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Song You Need to Know: Sam Brittain, ‘Hitchhiker’

The first taste of his first album in years, “Hitchhiker” is the latest single from Australia’s answer to Bruce Springsteen.

After a few years between drinks, Adelaide’s Sam Brittain is back to further cement his status as Australia’s answer to Bruce Springsteen, with “Hitchhiker” serving as one of the most powerful and self-assured entries in his discography to date.

With years up his sleeve as an accomplished performer, artist, and creator of wonderful creations, Brittain’s last full-length record arrived back in 2016 by way of Signal Lights. However, it wasn’t supposed to take another five years for a new album to arrive. Rather, plans had been made, and tracks had been laid down for a new record, though these sessions would ultimately be scrapped and the record would go unheard.

Utilising an affinity for the storytelling of Springsteen, the sonic choices of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and the alt-country sensibilities of Ryan Adams, Brittain kept himself looking ahead, aiming to achieve “the level of elegance and articulation” he always strives for, whilst still making music that appeals to the primal instincts of every music-lover.

After a few years in-between, Brittain has now returned with “Hitchhiker”, the first taste of his forthcoming new album, and a powerful ode to the never-ending search for freedom. As he explains, the track was inspired by a real life-incident that he experienced a few years ago when the train he was taking on an eastbound trip of the country screeched to a halt a few hours out of Perth, right in the middle of nowhere.

“I soon found out the reason for our sudden stoppage and delay was that a passing train had spotted a stowaway on the motor rail car,” he recalls. “We pulled into Kalgoorlie railway station and the man was arrested by police. Apparently he simply pleaded not to be sent back to Perth.

“It was the middle of summer and blisteringly hot on the Nullarbor and the man’s actions seemed extreme to say the least. It made me wonder what drove him to such desperate measures? What was he running from and why jumping on a 4352km trip via train exposed to the harsh desert climate without food or water was the only solution? The song was born from exploring that feeling of desperation, the fear and inescapable self-loathing that must have ensued trapped on a train running from his past or perhaps his present.”

Describing the track as the beginning of “a new era of life, music and recording”, “Hitchhiker” was born out of a few surprisingly-simple days of recording at Adelaide’s Wundenberg’s Recording Studios (with a couple of local music legends), before Brittain wrapped up the process of both the single and the album at home.

“After scrapping the album in 2018 I was ready to hang up the boots, a failed attempt at creating my vision for the record was a big blow to my self-confidence and drive to create music,” he recalls.

“I had to completely reinvent myself and at that time I was fortunate enough to home in Australia and surrounded by some of my  best friends whom also happen to be one of the best god damn bands in the world.  You might know them by the name of Wanderers.”

In keeping with the theme of its inspiration and creation, Brittain also recruited Wanderers’ Dusty Stephensen and Matt Birkin for the Mickey Mason-directed film clip which pays homage to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, while also drawing a few parallels to the incident which helped inspire the track itself.

Sam Brittain’s “Hitchhiker” is officially released on May 14th.