He’s the singer who turned England’s Eurovision fortunes after 25 years.
For the first time since 1998, the Brit placed in the top 5, with his track Space Man light years ahead of the competition in the jury voting.
And while the big public vote has put him second for Ukraine, Sam from Turin, Italy, is coming home after winning Britain something far more valuable than a trophy: giving us back some Eurovision pride.
But how did a long-haired 32-year-old boy from Essex turn out to be the knight in shining armour? The one who could finally save us from the mockery of Eurovision?
It’s certainly been quite a search for the former Catholic schoolboy.
He was born Sam Robinson and grew up in Maldon, Essex.
While at John Payne Catholic School in nearby Chelmsford, he found an old Iron Maiden album on a school trip to a nunnery.
At the age of 11 he went with his school friends to their first rock concert.
That night he realized he didn’t want to be an astronaut anymore. He knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life: to be a rock star.
He says: “Me and my friends watched Sum 41 when we were in seventh grade and it really got us excited. We have a ’10 step plan to get signed’ written in the back of our science books and everything'”
Former teacher Jemma Coleman saw him hone his ambition at the school’s talent shows. She said: “He was a personable, cheeky young man. Even then he developed into a great showman.”
At 19, Sam co-founded the band The Morning After, as a guitarist and vocalist, having been inspired to learn guitar after seeing the bizarrely masked rock band Lordi perform at the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest.
The band grew up in their corner of Essex but life intervened and they broke up.
It was the beginning of a depressing pattern for the musician.
He joined Canadian band Blessed by a Broken Heart – only for that band to split a year later as well.
Then he joined the US group Close Your Eyes – and the same thing happened again. And those weren’t the only times.
Sam explained: “As soon as a member left a band and someone needed someone, I would step in. I was in the band for about a year or so…then the band ended, I was like the Black Death. When I showed up you knew the days were numbered.”
Having managed it on his own, he soon fell into a “cycle of rethinking”, spending weeks on songs before throwing them away and starting over, so he packed it up to do a bio with his girlfriend Lois in the market town of Coggeshall, Essex – Gaskin barbel to open juice bar.
However, once lockdown kicked in, Sam saw this as an opportunity for a replay to “clean the slate”, as he puts it.
“To get over that procrastination, I just pulled out my phone and sang straight into it,” he said.
He started making covers of Britney Spears and Queen and posting them on the booming social media platform TikTok.
He became an overnight social media star, racking up millions of followers and having his videos reposted by the likes of Alicia Keys, Sia and Justin Bieber.
He recalled, “Justin Bieber told me he texted Sia my video of Sia’s song ‘Elastic Heart’,” Ryder recalls. “And then Sia posted it to her Instagram with this amazing, encouraging caption. That was a huge milestone.”
The excitement helped him enlist Grammy-winning songwriting talent Amy Wadge to help him write Space Man, which was produced by KOZ – who had worked with the likes of Dua Lipa and, more importantly, by managed by the TaP group who just so happened to be in charge of finding a credible, exciting new artist for the UK Eurovision entry.
Now the vegan Essex boy, who’s more likely to be found surfing and snowboarding than cleaning Towie, has gone from black death for bands to the shining light for Britain at Eurovision.
Not that he’s forgetting his roots as he prepares to tour with Paloma Faith. He drives home to celebrate curry with his family and to see his beloved grandfather to “set him up with everything”.