Originally from a small town in Ohio, R&B recording artist Spencer Sutherland gained popularity in recent years through his cover versions of popular songs. Some of his most well-known covers include “Hey Mama,” by David Guetta and Nicki Minaj; “Talk Dirty to Me,” by Jason Derulo; and “Same Old Love,” by Selena Gomez. With his dynamic, sultry voice, Spencer takes some of your favorites and puts them over the top with a renewed vitality. And his originals? Addicting! Whatever you listen to Spencer, you’re sure to be dancing, whether it’s around the entire room, or just in your seat (as I am now while I listen to his cover of “Hey Mama”). I recently had the honor of talking with this talented artist, following the release of his single “I Just Gotta.”
You’re described as a self-taught singer and songwriter. What made you decide to go in the route of being your own teacher rather than getting lessons through someone else?
Honestly, I taught myself because I was young, I didn’t really have any money for lessons, and, honestly, overall, I think I just learn best when I teach myself. I tried a couple of lessons, actually–just a couple of starter lessons–and I just seem to flow naturally on my own. I would just listen to it, and then play it back by ear.
Were there ever times you ever wanted to give up? If so, what motivated you to keep going?
(Laughs). There’s been countless times where I’ve thought, “Wow, this a crazy, crazy life, crazy world… it’s really, really hard to make it.” I can remember a handful of times. What really kept me going was my love for music, and my love for making people happy, and my love for my fans. I think that will always keep me going, ’cause there’s always going to be self-doubt. Even like, Justin Timberlake I’m sure–well, maybe not Justin Timberlake (laughs)–but even big stars will sometimes be like, “I wonder if this makes them happy.” And as soon as you play that show, or see that crowd, or whatever, it makes you remember how much it means to you.
What was your inspiration to start making cover videos of popular songs? Are the songs that you cover favorites of yours?
The songs that I cover I have to definitely like; I will never cover a song that I don’t like. So I’ll usually first figure out if I like it, and then put my own spin on it, and try to think, “Hey, if this was my song, how would it sound?” So then I kind of mess with it for a while, and then the outcome is usually something a little different from the original, which is fun. I love putting my own spins on songs, and I love trying all different kinds of things.
If the artists you cover were to ever listen to your versions, what is something you’d hope they’d say?
Well, first of all, I would hope that they love it! (Laughs). And, second of all, if Selena Gomez saw that I covered one of her songs, it wouldn’t be bad if she like, DM’ed me on Twitter, and we became friends. I kind of hope something like that would happen…mostly Selena Gomez. Maybe Taylor Swift, too.
So you kind of have your own fan moments?
Oh yeah! Who doesn’t, man? Everybody does. It doesn’t matter how good you are; I think you’ll always have certain people where you’re just like, “Oh my God, like, I love either your music or you!” (Laughs).
Which has been your favorite song or artist to cover so far?
I really like covering Jason Derulo songs, because he’s one of my favorites. I really like covering Selena Gomez’s songs, and uh…I don’t know; it’s all over the place. It’s pretty crazy. I like taking R&B songs, and hip hop songs, and making them my own acoustic R&B style.
Would you say that you’re more fond of the acoustic sound? Or is it more of an artistic call to better express yourself and the overall message of your song?
Yeah, I think it’s an artistic call. I think every song wants to be what it wants to be, and you can’t force a song to be something. So sometimes it wants to be something that you’re not trying to make it, and that’s okay. But I definitely have a soft spot for acoustic, because that’s where I started. But I love production; I love R&B music, and pop music–I love pop music. I have a spot for both.
So you recently released “I Just Gotta” for free, and that was something you did for your fans, like the video for “Nothing Can Hurt Me.” You featured clips of fans lip-syncing the song [in the video for “Nothing Can Hurt Me”]. How difficult was it for you to decide which clips made it into the video, and which ones didn’t?
Well, I tried to add as many as possible. But, it was more of a random thing–I chose randomly–because I don’t have any favorites among my fans. They’re all equal, and they’re all the best people ever. So I didn’t go through choosing. I picked at random. And then if they were kind of being, like, “crazy” in the video, then I probably chose them and put them in there.
How did you feel when you received all the videos from various fans?
It was so dope to see how many people cared! I was like, “What?!” We had like, hundreds–I think we had a thousand videos. It was crazy. It was so great.
For “I Just Gotta,” you say a lot about this new age of technology, and our addiction to it. It kind of sounds like you’re abstaining from it in a sense. Would you say that our addiction to all this technology is one of your pet peeves?
Yeah, you know, like if I’m trying to talk to this girl, and she’s just on her phone, not even paying attention to me, that’s a pet peeve. Everybody is on their phone all the time. And sometimes you should just get off your phone and enjoy everything that’s around you.
Have you ever been accused by someone close to you about being too attached to your device?
Oooh yeah… Actually all the time. (Laughs). Like, my family, my friends…everyone, just because it’s kind of part of my job, and I love to do it. I’m constantly on social media. I hardly ever take a break from it, and I need to, sometimes. But I always just love responding and messaging fans, and stuff. It’s so fun!
And I’m sure that’s fun for the fans, too! Who doesn’t love having a singer DM you on Twitter saying, “Hey! Thanks for watching the video!” Like, Oh my gosh!
Oh yeah, I love doing that!
So, along with your career as a singer and songwriter, you’re a model for the Ford Modeling Company. How did you get into this career field?
I kind of just fell into it. Ford contacted us, because I guess they like my look or something, and we met with them, and they were really awesome, so we decided to sign with them. They’ve been the coolest people in the world. I’ve been doing some cool shoots lately, and that’s been really awesome. But I never really tried to be a model. I think it just kind of came with the music and entertainment industry, and I enjoy it. It’s fun.
How do you relate this back to your music? Would you say that modeling has ever benefitted your music career in any way?
Yeah, I think modeling has affected my music, and music has affected my modeling, just because when you model, believe it or not, you’re performing to the camera. You’re acting, and you’re posing, and that takes over on stage, too. They want to know how you look on stage, and the way you move, and stuff. They both deal with being super body aware with how you look on stage and in front of the camera. I think they’ve helped each other.
If you weren’t pursuing music or modeling, what would you be doing?
Hm, I think…I have a really big passion for fitness and eating healthy, so I probably would be some sort of fitness coach or personal trainer or something, just because I like it so much. But I can’t really imagine seriously doing anything else.
What can your fans be expecting from you in the near future?
They can expect tour dates, and new music. I’ve been in the studio the last few months just really, really cranking out some good music. I’m really excited to show that to the fans.
What is something that your fans don’t know about you that you’d be comfortable sharing with them?
Oh man…that’s a tough question! Fans probably don’t know…that I love Starbucks. Actually, that’s a big joke, because that’s all I ever tweet about. Ever. (Laughs). I actually love airports. I think that’s a really random, weird fact that I love being in airports, just waiting for my flight and stuff. I know that it’s one of the most hated places ever, but…it’s crazy, cause everyone hates it, but I like it because, to me, it symbolizes that you’re about to go on an adventure, somewhere cool.
That’s a really good way to think about it!
Yeah, I think ever since I was little that’s how I’ve thought about it.
If you could travel back to any day in your life, what would it be and why?
I wanna say it would be one of my awesome shows that I was able to perform at. I could live that everyday, over and over and over. Maybe my first show ever; it was crazy. I was in front of a thousand people; I got to sing one song, and it was just a huge show for me. I just remember that was my first time ever performing on stage, so I remember the feeling I had on that day. It was insane.
If you could live in any time period what would it be?
The 50’s for sure. No question.
Elvis, the style, and the people, the life…everything, the cars, the clothes. I think everything is just so freakin’ cool and on point. I’m the biggest Elvis fan ever.
Spencer is an incredibly talented artist that deserves your time and attention (I’m looking at you, Selena Gomez). Check out his most recent single “I Just Gotta” by following the link here.
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