Q&A: The real Sammy Brown on Zach Sobiech, ‘Clouds,’ Saturday’s livestream

Thanks to the new Disney+ film “Clouds,” Zach Sobiech‘s 2012 hit song of the same name is again at the top of streaming charts, seven years after it brought the 17-year-old and his songwriting partner, bandmate and best friend, Sammy Brown, international acclaim just before his death to a rare bone cancer the next spring.

Clouds: A Musical Celebration
11 a.m. PT; 2 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 24

The film, starring Fin Argus as Sobiech, Sabrina Carpenter as Brown, Madison Iseman as Sobiech’s girlfriend Amy and Neve Campbell as his mom, has brought the story of the young artist, his friends and family to the public consciousness and made it a major talking point the last two weeks since its premiere. The streaming provider has planned a virtual concert in honor of Sobiech’s legacy and the success of the film.

“Clouds: A Musical Celebration” will stream Saturday morning and will include performances by OneRepublic, renforshort, Argus, Carpenter and Jason Mraz—whose music played a pivotal role for Zach Sobiech and Sammy Brown in real life as well as in the film. Campbell, Iseman, actors Lil Rel Howery and Tom Everett Scott, as well as “Clouds” director Justin Baldoni, will also appear.

The real-life Sammy Brown, who’s featured on the movie soundtrack, will also perform. Throughout the concert, Disney+ will highlight the Zach Sobiech osteosarcoma fund, which has already raised more than $2 million for cancer research. Brown joined us Friday morning to talk about the movie, the ways in which it differed from real life, honoring her friend and Saturday’s concert.

I know that Justin Baldoni, who also directed “Five Feet Apart,” had really grown to know all of you well. How close does the film hew to real life? Is there anything you would have liked to see portrayed differently? 

Sammy Brown: Justin involved us a lot in the process, which was so cool and not expected. I mean, we knew Justin was a great person; otherwise, we wouldn’t have trusted him with this. He got permission from Laura, Zach’s mom. And he was so careful not to mess anything up, because, at this point, we’re kind of like family. He knew it was a tall order.

It’s almost all either true or inspired by the truth of what happened. If anything, it’s the timeline that’s a little different. Certain events were combined. For example, that prom and that big concert. They [were separate] and Zach made it to both. Those were months apart. But how much of a whole year can you fit into a two-hour movie, right?

One thing that they had to cut to make room for everything else is a few more scenes between Amy and me. We’re, in real life, very good friends. The movie doesn’t put us against each other, which I love. I wish more movies wouldn’t do that. But there are a few scenes that got cut between just [Iseman and Carpenter], just so we stay in Zach’s perspective.

I know it’s great to have “Clouds,” the song, at the top of the charts again, but do you think you could quantify in which ways it’s great for you and Zach’s family? Besides the feeling of joy?

I think it’s just incredible to us that the world has grown to love him as much as we did. There’s nothing better than seeing your friends or your family succeed, and to be able to see that seven-and-a-half years out is just such a good feeling. I feel like when you’re about to lose somebody, you don’t realize that your relationship will grow even after death. I’ve totally seen that, and our friends have felt that friendships that might have disappeared after high school or gotten weaker have [instead] grown stronger because we’ve had this thing to come around. You don’t always need a movie to do that, but I think it’s a great way to keep someone’s memory alive, and we are all grateful for the chance to come back in town and celebrate that.

Do all the people in the movie still stay in regular communication with each other.

Yeah, it’s a big old family.

Life doesn’t end with the end of the movie. Many people watching, like myself, have wanted to know what happened afterward. So I stalked all your Instagrams and Twitter accounts. What has your life been like? What have you been up to, and what have you focused on, whether it’s music or something else?

I’ve continued to write songs and teach myself guitar—still not as good as I wish I was! I’ve kind of learned to do that on my own, and take what Zach and I learned. I feel like that era of spontaneity and just kind of making things up as we go has been really good for me, since I don’t have him to do it with anymore. I actually moved to New York right after college graduation, and I work as a children’s book publicist.


Yeah, maybe I don’t have that on my Instagram! On my Twitter, I’m retweeting book events all the time. Looking back, I’m sure it was, in part, inspired by Zach’s ability to jump on an opportunity and make the most of things. I think he inspired us subconsciously in those ways, too. I think there are things that all of us do that we might not even know are Zach’s gentle nudge in the back of our mind.

What can viewers expect tomorrow?

Well, that’s a good question. I got to sing “Fix Me Up” with Sabrina and Fin; although when I recorded it, I wasn’t with them—because, you know, Zoom and lag. That wouldn’t have worked out. I am really excited to see that. I also sang “Coffee Cup,” which is a song Zach and I wrote, and … “Clouds.” I’m really excited to see that compilation of his friends and people he’s never met but would think is like so cool to be singing his song. I’m honestly just as a curious as everyone. I’m down for a little surprise.

How can people continue to honor Zach’s legacy right now?

Well, obviously, there’s the fund. That’s the most concrete way. And streaming his song “Clouds.” But in another way, I think leading with love and thinking beyond yourself and how you’ll be affected by things. Living to make other people happy and … better other people’s lives. As simple as it was, he made it seem easy—and I think it is if people embrace it. It’s a tough time in the world right now, and I think people need to be reminded to look out for each other. And yeah, I think this movie is coming at a good time.

Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.

(2) Comments

  1. Louise Fenner

    I really like what you had to say about looking out for one another Sammy. Especially during this time. You have all inspired me, the way you taken care of each other over the last 8 years and the grace in which you’ve accomplished so much. Much Love, Louise

  2. Jill

    I’ve never made a public comment but had to leave one here. Just watched the movie and found so much beauty in it - the relationships wow!, the music so genuine, and the many great messages - love!! Love Sammy’s voice and hope she continues to have beauty in her life and same to all Zach’s family and friends - thanks for sharing this inspiring story!!

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