Last Friday, April 21, I sat on a bench by Sunset Lake amongst the honking geese making their nests and the floating fiddle tunes coming from the nearby Outing Club Folk Fest while talking with Sam Hurwitz ’25 about his newly released second album, “The Optimist.” Hurwitz began by speaking about music creation as intrinsic to his identity as a storyteller. Music performance has always played a role in Hurwitz’s life. At age two, he was strumming a toy guitar, and at age nine, he had his first stage performance. However, it was the storytelling aspect of music and songwriting that made music an essential part of his life.
“I love making individual songs, but I’ve always been attracted to the album as an art form, in making the sum of its parts to be just as powerful (or more) than the whole.” Hurwitz explained the process of creating the album as a connected work of art. “[It’s about] the narrative, the journey, the way songs transition, and most of all, how it feels like a part of my life. This is me documenting [who I was].” In a time where most people seek out individual songs to listen to and put on playlists to tell their own stories, it can be difficult to market an album as a complete work. Hurwitz is up to the challenge of telling full stories instead of separated pieces.
Hurwitz’s first album, “I Drowned & I Woke Up” (2021) had a more linear approach to storytelling. Hurwitz commented: “[L]ife isn’t like that, so I decided to end [‘The Optimist’] with a rather sad song…There is a story [in this album], but it isn’t linear, so there’s a lot of ups, downs and interludes. With this album, I think I was trying to get people to feel a bit less safe, less understood, than with my first album.” By weaving a complicated fabric of sounds of piano pop, rock, orchestral string sections and brass instruments with a throughline of folk, Hurwitz has made a creation that really mimics the waves of life in all its highs and lows. He recognized that this approach may be a bit more risky, less catchy and less accessible, but he liked that it invites people to spend more time with the music to allow it to sink in and establish connection with the stories being told.
The idea for “The Optimist” clicked while sifting through childhood photos one night in his room. “I had a thought that I wanted to do a self-titled record but not called Sam Hurwitz…The theme [of this album] is that [the songs are] all pieces of me that I’m trying to cling to—it is an excavation of myself…and an excavation of a deeper self-love,” Hurwitz reflected. He laughed, describing that the title “The Optimist” may have been a bit sarcastic at first, considering the sad themes in many of the songs and the initial album cover idea of wearing a mask with a smiley face. Later, he realized that the songs were really about resilience and hope through sadness, not sadness itself.
I invite you to hear this story from Sam Hurwitz, a storyteller through music that transfers complete emotions and images. Listen to his album, “The Optimist,” on any streaming platform. You will hear the story of the artist and perhaps find your own story told within the lyrics as well.