Photos by Cassie Zhang
After building a following through the now-defunct social media site Vine, Sam Wilkinson signed with the KSR Group and dropped his 5-track EP Keep It In The Middle. INKED caught up with Sammy Wilk to talk music, his clothing line and the WILK Project, which raises money and awareness to build music and art programs for the children in the African nation of Sierra Leone.
What was the biggest change when you made the move from Omaha, Nebraska to Los Angeles?
I was lucky enough to move out with a few friends from my high school, which really helped the situation. I think the biggest changes were the traffic, which is terrible, and the people. The people that grow up in the midwest are still the best people I've met in the world.
What got you started into music?
When I was in 5th or 6th grade, my sister's boyfriend at the time was in a reggae band. He taught me how to play the guitar. This is what really got me interested in music in general. I listened to reggae growing up. It was a whole lot of Iration, Rebelution, The Movement, Soja, etc. If it wasn’t reggae, I was listening to Blink-182.
Who are your favorite artists currently?
I have a wide variety of favorites, depending on my mood. I tend to like songs more than artists. The artists I listen to the most are probably Drake, because he never misses, all my old school reggae bands, and then the majority of the time it’s my own unreleased music.
Who are your “musical parents” you would say your style is a cross between?
I think you can find a little bit of everyone in my music. I am musically inspired by a lot of different types of music, whether it’s the feel and melodies of reggae music, or the tone of a hip-hop song or the lyrics of an R&B song. I enjoy grabbing inspiration from all over the place. I leave it up to the listener to compare me to whoever they feel is right.
Tell us about the WILK Project and how it came about.
The WILK project stands for We Inspire the Lives of Kids. I first went to Africa, to the country of Malawi, in 2016 with the United Nations. This was such an incredible experience and I knew once I was there that I wanted to continue doing things of that nature. I knew I wanted to help less fortunate kids in any way possible. So, I made a clothing line called WiLK and wanted to give the proceeds to a school I found in Sierra Leone, Shine On Sierra Leone, to help rebuild the school. It all came together in a beautifully authentic way when one day, I was at a party, and met the woman that owned the non-profit, Shine On Sierra Leone. We got to talking and basically figured out that she was looking for someone with a platform to help bring light to her non-profit and I was looking for a project like this to help with. It all happened very organically and I met some life-long friends along the way.
Tell us about the creative process behind "Keep It In The Middle."
The creative process really just involves going through real life experiences. It is all about being able to go through something then transcend those feelings into musical form. Whether it’s love, heartbreak, everyday life, whatever it may be. It is finding a way to best turn those thoughts into music.
Your dad’s slogan growing up was “keep it in the middle.” How does this influence your life today?
He's always said “keep it in the middle” for as long as I can remember. From what I take away from it is that it’s his way of saying “do it in moderation.” I think in everything you do, you have to learn to keep it in the middle. Don’t become too sad, don’t be too happy, don’t get too drunk, whatever it is. Keep that shit in the middle and you’ll live a happier, stress-free life.
What are your top 3 vices?
Beer, Juul, Fortnite.
Give us a tattoo tour!
My first tattoo: "don’t worry, be happy" on my inner arm. My favorite tattoo is probably the rose in the middle of my chest. The most meaningful is probably the ‘Keep It in the Middle’ on my lower thigh. And the most painful is probably the butterfly on my shin.
I go with the flow when I get tats. I don’t have any planned currently, but if I think of something in the next few days I'll probably just get it. I will never get one on my face. I don’t like the look of face tats personally, and I know I would get sick of them on my face.