Get To Know Sawyer Hill [Interview]

Ian Hansen

Fayetteville, Arkansas native Sawyer Hill is synonymous with high-energy performances that ignite crowds into head-banging frenzy. Rooted in the raw energy of garage band sessions from his youth, Hill's gritty musical style has surged to a global level, propelled by "Look At The Time." Hill epitomizes the art of cultivating a dedicated fan base and delivering electrifying live shows. Get to know Sawyer Hill below:

First question – Beyond all the recent success, take me where music started. What got you into music and what led to where you are now? 

So, my family's not very musical. We don't really have any musicians in the family, and we had this keyboard laying around in my house that teaches you how to play whatever. It wasn't mine; it was my brother's, and over time, I picked it up and started learning Mozart and Beethoven. I started playing keyboard and then my brother got guitar lessons, and he didn't want to play guitar anymore. He never really learned. We then had a guitar laying around, and then around middle school, I picked it up and started taking that really seriously, and ukulele too. But anyways, then I was in middle school playing guitar, and I finally went to high school, and I joined this high school band, and they all graduated. I'm just becoming a sophomore, and they're like, “We want to play bars,” and I'm like, “okay.” So from sophomore year, age 15 on, I started playing all these bars in the local bar scene. And then it became the regional bar scene in Arkansas. Then COVID happened. That band broke up and then here we are now. 

When did you kind of realize, like, “Whoa, this can be a sustainable career?”

My dream has always been to have it be that, but up until the past year, I would say is the only time it's been like that. I have the goal of that happening, and I'm gonna do everything in my power to make sure that that happens. Making money in music is so hard. So difficult, even at some of the higher levels. I'm by no means at a higher level, but in Arkansas, people are like “Dude, that guy's balling.”

It's very saturated now with TikTok and Instagram. It's very hard to break through the algorithm and not just break through the algorithm, but once you do that, keep that foundation built. You're doing a great job of that, which is incredible to see. You mentioned Arkansas. What does it mean, being from Arkansas and breaking through and having your music reach a global level?

It's awesome. All of what's happened over the past few months and really what's happened over the past year has been just amazing and a dream come true. I'm super, super grateful for it. In Arkansas, it's a smaller place. So everybody knows everybody. It's cool, you go to Starbucks, and it's like, “Dude, you look like this one guy. He's like this singer with this deep voice. You're not him though, right?” I'm like, “Yes, I am.” Literally just the other day I was going to my car and my downstairs neighbor was like, “Are you Sawyer Hill?”

What's that like? Like people recognizing you and you're kind of this big thing now in Arkansas. How have you taken that in?

It's cool. It was hard at first and it's still sort of hard now because you go to Walmart and you're looking like dog shit, as one does when you go to Walmart. Of course, you come home and you look at your phone and you have two people say, “I saw you at Walmart just now.” You'll go somewhere not expecting to see anybody. I'm not super extroverted. It was definitely difficult at first because I'm not used to having those moments in public. It's still really cool. And it's never something that I would like to take for granted or like to be upset about. It's just hard to process as somebody who's not super naturally sociable. You know what I mean?

I think a lot of your success has to do with your sound and how powerful it is. What would you say inspired your sound?

I feel like that sound comes from the fact that we were literally  rehearsing in a garage. We rehearsed in a garage for years. Now we rehearse in our bassist's living room. I was in a high school band when I was 15 and now we're here. Like in terms of songwriting and practicing how the song is made, nothing has really changed. I feel like that's part of a lot of the reason the sound remains super raw or true. 

What does “Look At The Time” mean to you? I mean, you released it last summer and now it's had this huge momentum. What's the testament to consistency and everything like that?

That song is super special to me. I don't mean to pat myself on the back, but it's one of those songs that happened in 15 minutes where you write it and it's like, “That's so cool.” I don't sit actively and think of things, and most of the time the thing just pops in my head and I don't know where it came from. And it's sort of like, it comes from something else. Whether or not you want to call that thing, God or an alien or a vibe or whatever you want to call it. It’s a transcendent, artistic, creative force. It's sort of a thing that happens to you rather than you creating those things. And there's different ways to like get into a space to properly channel that thing. But a lot of the time, at least for me, when I am writing, the ideas come in my head. And with that song specifically, it just came out of me, you know? It felt transcendent. You know what I mean? It felt like something was like speaking through me. Even at that time, you know, ways before anybody really gave a shit about it. And it was like, damn, this is a good song.

Everyone I talk to that has their first big hit, that's what they say. It just comes to them without them trying to force anything. It's like, you try to make the hit record and it's, it always – I wouldn't say a failure, but it doesn't end up becoming as big as you hoped. And it's always the record that you made in 15 minutes that just came to you naturally, that ends up, you know, speaking to the most people, which is really cool. 

I feel like a lot of the artistic process is just kind of like trying to step away from that voice of editing. That voice is important later on, but like when you're writing the song, you kind of just want to let it happen, you know? 

You also just released the song “Symphony” a couple of months ago. Take me through that.

It was one of the first songs I ever wrote. It was just me and my acoustic guitar sort of thing. The story behind that song was that I was 15. All my friends were like 20 out of high school. We were just playing a bunch of music, listening to a bunch of music and doing a lot of drugs. And like nothing crazy, but it's just how it goes, you know what I mean? That song's about just hanging out with your friends. It's like the good old days sort of thing. love it.

You make such cool content with your videos. I like the video where the drums were on fire and it's just this dark background. That's super cool. What goes into your creative process as far as the visuals and when it's time to speak to your fans?

I mean, I'd always wanted to light the drums on fire. There's this band that tours around here and they all wear masks and it's like this punk band. So all credit goes to them when, in terms of lighting the drums on fire. I'm sure it's been done before them too, but I've always wondered for years, I thought it'd be the coolest thing in the world to do. And I'm like, how do they do it? They must have some crazy sort of fuel or whatever. I looked it up on YouTube and they're just dousing the cymbals in Zippo fuel. I'm like, cymbal in. Oh, that's awesome. And I mean, the song's fire starters and with all the other visuals, it just kind of a natural thing and comeswith the song.

What is your creative process? What kind of inspires your visuals and everything like that?

There's some things where you sit down and you think about it a lot, but then there's other things where you're like, “Oh, well that would be cool.” And then it just sticks. With the whole lighting the cymbals on fire. It's like fire starters. I want to light the cymbals on fire. Let's light it up. It looks really cool. There's the visual. But then with “Symphony,” It's me in like this sort of saint of death's arms on the cover. And then I had the idea to just switch it around and mess with this whole gender bender angle and the flowers around the album cover were all like, I was looking up like flowers that represent motherhood. You know what I mean? It was this like birth death sort of visual thing going on with “Symphony.”

The music is great live. How much does touring mean to you and being able to perform this in person to your fans?

It's everything. I feel like it's the most important thing. The best part, the funnest part, the reason why it's fun at the end is to play the live show and you can see everybody and perform for everybody. I feel like that just comes from the background –  for years since I was 15, just like playing these shows over and over and over again. It's everything to be able to entertain and to have that face-to-face connection. We'd always play in bars with nobody. There were like 10 people, 20 people and now that people are showing up for me, for us, it's really mind-blowing. After one of our recent shows in Fayetteville that was sold out, somebody asked me, “Do you ever get nervous?” People have always asked me that and I've always been like, “No, I don't get nervous because I've done it for so long.” But now it's kind of like, “Yeah, a little bit.” There's hundreds of people here for me now and it's humbling.

What do you want your fans to grasp from your music?

I feel like it's different for each song and when I write music, I like, when I listen to music and I hear a song that makes me be like, “Damn.” Then the chills pop up on your arm and that's what I write for. That's what I hope everybody has whenever they listen to one of my songs. That's what I hope. Great works of art can be reinterpreted over and over and over again. Certain works of art hold up and certain works of art don't hold up. And I feel like the real factor between those is the fact of how many times can they be reinterpreted by different groups of people? The fact that people have their own meanings to the song is like the whole point in a way. Whatever meaning they decide to take for them, as long as it's true and personal and real, and that's all that I can hope for.

Final question, you know, where do you want to take this? Where do you see yourself in however many years and how do you want to be remembered?

I'm an extremely superstitious person. I feel like it comes from my background and being raised as a super strict Pentecostal. I want to take it as far as I can. The things that I want to do, I want to play all over the place and I want to take it as far as I can. I'll just say that. I love it. I got big dreams, you know what I mean? I've taken it this far. So many people love the music now. I can take it anywhere, which is awesome.

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