Meet Sam Simmonds-Mead: Musician and Salesman at one of London's Favorite Guitar Shops
By Sam Baldwin
In the heart of the St. Giles neighborhood of London lies a hidden gem, and a treasure trove for Rock n’ Roll lovers: Denmark Street. The street might be a mere 354 feet long but it’s been a host for some of the world’s greatest musicians. In the 1960s, it became a hangout spot and recording space for artists like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix. Today, the studios are gone, but Denmark Street is still a music mecca, lined with guitar stores.
I sat down with Sam Simmons-Mead, a 27-year-old guitarist and salesman at Sixty Sixty Sounds to hear about his musical journey and his life at one of London’s best independent guitar vendors. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Sam Baldwin: Working full time at Sixty Sixty, music must be a huge part of your life. Do you remember when you began playing the guitar?
Sam Simmonds-Mead: I’ve played my whole life. I don’t remember the very first time because I was probably yea big. I have a lot of early memories of waking up really early in the morning, and being maybe 4 or 5, and going downstairs, taking a guitar off the stand, and just strumming. No chords or anything like that, just strumming it and waking my parents up. I was really dyslexic as a kid. I couldn’t really write and I couldn’t really read, but I played guitar. So, that was my way of expressing myself. It was my way of connecting with people.
What genres or musicians most inspire you?
My biggest influence is Craig Ross, who is the guitarist for Lenny Kravitz. I grew up in the last generation that didn’t have the internet growing up. So, I could only listen to what my dad had in his record collection, and that was 90’s rock with some other cool shit thrown in there. Like everyone, I can appreciate great music, whether that’s soul, RnB, classical, anything like that. But 90’s rock is where it’s at.
Do you write your own music? What does that process look like for you?
Yeah, absolutely, all the time. It’s one of my favorite things to do. Normally it starts with a guitar. Then you find a little idea you like, you loop it, you see where it goes. Is it a verse, is it a chorus, is it a bridge? You find the flow of it. When I feel like I’ve got a solid structure, lyrics will start coming.
Denmark Street is an iconic spot for music lovers. What is an average day like at the store?
We’re all really good friends, so we’re like a family here. You’re always with your brothers. And you’re just helping people. Everyone always tells me it’s too cheesy but I like to see it as helping people find their dreams. Because say you’re spending $2,000 or $50,000 dollars on a guitar. Even $500. It can be a real dream of yours. I mean, you can put years into your life just saving for this. I really like to respect what we do here and what these instruments mean to people. There isn’t really an average day and I think that’s what’s lovely about working in a place like this. You never know who is going to walk through the door and take what with them.
And in a store like this, there are endless options to play. I know I’ve got my eye on a that yellow guitar in the window. Which guitar do you own, and which is your personal favorite in the store?
I’m very lucky. I’ve got a few. I have a beautiful Les Paul Standard and a 345 and a Flying V. The black ‘54 Les Paul Custom is my favorite.
Finally, what’s your advice for aspiring guitarists?
It’s nice to remember why we all do it: for the love of it. Sometimes people put too much pressure on something. Too much pressure to sell, or too much pressure to really make something out of it. But at the end of the day, if it’s making you happy, that’s a reason to do it. To do anything.