Sam Tinnesz on working with Dashboard Confessional, members of Paramore and the road to his new album
Nashville-based singer-songwriter Sam Tinnesz is no stranger to writing catchy and timeless music. When Tinnesz first started making music professionally, he was quick to cement himself as the go-to person in the room for lyrics, compelling ideas and melodies when working with producers and artists. While initially making a name for himself working with artists behind the scenes and collaborating with his friends, Tinnesz is now a full-fledged solo artist. It didn’t take long for Tinnesz to experience success on his own with high streaming singles, a constantly growing fanbase and several of his songs appearing in notable TV shows, films and video games.
Now in 2022, Tinnesz is set to release his long-awaited new album, arriving this fall, with several of its singles already being released to the masses. A standout single is “Bittersweet,” which features Chris Carrabba from Dashboard Confessional, and the track couldn’t be more perfect for a summer playlist with its youthful energy and nostalgic influences at the forefront. In describing his overall sound as an artist, Tinnesz says, “The music is late ’90s, Weezer meets Nirvana, with a don’t give a shit hip-hop attitude to it,” a description that couldn’t be more accurate with Tinnesz’s sincere yet playful approach to songwriting. With his latest single “Sometimes People Suck,” Tinnesz has captured the most all-encompassing taste of what his music represents with catchy choruses, sarcasm and the ability to not take himself too seriously.
If you’ve never heard of Tinnesz before, it’s likely that he will soon become a household name through his sheer relatability and overall positive demeanor. 2022 will certainly be the year to kick off a long and fruitful journey for Tinnesz. We sat down with Tinnesz for an in-depth interview to discuss his influences, songwriting process, and how his journey is just beginning.
As a songwriter, you are no stranger to tackling many different genres of music. What were some of your early influences?
It’s funny because now I feel like I know a lot of the people who influenced me. As a kid, I thought these people were super tough and cool. However, when I met Brian Head, who plays guitar for Korn, he was so nice. I loved Nine Inch Nails and Filter. On the more pop side, I listened to a lot of Everclear and Weezer.
Something important to highlight from your story is your background in writing songs for other artists of various genres over the years. How did you find yourself presented with these opportunities?
It’s crazy. I was typically the third in the room where you would have the artist, producer and then myself as the guy in the corner bringing the creative energy. I feel like that was always my job. I met a lot of random people along the way who I guess I was just buddies with. I randomly met Josh Farro and Zac Farro when they left Paramore, and from there, we started working together. I don’t think I realized I was good at lyrics and melodies until I met Josh. The more that I met people like them, the word would start to spread. I feel like it’s all about having friends who are artists and showing them stuff.
What was the transition like from being more behind the scenes to now being an established solo artist yourself?
I got reinspired to do my own artist stuff when I was working with a singer named Ruelle, and watching everything start from ground zero to 100 was just so inspiring and made me miss singing on stuff. A lot of ideas I had, people would be like, “Those are weird lyrics. I don’t want to put that in my song,” and so I had to be like, “OK, I’m gonna save that for later then.” [Laughs.]
How did you link up with Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional for your recent single “Bittersweet”?
I’ve always been a fan of Chris [Carrabba] and his bands, whether that was Further Seems Forever or Dashboard Confessional. My old band was on the same management team as Chris, and they were like, “Chris is really down to co-write, so why don’t you get together with him and show each other some music?” So I randomly met him at his house and played him some of my new stuff at the time. He played me some songs from one of his upcoming records, and I was just like, “How does a guy like this still write such amazing songs for this long?” There’s always a point where certain artists fall off and stop writing great songs because they have nothing to write about anymore, but for him, he still writes such great songs. We lost touch during the COVID-19 pandemic and when he had his unfortunate accident, but we randomly reconnected at a skatepark, which is so funny.
That feels really serendipitous considering that the music video for “Bittersweet” takes place at a skatepark as well. With that being said, did you envision having him feature on the song as you were beginning the writing process?
The coolest thing that happened from meeting Chris at the skatepark was sending him what I had so far of the record that I’m putting out, and when he heard it, he was like, “Dude, I love this stuff, and if you ever need help writing, let me know,” and I was not about to tell Chris Carrabba no. [Laughs.] I got Chris and my buddy Seth Mosley, who is a producer in town, together, and I knew it would be a killer combination. After we wrote the song, Chris was so pumped, and I asked him if he would sing on it as well. He threw his vocals on the chorus harmonies and the second verse. It was just a wild experience.
Do you plan to perform the song live together at some point?
I never like to assume anything, but that is definitely in the back of my mind. Especially after the music video where we are performing off of each other, it really was a moment where I low-key was like, “No big deal, I just have Chris Carrabba with my band in a music video,” and I know it would be so cool to actually perform it live together. I was teasing Chris about it, and he was like, “You’re gonna be on the road with me in no time,” so I hope we can make it happen.
As a father and husband, how does family play a role in your life and music?
Honestly, even with “Bittersweet” in particular, a lot of people took it as love being bittersweet, which is so right, and I love that people can have their own interpretation of it, but this song is actually about being a musician who tours and is away from their family. I can be on this amazing tour in a venue in London where everyone is singing the words back, which is an incredible experience, but when my family isn’t there, it’s a bittersweet feeling having fun but not having the people I love with me. When I get my kids ready for bed at night, I’ll think of lyrics or listen to tracks, and I don’t know what it is, but I always get the best lyrical content that’s the most authentic around people that I love. It definitely makes me work harder and makes every moment matter. It also gives me so much more to write about, and though it’s sometimes hard to have a family, it’s also beautiful.
With your music having such powerful hooks and pop sensibilities, it doesn’t surprise me how many times it's been synced for TV, movies and video games such as Batwoman and Apex Legends throughout the years. How did these opportunities come about?
It’s wild because when I first started writing in this alternative space with Ruelle, we created this dark-cinematic sound with the vocals, and I felt like we were some of the only ones doing that, so that stuff just kept getting synced over and over again. Because of that, since my name was attached to those songs, people became more familiar with my music, and a lot of people sent my songs to shows. When I write, I definitely visualize what I’m writing about in my head, so it makes sense that my music would be good set to picture. I love watching movies or TV shows to steal ideas or lines and make them into a song because if it’s cool enough to be a pinnacle moment in a TV show, then it has to be cool enough for a song. Licensing companies help me a lot to get my music out there, and I never knew that these kinds of opportunities existed beforehand. It’s been life-changing, and so many people have found me through this. I’m just so thankful for what’s happened so far.
It’s amazing to see all of these opportunities come your way from being an authentic artist who's doing exactly what they want to do. You’re not trying to come off as a “rock star” or an “attention seeker.” You are just focused on putting out personal music and not taking yourself too seriously.
I was teasing my friend the other day when I showed her the music video for my new single “Sometimes People Suck.” In it, I’m wearing a bunch of wigs and funny clothing in front of a green screen, and she was like, "I like that you don’t take yourself too seriously and be goofy with it.” I told her, “You’re either a thirst trap or a dork that can make people laugh.” I’m definitely not a thirst trap, so I gotta go with the second one. [Laughs.]
What's in store for the rest of the year? Any plans for a full-length?
Because of how everything is with streaming, it’s more important for songs to come out one at a time. All these tracks are my “song babies,” so I don’t want to just throw them out as one big grouping. I’m putting out singles from now until October when the record is officially released. The next single coming out is with a guy named Bryce Fox, and then we are actually going to do a small tour to support the record in September and October when the record drops. I want to do a music video for every song because that’s just what this world is; just people death-scrolling until they fall asleep. I want to be in people’s death-scrolls or else I don’t exist.