Interview with Artist Sam Nakamura
Hey, I’m Sam Nakamura. I’m a Wellington-based guitar player & producer, originally from Tokyo, Japan.
What have you been listening to lately?
Just going off my Spotify “recently played”, some of my recent go-to's have been Lucky
Daye, Amber Mark, Doja Cat, Kirinji, Quickly Quickly & Nils Frahm.
How did you get into music?
I started learning piano quite young because my Mum also played. I would say that I
probably didn’t find a love for music until I was mid-teens, which was around the time I
started learning guitar too.
What are your fondest musical childhood memories?
As a kid, I remember always being really moved by music in Japanese movies, especially
in Studio Ghibli classics like Spirited Away & Princess Mononoke. Even now that music
definitely still gets to my core.
What is your favourite piece of musical equipment you have bought and how has it helped with your musical journey?
I’d say probably the most sentimental is the first guitar that I bought for myself, my
Gibson Les Paul. It actually made me want to pick it up and practice a lot more
because it was so pretty and sounded great.
Tell us about your favourite or most memorable performance?
For memorable performances based on pure energy, I would maybe go with some of the
gigs I’ve played with my band Sky Canvas, or some of the more improvisational gigs at
Rogue in Welly. Opening for Six60 with AACACIA on some of their stadium shows was
also a great time.
What it's like being a touring artist? How did you get into doing that and
playing for New Zealand artists and bands?
Playing with a diverse mix of artists is super enjoyable. Each live show has its own
vibe - it brings out different aspects of you as a musician, helps you grow in
different ways & takes you to some awesome places/gigs.
You played as a bassist in Joseph Gordon-Levitt's TV series 'Mr
Corman' that came out in 2021. Can you tell us about that experience? How
did that come about?
That was a fun shoot. In that performance scene, we’re all just miming playing along
to the music for that, I’m pretty sure I didn’t get cast based on musical skills
haha. They were just searching for a specific look for the band members.
You are an instructor on the Pickup Music website, what has that been like for you teaching people? How long have you been doing that?
Yeah, it’s nice to have people wanting to learn how to play my songs and get a bit
of insight into my playing style. I’ve been working with Pick Up Music for just over a year now.
Are there any musicians who inspire you?
Yeah of course, in so many different ways and different areas of music. In terms of
guitarists, I take a lot of influence from jazz players (having done an honours degree in
Jazz) as well as R&B/gospel type players.
Who would you like to collaborate with most within the New Zealand music
scene and why?
Hmm from NZ it would be cool to work on some tracks at some point with Kimbra,
Mara TK, Ladi6 & Aaradhna to name a few off the top. All amazing artists, I mean
there really are so many in NZ though.
What’s next for you? Any new songs, projects etc?
I have a lot of shows coming up playing the guitar for various artists. A few that I’m
particularly looking forward to in the next couple of months is the Teeks Australian
tour, Rob Ruha with the Auckland Philharmonic & Zoe Moon at San Fran in Wellington.
Everyone is playing catch up on the many shows that couldn’t happen due to all the
lockdowns, so there’s some excitement in the air that things are looking back to
In terms of new music, I have a lot of different artists that I’ve worked on songs with that
are set to release material over the next while. I’m aiming to put out an EP under my own
name later this year too.
Sam Nakamura is a New Zealand-based session guitarist who has recorded and performed with a wide array of artists at stadium shows, festivals, and prominent jazz clubs.