There’s Nothing But Space, Man!
There’s a lot to live up to when delivering your debut album after a year in which you’ve become a glam-pop sensation, but Sam Ryder found a novel way to handle the pressure. He’d already made it. “After this crazy year, we thought it would be wicked to put an album out,” Ryder tells Apple Music. “I looked on my hard drive and there were over 100 songs on there. I thought, ‘Well, there’s an album already here.’ I can only imagine the pressure if we hadn’t had those songs written. It was more like I was curating an album out of the 100-odd songs I had.” There’s Nothing But Space, Man! builds on the bombastic, Queen-style swagger of “SPACE MAN”—the song that catapulted the Essex-born singer-songwriter to fame in the UK after thrilling performances at the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 in Turin and the Platinum Jubilee—with a collection of tracks that demonstrate there’s much more where “SPACE MAN” came from. As well as the big sing-along anthems you’d expect, the album also introduces a softer side to Ryder’s writing, with stirring ballads and atmospheric slower moments in between the rock theatrics. The record is a document of his long struggle to the top, he says. “It’s a symbolization of my best efforts of trying to articulate the importance of hope and faith in my life,” he explains. “I know the grind of music. I’ve been around the block a little bit and I’ve played to no one for a long time.” With There’s Nothing But Space, Man!, Sam Ryder seizes his moment. He takes us through his intergalactic debut, track by track. “Deep Blue Doubt” “I like the idea of starting a record softly like this. It’s a bit of an homage to Freddie Mercury as well, sat at a piano, and then into something that's more like the pace of a Springsteen or Billy Joel record. It’s about doubt and dealing with doubt. I envisioned it as being cast away in an ocean of doubt, there’s nothing but doubt all around you and how do you make it out of that? I was in a great place when I wrote it, but I’ll never forget the years and the feelings. You’ve got to do that as a songwriter, stay connected to the memories of the experience that led you to where you are now, otherwise you get detached.” “SPACE MAN” “This was a 10-minute job, one of those golden moments that you’re really thankful for. It’s the song that got me signed to Parlophone. A lot of people think it was written for Eurovision, but it was written a year and a half before I even got that phone call. It’s paying homage to the giants like Elton John, David Bowie. Me, Max Wolfgang, and Amy Wadge were just in the studio—well, Amy was on Zoom because it was during a lockdown—but we absolutely had at it and had the best time. There was no pressure, no one even knew who I was beyond the guy singing in the corner of his shed on TikTok, so the blank canvas was there to be painted, in terms of what you are as an artist, and ‘SPACE MAN’ just encapsulated it.” “Somebody” “This was written before the BRIT Awards last year. I was going as a guest, and the BRITs are a funny thing, like any award ceremony, because they make you quite reflective, kind of a yearly review of ‘Where are you in your career?’ I know how many years I’ve spent sitting at home watching it thinking, ‘Jesus, I am so far from that.’ I was doing a session again, with Max and a guy called Jon Green, and we just wanted to write something incredibly joyful and it ended up being this Paul Simon-like celebration of knowing that there's someone out there in the world, no matter what you're going through, that cares for you.” “Tiny Riot” “This was written shortly after ‘SPACE MAN,’ back at the very beginning. It was a real good moment because we had ‘SPACE MAN’ in the bank and you don’t want to think that you’ve just got one song, that it was a fluke. When I sent ‘Tiny Riot,’ everyone was like, ‘OK, we’re on to something here,’ so it was a really important song. It’s taking the negative connotations of the word ‘riot’ like violence and unrest, but using them as an internalization. You disarm the word ‘riot’ by putting ‘tiny’ in front of it and it almost becomes interesting, cute, and something where you are upheaving the tables but within your own soul, not out in the world. Anything that you want to change within yourself, it’s up to you to start that tiny riot and push forward. For me, it was overthinking and procrastination, that was my tiny riot.” “All the Way Over” “This is a song for anyone on a journey to the other side of loss. When someone’s going through something awful, the world is there for them in that initial grief stage but as time goes on, life goes on, and that’s a totally natural thing. Everyone’s got their lives to lead and things to do, but that person may still be in an even deeper state of grief than that first moment when everyone was there to hold them. It’s like being in the middle of the river between the two banks, and that’s where a lot of people maybe get swept away. It's a song of support for people in that moment.” “OK” “This is a typical breakup song. We’ve all been through them, and as a songwriter you hold on to experiences that you’ve had, not just ones that you are living now. It’s about that deluded state, ‘Tell me we’re OK, tell me this is absolutely fine and we’re not going down in flames or spiraling into oblivion.’ Also, I wanted to sing something where I really challenged myself. I’m really on the knife edge of my voice and that was OK. I love the song but I’m very nervous about singing it because it took a lot to get the emotion in the take.” “Put a Light on Me” “This is about the responsibility that you have to wrench light out of the darkness. We always talk about how nothing is all good and nothing is all bad and it’s the same with people. Even the most evil person that’s ever existed, there is always room for a tiny bit of light. It might be absolutely minuscule and that person might be absolutely horrid and awful, but the universal law is that light can’t exist without darkness. It’s using that as a comfort with situations that you’re in. Find solace in knowing that there is good in the worst situations that you are going through and that you may well have to wrench that out of thin air.” “Whirlwind” “This was my first single. It went straight to No. 1 on the iTunes global chart. In a way, all that sort of number stuff is so fleeting that you can’t find your validation in it, but it really gave me confidence, like, ‘OK, wicked, we’re on to something here. This isn’t just a social media thing, a singing-in-the-corner-of-my-shed-doing-covers thing. This can translate.’ It’s a love song about the person and the people that I love.” “Ten Tons” “This is an uplifting song inspired by some of my favorite singers like Sia. When I put on records by her, it always gives me a little bit of empowerment to move through a situation, believe in myself, and remind myself how far I’ve come or for me to remind my friends when they’re in need. We can deal with so much more than we give ourselves credit for a lot of the time and we can adapt so quickly in a situation where we think that we can’t. Human beings are amazing and this is a song celebrating that. I get to do a guitar solo at the end, my first and only guitar solo on this record. That was because of time, I just didn’t have time to get in the studio.” “More” “You know how work and offices have their pillars? ‘More’ is about my pillars, about what really means something in my life, what gives my life purpose, the most important things. It’s like my time with my family, realizing that the days I’m living, the years I’m living right now are the golden age, there’s four generations of my family around the dinner table. Getting to share my own music and doing all the glitzy stuff that comes with it isn’t the source of my happiness because I was incredibly happy before. Knowing that my validation can’t and won’t come from this world gives me a lot of comfort because I know that all of us have everything that we already need if we have the right mindset.” “Crashing Down” “This is an incredibly sad breakup song. I really wanted to put on paper that moment of where you realize that the world has fallen out from underneath your feet, that you’d remember these strange, tiny, almost insignificant things about your surroundings and the noise around you and that moment in time. It’s trying to find the way of describing that in a song that’s about something incredibly sad. Also, if we are feeling sad, sometimes we like to romanticize that sadness and put something sad on. Sometimes I just want to sit in that space of feeling sorry for myself. We all do it. That’s why ballads exist and sad films exist.” “This Time” “This is a reminder for me to never forget where I came from and how much I owe every little fiber of this experience to strangers I’ve never met. A reminder to treat everyone that you meet with gratitude and kindness and move through the world in that space. It’s quite comical but it’s touching on a serious subject, something we can all relate to. Unfortunately, we all know bolshy people who push through the world and use their presence to impress rather than encourage, forget their roots, and look down on others that they decide are lesser than them in some way. You see it a lot, we can all relate to that, so I refuse to ever get to that point.” “Lost in You” “It’s a hypnotic-y ballad but a bit more than that. It‘s about meeting my partner. We’ve been together for 11 years and it’s a step-by-step of that meeting, trying my best, and probably failing, to put into a song how I feel. I know I was lost until I found myself totally lost in that person and it felt poetic. Even saying it feels bloody artsy-fartsy, so why not put it in a song?” “Living Without You” “This was a last-minute thing so it made sense to chuck it at the end because I’d worked so long getting the flow of the album right and then David Guetta, Sigala, and me did a song together. What an opportunity and what an experience. I’ve been listening to both of their music for so long. Those guys are incredible.”