Sam Trump: If We Just Only Build Ourselves Up, Then What Is Our Community?

Introduce yourself

What’s up everyone, my name is Sam Trump. I’m originally from Houston, Texas, and have been in Chicago since ‘09. I’m a singer, songwriter, producer, trumpeter, curator, stage director, all of that and more.

Recently, you were able to put out your debut album Purple Skies…How did this project come about?

In 2011 I flew out to Portland to Calvin Valentine’s house. Over the span of 12 days, we ended up making 11 tracks from scratch. It was an incredible experience because it was the first time I was able to get out of the city, and away from life to make music. I felt like everything was able to flow easily. Creatively, I was able to do things that I didn’t know were possible.

With those 11 songs, we started putting together the project. At the end of my stay, it was about 75% finished, but I wanted to put some horns on it, so I brought it back home to Chicago with me.

After a few months of messing with it, Calvin and I were in talks of possibly putting out an EP before the album. We thought this was a good plan because the album was so good, and we needed to prep it up and build more buzz. I started doing more shows in Chicago.

As we started working on new music, it got to a point where we were just holding onto the album for far too long. The songs were all written between 2011-2014. So we were holding onto the project for 4+ years.

At the end of 2016, I hit up Calvin and said I really wanted to release this music. I felt like it was holding me back a bit creatively. We took a few of the original songs from the album and created the Love Notes EP, which dropped on Valentines Day. Love Notes was the precursor to releasing Purple Skies.

What was the concept behind the project?

Purple Skies is the title track and final track on the album and it’s about gratitude and family. Even though I’m so far away from my family, the values that they and my mentors taught me, I still hold onto them dearly. Purple Skies was written when I was on one of my first tours with Sidewalk Chalk. I was writing to this beat that Calvin sent me, the sun was setting and the sky was super purple. I just took that time to seize the moment and wrote the hook, based on what a saw and felt in that space and time. The album, Purple Skies encompasses songs about love, growth, challenges, family, the Black American plight, community, and interdependence.

Most of your music is produced by Calvin Valentine. How did you guys develop your friendship?

Right here in Chicago. A guy named Nick Woolley introduced us. I met Nick (N.VS) at Columbia College. We met up at his studio in Music Garage often, where he honed in on his skills as a rapper/producer/engineer. At the time were working on a collaborative project with a few other emcees. Nick ended up bringing in Calvin to be a second producer on the album – that album never came out. After that first day, Calvin told me he wanted to put together an album with me, and that’s how I ended up flying out to Oregon. As time went on, we just continued our working relationship, which led to us recording dozens of track together.

Second, to the last song on the project, Brother (Ft. Add-2), what was this song about?

This song talks about the Black American plight. A big reason why I wrote this song was because of my personal experience being a transplant from Houston, Texas. In Houston, the black men I vibed with were different from the ones I first encountered in Chicago. Southerners have a natural openness and welcoming spirit in general. It’s that Southern Hospitality people talk about. It’s a real thing.  When I came to Chicago, I was taken out of my element because it was hard for me to mesh with black men out here. It was just different. I would always wonder why they were so guarded. This song was written as my longing to really be able to connect with brothers and to feel “at home” here.

So I began to listen and have conversations with folks and realized the history of Chicago and the segregation, systematic oppression, presence of food deserts and police brutality, and so much more has created a somewhat unsettling environment that is derivative of these issues. I mean I knew of these things from back home, because it’s part of Black American life in many regions, but was most prevalent once I came to Chicago. It’s in the air.

That’s when I started to look at our country as a whole, and how throughout history, the narrative of the black people has been flipped on its head, on a worldwide scale. This song was my declaration to be a voice for those who don’t have one. To document the times, and to help bring light to it all, with the point of sparking hope and change in my community – however that’s received.

I am moved every time I’m able to perform this song.

You also made a music video for Brother, that went pretty viral…

When we shot that video I just really wanted to create a visual that displayed pure black joy. I hit up my friends and told them to wear some colorful attire. The inspiration behind the video was African roots in America. I got my friends together and just had a great time. The video was amazing and went viral on Facebook. I had people reaching out from all over the world and telling me ‘thank you for using your platform to speak for us.’ It felt amazing. The video made people smile, and that’s all I hoped for.

Another song on the project I want to get into is, Count on me

Count On Me was a really important song for me. I’ve always been a team player. I started playing trumpet when I was 7 and grew up in the environment of working as a band, where you practiced on your own to be great together. I was part of a community and I learned at a very young age that we all have something to bring to the table and we all have a purpose within the grand scheme. That’s what I wanted the song to be about. Interdependence. The fact that we all need each other, and that we are stronger and more powerful together. Also, nobody wants to be alone and deal with life on their own. At the root of every human is the desire to be loved. With the song and video, I paint this picture.

In 2017, you said you found comfort in vulnerability…

2017 was a big year for me. I started off the year doing a Nat King Cole tribute show with a 22 piece orchestra. That show sold out within 30 minutes. I did Millenium Park stage this past summer on the Solar Eclipse day. I did a 55 city tour with Sidewalk Chalk. I released the Love Notes project and had a big release for that and then I finally released my debut album, Purple Skies. In 2017, I had done nearly 200 performances. I feel like at this point I’ve grown enough where I feel like I’ve surpassed the regular feeling of nervousness that comes with performing as a bandleader. I actually welcome it now. I love doing things I’ve never done before. Nowadays, being nervous is a sign of growth, and growth is what matters most to me. So I find comfort in moving forward and getting better.

You’ve been very vocal on the importance of mentoring/giving back…

It’s the most important thing. That’s what we are all here for. We are here to inspire each other. I’m not here to show people how dope I am. I’m here to show people how dope they are and instill self-worth and confidence in them. If we just only build ourselves up, then what is our community? Who is our community?

What’s next for Chibrations in 2018?

This year we have some amazing artists coming up that are killing it in the studio. We are looking to do our second annual live Chibrations show in the back half of 2018.

Quick faves

Favorite venue you’ve played?

Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

Favorite project you released?

Purple Skies.

Favorite thing about touring?

I’m off the grid. I work so hard when I’m in the city so when I’m on tour it just feels like I’m on a vacation, and away from life for a moment.

Favorite thing about being an artist?

Being able to wake up when I please and to have complete control over my schedule.

Favorite project of 2017?