort, and all of that – especially with coronavirus which has thrown everything upside down, making it even more challenging.

I like to think SAMA steers in the right direction of introducing some of those sub-genres we talk about – all of the artists who are maybe not on Spotify but they’re on Bandcamp and have their own way of promoting their music. If that’s what someone has been doing, not being on Spotify, that’s fine: if they’re loving the music they write and want to share it, that’s what it’s about.

The three day public vote opened Monday 9th November on the SAMA website, with the winners to be announced live on Twitch on 18th November.

Cast your votes here (till Wednesday 11th November at 5pm).

https://www.officialsama.com/vote

Tickets to the ceremony are free of charge and can be booked via officialsama.com/events.

If you’re able, you can buy a ticket which gives you access to the event, plus supports the cost towards future SAMA events in 2021, and will also be split with Help Musicians supporting Scottish musicians affected by Covid-19.

Main image: Alana Hepburn (SAMA), Solareye (Artist), Richy Muirhead (SAMA) at Saint Lukes, Glasgow 2019 photography by Brendan Waters 

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