1. What is your name and your profession(s)?
Hey, I’m Sam Blakelock. I play guitar, and I’m the co-founder and CEO of Pickup Music.
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship?
I’m of Fijian, Cook-Island, and Pālagi (European) descent. I grew up in Aotearoa (New Zealand) and now live in Los Angeles.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry?
Both of my parents played music for fun, and I grew up surrounded by church music. I only started playing music myself when I was 13.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies.
As kids, my siblings and I had the opportunity to visit the islands and learn a little Cook Island Māori. Day to day, we unfortunately didn’t have much connection to our Pacific heritage other than the bomb currys my dad cooked, wearing Lavalava a bit, and visiting the cuzzies.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)?
My identity sometimes feels fluid between “Kiwi” and “Pasifika”—probably a pretty similar challenge that other people of mixed descent go through.
There’s still a lot I’d like to learn about my heritage, which has become more important to me as I grow older.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)?
I got into music through family jams and high-school rock bands. Somewhere along the way, I wanted to be a singer-songwriter. Then, I pivoted to jazz guitar.
I earned my undergraduate degree at the University of Canterbury in jazz performance, and I was a music director performing on cruise ships for a couple of years before completing my graduate degree at the City University of New York.
6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now?
I am fortunate that my parents were (and still are) super supportive of what I wanted to do. I always had business ideas floating around my head but didn’t go all-in on those until I saw how tough it is to be a full-time guitar player.
Guitar has never been 100% of what I want to do. I’ve always been passionate about things beyond music: design, solving problems, hosting live experiences, and developing community. In a sense, Pickup Music combines all of those things plus music into a dream job.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse.
After I performed at the Blue Note, Smalls Jazz Club, and Carnegie Hall, I had ticked off a lot of my dream gigs.
At Pickup Music, I have developed and led partnerships with guitar companies like Fender, Ibanez, D’Angelico, and Heritage. I also had the opportunity to work with some of my favorite artists, including Plini, Jacob Collier, Allen Stone, and Bruno Major.
8. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry or in general?
New Zealand has a good scholarship system for Pacific and Māori students, and I was fortunate to receive some scholarships early on to assist with my music studies.
9. 9a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why?
Shout out to Luke Aiono, who’s a Samoan guitar player! (link to his AAPI Musicians interview here) I tend to look beyond music for inspiration to entertainment and sports: Taika Waititi, Steven Adams, and Paris Goebel.
From the start, I’ve looked to include as many AAPI guitarists in the work we do at Pickup Music. In particular, shout out to Tiana Ohara and Ruben Wan!
9b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general?
AAPI Musicians is such an awesome initiative because it helps us see who else is out there killing it.
10. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate.
Catch me playing ping-pong or dodgeball.
11. Any final thoughts? Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community?
Thank you Summer for having me on here and for highlighting all these awesome musicians!
Summer: My pleasure, Sam :)
Support Sam online :)
Spotify: Sam Blakelock