"I never in a million, trillion years thought that it would happen this way," Sam DeRosa tells PEOPLE

By Tomás Mier
September 24, 2019 11:00 AM
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They don’t got a pill for this!

After wowing judges on Songland earlier this month, rising singer/songwriter Sam DeRosa is sure that everything comes at the right time.

“They say it’s nothing until it’s something,” the 27-year-old tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I’ve been waiting tables and bartending, singing cover gigs and missing holidays with my family for gigs that only paid $50. I always thought, there’s no way when you put this much energy into something that can’t work.”

Sam DeRosa
| Credit: Matt Berinato

“I really wanted to have songs that people can resonate with because heartbreak is such a universal thing,” she continues. “I never in a million, trillion years thought that it would happen this way. I’m floating somewhere on cloud nine.”

DeRosa’s hard work is finally paying off. She just signed a deal with Songland’s Grammy-winning producer Shane McAnally and his label Monument Records after she performed her original song “Pill For This” for Charlie Puth on the show.

DeRosa remembers meeting Puth in class while the two were at the Berklee School of Music in Boston — she had no idea she’d go on to perform an original song for him on television.

“I’m still the boy from English class who failed out,” Puth told DeRosa after her performance. “You’re in front of an old classmate.”

“I remember just tapping him on the shoulder and said, ’Hey, you’re going to fail this class. I’ll help you.’ So we kind of became friends,” she recalls. “One night, we went out to eat seafood. And we just had a whole conversation about our dreams in life over some clam chowder. And I never saw him again, I never thought that he would remember that — I truly have not seen him.”

Sam Derosa and Charlie Puth
| Credit: Ari Perilstein/Getty; Steven Ferdman/Getty

“For somebody who’s as famous as he is to not only to remember me but to say all the things that he said was just so sweet,” she says. “I’m just so honored. I was just so grateful to him.”

Before even attending Berklee, DeRosa always had an affinity for music, as her parents were musicians themselves. Her parents actually met after her mom auditioned to be in her dad’s band and they started their own group together. Though they “put their dreams on hold” to raise five children, DeRosa says her parents and siblings have been so supportive of her blossoming career.

“I really feel like it was in my blood,” she says. “I tell people I was in the womb singing.”

With just a handful of tracks to her name, DeRosa’s songs — like “Hate Me” and “Hard to Love” — stand out for their danceable melodies and relatable, heartbreak lyrics. (Think Dua Lipa.)

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“I hope nobody ever relates to the heartbreak that I went through, but if they have, I’m happy to know that I emotionally hugged them through song,” she says. “I like to dance to my problems. It’s an emotional conversation or confrontation, described over a happy beat. So if we’re in the club and we’re crying, at least we tried it, at least we got really pretty and we went out. We might cry a little on the dance floor, but we’re dancing through it.”

Though she just started putting out her own music, DeRosa co-wrote lovelytheband’s chart-topping single “Broken” and another track “Emotion” — opening new doors for the New York native.

Sam DeRosa
| Credit: Matt Berinato

“It completely changed my life,” she says. “I mean, it was the craziest journey for me, because we really wrote that song that day as strangers and I’m so grateful that they were kind enough to give me a chance, and I’m just so happy that I was able to help be a part of that song.”

Now, she couldn’t be more thankful for McAnally, who gave her the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Thank you for telling me, not asking me, that I was a recording artist & saying ‘it’s not if. It’s just when I’m gonna sign you so there’s that,'” she wrote in an Instagram “love letter” to the producer. “Thanks for teaching me to trust the goosebumps and follow my heart no matter what. MOST IMPORTANTLY, thank you for reminding me that the struggle behind the success is what makes the best stories, that there’s no blueprint to this, and that ‘the universe always has a way of working out in our favor.'”

DeRosa is currently in “writing mode like crazy,” as she preps to drop a single before the end of the year and prepares her debut album.

“I’m trying to really stay as honest as possible and I’m writing my ass off,” she says. “I’ll tell you that. More work than I could have ever imagined and I couldn’t be happier.”

Along with dropping music under her own name, she’s continuing to write with other artists, including Fifth Harmony alum Ally Brooke, who’s competing on Dancing with the Stars.

“When I’m in a room with another artist, I need to just take a backseat and hear what they have to say,” she explains. “I’m going to feel what you’re feeling for a minute and try my best to write a song from your perspective because this is about you. And I want to make sure you feel like this is your story.”