At the young age of 23, Sammy Wilk is a man of many talents. He’s a model, a levitator, and a songwriter who can jot down a whole track in just 20 minutes, and an amazing artist who recently dropped his 5-track EP Keep It In The Middle. As a rising social media star who initially became known from his 6 second videos on the late video-making app Vine (R.I.P.), Sammy has moved on to doing things he actually enjoys.
When he’s not in the studio making fire music, the newest KSR Group signee lives an ordinary life. He loves his cold brew coffee, a tall glass of beer, playing with kids – he wants about four of his own someday – and talking to his fans on his social media pages that garner more than 2.5 million followers.
The Knockturnal: So, you’re EP Keep It in the Middle dropped in June. It’s pretty different from what fans have heard from you in the past. What’s the backstory on the title? What were your intentions with this project? Is there anything you wanted fans to know about you on this project that they weren’t aware of listening to the last one?
Sammy Wilk: That was like my dad’s slogan growing up. Every time I left the house he’d say “keep it in the middle” and it’s basically a way of saying to do whatever you do in moderation. If you’re in love, don’t go too far in love. If you’re drinking, don’t get too drunk. Keep it in the middle. So, when I was making this project there were some songs that were about love, some about heartbreak, some about fun. I like to keep my emotions and the things that I do in the center and not too extreme.
Keeping it in the middle is something that Sammy continues to live by, so much so that he even has a tattoo of the saying on his left thigh. The sentimental premise of this project’s title makes it that much more special to him and to his fans who have been there since the beginning and grew with him.
In 2016, Sammy dropped his debut album Ready for War which was a heavily-influenced reggae project. Each song possessed the heavy bass and catchy melodic rifts present in your typical, classic reggae song. One song titled “Light Up” even featured one of Bob Marley’s children, singer Ky-Mani Marley.
“So, I dropped the first album in April of 2016 and I was still really new to music. Since then I’ve been trying to evolve my sound. I don’t think I’ll ever have a certain sound and stick to that because I’m always going through new experiences. The first project was very reggae based because I grew up listening to reggae. Once I got in to music, reggae was all I knew. It was good music but I wanted to make my sound more mature and open it to a bigger audience” he said.
For Sammy, Keep It in the Middle is a pretty big jump from his last body of work. It’s more on the Hip-Hop/Pop side which he believes “makes more sense for a white guy from Nebraska.” Though his interest in reggae may come as a surprise to most, Sammy explains that the genre has always been a part of his life growing up in the Midwest.
The Knockturnal: Is reggae a popular genre in your hometown? Who are some of your favorite artists?
Sammy Wilk: All the reggae bands go through Omaha when they’re doing U.S. tours. My sister’s boyfriend at the time was in a reggae band, and he brought me under his wing and took me to every reggae concert that would come through Omaha. He also taught me how to play the guitar. All throughout high school, me and all my close friends listened to it. You can listen to [reggae] at any time and it enlightens your mood. It makes me feel good wherever I’m at. I loved Rebelution, The Movement, SOJA, Iration, and Passafire who aren’t huge bands, but if you know them they have a cult following.
Sammy’s love for music may have started with the Caribbean genre but it wasn’t the only genre he loved. His mentions his other musical influences including Mac Miller, Wiz Khalifa and Drake who he revealed would be his dream collaboration.
Hip-Hop artists from the early 2000’s like Dem Franchize Boyz, and Punk-rock bands like Blink 182 are a few other artists who were mentioned. But when these two very different genres are infused they become what some refer to as “Rap-Rock,” a whole new sub-genre that perfectly blends various elements of Hip-Hop and Rock.
Staying on track with wanting to constantly evolve, he expressed that this is something he would love to try one day.
“I think that 2006 rock music was so sick. If I can bring in some Blink 182 vibes like that new artist Yung Blud, who is super talented, I think we could make some cool shit together. But it would be dope to experiment on and see how it works.”
Omaha has truly shaped Sammy in to who he is today, not only as an artist but as a person. Coming from a small city like Omaha where the population is just a couple thousands shy of 1 million, moving to a big city like Los Angeles is a pretty big jump and can be a bit of a culture shock for some. This was the case for Sammy who moved there in 2015 with some hometown friends to jumpstart his music career.
“The biggest thing I noticed growing up in the Midwest, especially after moving to L.A., is that everybody is raised a certain way and everyone has certain morals that they’ve grown up with.”
Sammy started making music for fun during his senior year of High School, but it quickly turned in to his passion once his move to L.A. pushed him to take it seriously. College wasn’t in the cards for him though his parents wanted him to go, but once the studio time started rolling in, he couldn’t get enough of it and knew making music was what he ultimately wanted to do.
The Knockturnal: Before you were an artist, you were one of the biggest influencers on Vine (R.I.P.). Do you miss making those videos?
Sammy Wilk: (laughs) Fuck no! I was never really a “Viner” and it’s what people probably think I started on because that’s where my two High School buddies (Jack & Jack) started on. It started getting me followers and I thought it was a funny app but that’s basically it.
Vine is no longer around and Sammy, surprisingly, does not miss it; however, he appreciates all the good that came from it such as the people he met through the app and his big following. In addition to his siblings, parents and manager Mike Nazzaro, friends like YouTubers Nash Grier and Jack & Jack are a few of the people who have served as his support system while living in L.A. They even join him in the studio and help him with his music and visuals.
“We all really want what’s best for each other. We can say if it sucks or if it’s good and there will be no hard feelings. We’re all creatives who work well together so they’re good people to have on your side.”
The Knockturnal: Now that the EP is out the way, will there be a tour? What are some cities you’d like to visit?
Sammy Wilk: I’ll go anywhere in the U.S. but I really want to get overseas to Europe, Australia and Brazil.
Keep It in The Middle is available on all streaming platforms. Watch the video for his latest single “Lift Off” below: