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Sam Divine

United Kingdom
United Kingdom
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Artist Spotlight

Jun 22, 2023

Harry Levin

8 min read

“For me now, everything’s a bonus. I’ve pretty much achieved everything that I’ve wanted to achieve and to be able to say that gives me great, great pleasure,” Sam Divine shares with gratitude as she dials in from Ibiza on the day of her anniversary with her partner. “I do everything with pride. I do everything with joy.”

They’re returning to the place where they met, but, of course, in between celebratory time on the island, she’s also got gigs lined up, including week six of Defected’s residency at Eden.

See, while Divine has accomplished so much in her years on the scene, at 42, she is just as hungry as she was when she first started. She still tours the world, DJing over 100 gigs a year. She still runs her record label, DVINE Sounds. She still helms the globally syndicated Defected Radio program and is still releasing her own records (though production came long after her other experiences in the scene).

And from the beginning, that hunger was always there.

“You have to also ask yourself that question when you’re starting out. How badly do you want it? Because I was so hungry for it. I still am. I’ve still got a fire in my belly for it 21 years later,” Divine says.

In 2002, after spending her youth making mixtapes by recording UK top 40 radio broadcasts, Divine launched her career based on a passion for finding and sharing new music.

She would visit friends who worked at record stores like Tower Records, sort through rows of vinyl, and take her selections home to spin on a set of decks she had set up in her garden shed.

“My mum wouldn’t let me in the house. I had my little setup with cobwebs, and it was freezing cold in the winter and blazing hot in the summer,” Divine says. “I entered a DJ competition shortly after I got my decks in my local nightclub and actually won. Then I went on to become the resident DJ of that club. I mean, literally playing to the bar staff every single Saturday, but loved it. That’s how I learned the art of being a warmup DJ. Digging for those records that you wouldn’t normally play at home in the shed.”

Divine’s passion for digging would eventually take her to work at several different record stores, including Spin Central in Weston-super-Mare, England, where she had her shrine to Defected Records (the label that would go on to change her life), Bristol’s now-shuttered Chemical Records (which at the time was the second biggest record store in Europe), and even a record store in Naples, Italy.

“I don’t speak Italian, and the people that came into the shop didn’t speak English, but [we had] that common ground of just loving music,” Divine remembers.

After leaving Chemical Records, she did her first season in Ibiza before moving to London, where she started at a shop called Oatmeal Records in Notting Hill. That’s where she met Aaron Ross, A&R of Defected.

Divine was already quite keen on Defected, attending all their parties in London, so Ross invited her to come to their night at Pacha in Ibiza. On the White Isle, she met the man himself, Defected’s owner, Simon Dunmore.

“I was just hounding [Dunmore] for promos and hitting him up for guest list every week,” Divine says with a laugh. “And in 2008, they offered me a job as street team. They kind of made up this job role for me.”

As street team, she would represent Defected all over Ibiza, providing DJs with free swag like merchandise, vinyl, and CDs, and then keeping track of which DJs played which Defected tracks out at the club each week.

The following year, Dunmore offered her the events manager position for Defected in Ibiza, which, frankly, she hated.

“It was way out of my depth. I had no clue. I’d run parties in London before with my best friend, but nothing on this scale,” Divine says. “It was so much hard work. It was absolutely exhausting. However, I really built a rapport with all my hero DJs. I got to warm up for them as well as running the party, as well as artist liaison, events manager.”

By the end of the summer, Divine jokes that she hated DJing, she hated Ibiza, and she hated Defected, but after playing a Defected night at Ministry of Sound in London when the summer was over, Dunmore signed her to the Defected roster.

“The rest is history,” Divine says.

Now Sam Divine is a staple of Defected lineups around the world. Whether it be on Ibiza, in London, Malta, or Croatia, she’s there. She’s part of the family, and as host of Defected Radio for the last eight years, she has gone to places she never dreamed of when she was spinning records in her mum’s shed.

“I can go anywhere in the world and I’ll always have people come up to me and be like, ‘Oh my God, I listen to the radio show every week’,” Divine says. “To be able to fly the Defected flag is an honor for me. And I do it with pride. I’ve earned my stripes.”

More than just advancing her career, her leadership of the radio show allows Divine to give a platform to up-and-coming artists. Sure, she can play an unreleased record to a live crowd of thousands, but when she plays it on the radio, it can reach up to 21.6 million people, according to their last syndication data, and the numbers for the radio show keep going up.

This intention of supporting new talents also manifests in her record label, DVINE Sounds, which she launched in 2015.

“I always wanted to have or give a platform to up-and-coming artists that basically didn’t have that voice. I wanted to be their voice. The way the label came about is that I found this artist called Curtis Gabriel. He was the first artist I ever signed to my label, and I was just having a lunch meeting with my manager, and I was pretty vexed that this guy only had like a hundred followers on SoundCloud. And I was playing his records at peak time in my sets, like what is going on?” Divine says.

Her manager suggested she start a label, which far fewer artists were doing at that time, so she did, and as her mentor Simon Dunmore says, she “leads from the front.”

Now Curtis Gabriel has over 250,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. DVINE Sounds has signed artists from around the world, including regions like South America and Italy (to which Divine is favorable, given her time working in Naples). They host boat parties at Defected Croatia and branded events at Miami Music Week.

But DVINE Sounds is more than just a platform for up-and-coming artists. DVINE Sounds is also where she shares her own releases. Divine has been making music for over ten years, but in her words, she’s been “flirtatious with it,” engaging in lighter forms of the art like remixing UK garage records for house sets.

Though even today, as she is sharing full-length records in her name, she credits her engineer whom she works with closely, and is secure in her role in studio settings:

“I think you have to be quite a big nerd to be a producer. I’ve never had the patience for it. I’m the hype man in the studio. I’m making cups of tea, I’m like jumping off the walls, I’m like, ‘Who’s got a dog, let’s bring a dog in.’ I’m absolute vibes cartel in the studio, and, I’m not ashamed to say that because I can’t press buttons. I come in with an idea.”

After all, Sam Divine has accomplished everything she’s set out to already. So things like production, it’s all just a bonus for her. If she has a hit record one day, that’s great. If not, she will still be making tea in the studio and putting her touch on records she loves to play out.

And one of the biggest bonuses for her is to serve as a role model for others striving to make a career in house music.

“I always want people to win. I want them to be the best version of themselves. And if I can help be a stepping stone, even if it’s a small one in their career, I’m like a dog with a bone. When I find someone new, I’m just like, oh, so shiny, I wanna do lots of things with you,” Divine says. “I feel like I need to be a really good role model for all these young artists coming through now. I feel like I’ve definitely come from the trenches and worked my way up, but I’ve done it with a smile on my face. No regrets, no looking back. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”

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