Sam Lao is a Dallas based rapper, painter, poet, designer and generally amazing creative.
When we interviewed her for our summer issue Affinity we learned so many wonderful things about her and her creative spirit that we couldn’t possibly fit all of it in the story. We also got to talk with her and her fiancé Jeremy Biggers about their life as a creative power couple, so enjoy these leftover gems and read the original story in our digital issue here!
Austere: Do you think you have an upper leg coming into the music world, being a creative already?
Sam: It’s been invaluable. I really think one of things that has helped me so much, is having a background as a creative already. I understand that there is a lot of back end work that happens, everybody always wants to think of the rewards and they never want to think of the work. I already had that mindset that “okay there is a lot of work that needs to happen for this very small thing.” The input is always greater than the output. Thats just how it’s going to be.
Influences and inspirations in the music realm?
I never like to use the word influenced, because I feel like it gives them too much control over what i’ve done. I prefer the word inspired, which is where I put Kanye, Queen, Prince. all of these great artists, artists i grew up listening to. I grew up in a Queen and Prince household. They’re idols – that personality, that brand, that music that touched everybody across the world, that’s something I want to capture in my own work.
One of the things I always think of when I’m painting or designing is that nobody knows your vision but you. So if its not completely there and you’ve only been giving them 65% they’re thinking its 100%. But you yourself know you’re missing that other 35%. So if I really want to be great, not just for other people but for myself its gotta be that 100%.
Poetry. How much of that is used in your music today or at all?
So I started doing poetry and spoken word in high school. I had this one teacher she was super cool and had these dreads and stuff, she could sing like Nina Simone, and she ran the spoken word stuff. So I started doing that, started writing and doing poetry slams at school.
Every once in a while I’ll go back to the poetry side if I need to. Its something that I keep with me and that I do. Sometimes I’ll go back through my notebooks filled with poetry, scan it and see that that would be nice verse, tuck it into a song over there (laughs)
Austere: Spoken word, rapping or poetry – which do think gives the audience the clearest message?
I feel like spoken word gives the clearer message. Poetry… they’re like purple and lavender. They’re close but still two different things. I feel like poetry, to me, on paper can be interpreted in different ways. There’s no inflection, there’s no tangible emotion there, as where with spoken word it creates an atmosphere that people gravitate to more.
Now the message that is probably easiest to receive is the rap. I think its because in music things slip in subconsciously. It’s one of those things that transcend the language barriers. People don’t translate their music but they’re [still] huge in Japan. People are listening and they don’t speak a lick of english, but they still feel that through the music. I think you can get a bit of that with just the stripped vocals but the music itself can still be a driving force.
What form of art do you feel expresses your emotions best?
I think music. Going back to those vocal inflections. You can write or create something one way, but its the tone that can give it a completely different meaning. I’ve never been great with emotions. I’m good for having imaginary convos, working myself up, that stuff doesn’t translate to the visual aspects. Because I am so visual I want something to be perfect, pretty and look good and sometimes what you’re feeling doesn’t always look pretty. So I think music is a better way for me to express those things I’d rather not talk about.
[Sam’s fiancé, Jeremy Biggers of Stem & Thorn, joins our conversation.]
So you are both artists, how do you see love in the work that you do?
Sam: We have a love for our craft. Not only do we have a love for our own craft but a love for each other’s craft. We want it to be the best that it can be. We both respect that we’re artists and that we have certain ideas and things that we want to accomplish and we push one another tocreate the best possible things.
Jeremy: So, we’re competitive as fuck. We’re super competitive but as teammates. Like when Lebron and Dwade were on the same team, they wanted to be the guy. but they weren’t going to put themselves first so much that it harmed the team. We’re both fans of each other’s work, but because we’re fans of each other’s work we can speak candidly of one another.
Sam: And that’s led us both to making better art, we challenge each other.
Jeremy: we both respect each other to keep our shit inbounds. It’s never anything big though. we’re just helping each other because I personally hate that yes man mentality. you need that from time to time, but you always need a few people to tell you what’s up.
What have you taught each other?
Sam: I think for me both as a person and within my art he really taught me to be unapologetically me. If you don’t like it, fuck it this is what it’s going to be. It’s helped me a lot because i’m doing whatever I want to do.
Jeremy: I think by her being so unapologetically her.. as much as I try to act like i don’t care what people think i still will say some shit like “I can’t do this because people are expecting this from me” and then she’ll just be like fuck them if its something you want to do then go do it. i’ve always grown up in a super strict christian household so i always had someone to answer to for my decisions. its turn me into a worrier and I’m still that guy but I’m less.
What are some of your favorite projects you have worked on together?
Sam: Part of us being so competitive, I think it’s rare we actually work on things together.
Jeremy: I think we influence each other’s style too much —
Sam: especially painting because he taught me most of what I know —
Jeremy: A lot of people see our paintings and think the other person did them, so we purposely don’t work together. And we’re selfish. We’ll help each other all day but we’ll never take credit for each other’s stuff.
I would say bigger to me personally, is being the proud fiancé shooting on the side of the stage while she’s performing at concerts. I think that’s bigger for me, being able to keep reliving that moment and all the perks that go along with being attached to her. Like getting an artist badge for SXSW or being the first artists to perform at the Bomb Factory and being backstage with Erykah Badu or being best friends with Sarah Jaffe.
What would you pass on to other creative couples?
Sam: I think for me neither one of our work is more important than the other. People feel like you can’t be with each other if you have the same craft because someone will have to take the backseat and that’s not true. No one person is more important in the relationship and that really does apply when you’re both creatives. Because if you let that happen the person who is constantly taking the backseat eventually starts resenting their partner and causes dissent between the troops. So yeah no one’s art is more important and that you should constantly be pushing each other.
Jeremy: As a creative as a whole, stop listening to other people. Get feedback on stuff you do but make your own decisions. and just, fuck ‘em! I came to the realization when i turned 30, you live your life for yourself.