Lyft’s guide to the transportation revolution

Meet the karaoke-crooning driver you just might find yourself singing along with

Sarah Conlisk - Aug 31, 2023
Sam Santos Image Header
Illustration by María Jesús Contreras

There’s a lot that goes into making an enjoyable Lyft ride: a clean car, a friendly driver, and of course, music. Perhaps no one knows this better than Sam Santos. Since he started driving in 2016, Sam has received 131 compliments on his music — more than any other Lyft driver.

We wanted to find out what’s so special about Sam’s music, so we called him up. Turns out Sam has more than just good taste. He is also incredibly warm, considerate, and a minor celebrity — with a following of 15,000-plus on the karaoke app Smule. 

​​This conversation has been edited for clarity and length. 

Rev: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you based, and how did you start driving with Lyft? 

Sam: I’ve been driving since almost the beginning! I began driving in 2016 in Las Vegas, where I still live and drive today. 

Riders clearly love your music. What kind do you play? 

Well, it depends on the customer. Normally, I ask them what kind of music they like. 

I also have a hobby. I do karaoke online on an app called Smule. You can record yourself and you can sing, and people will join you from around the world. And, you know, not a lot of people can sing really well, but it’s not about that. It’s about just having fun. It’s good meditation. It’s a good stress relief. And you also make friends around the world. Imagine that.

Sometimes, I’ll have songs from Smule playing through Bluetooth while I am driving. And passengers will see what I’m listening to on the radio screen in the car. They’ll ask me, “Hey, what’s that? I see your name!” And I will tell them. 

Let’s say the rider’s coming from a concert. Like when Celine Dion was here, I’d play my Celine Dion songs on the app.

Sam Santos - My Heart Will Go On

Especially when there’s traffic. Oh my God. I have to entertain them ’cause I am with them for a long time. Traffic here in Vegas, you’ll be stuck for like 20 minutes, 30 minutes with one customer. 

So when they learn about Smule, do riders ever want to join?

Yeah. Sometimes they will ask, “Can we sing, too?” And if I know where I am going, I will give them my phone and tell them how to record, so they can have the lyrics, too. Sometimes I don’t know the directions, and then we switch phones! I use theirs for direction; they use mine to record on Smule. And then I send the recording to their Instagram or Facebook. I delete it after, for privacy reasons, but they have it on their social media forever if they want it.  

When did you get into singing? How old were you?

I was already grown, probably in my late 20s. I’m 57 now. I’m originally from the Philippines, and I have this friend back there, and she was always telling me to sing with her on this app as a way to connect. For two years! So I finally joined her, and she was so excited. She was like, “You can sing, Sam! You’ve got to do this so people can join you.” She convinced me to get a membership, and then it kind of exploded from there.  

Have you ever been recognized by someone? 

Yeah. I was with my friend, and we went to the doctor. And then this nurse told me, “I think I know you.” I said, “Have we met before?” They said, “No, but you sing, right?” I said, “Yeah.” They said,I’m one of your followers!” My friend was like, “Oh my God, bro. People are recognizing you!”

You’re a celebrity! 

I wasn’t expecting that I was gonna get so many followers in three years. It just blew up all of a sudden. I have about 15,000 followers around the world. Russian, French, Italian, Turkish. Spanish, Filipino. And I learned Russian to sing it. 

You learned Russian to be able to sing?

Yeah, kind of. I’ll sing a popular song in English, but it’s in Russian. 

[See Sam sing “Hallelujah” in Russian.] 

Sam Santos - Hallelujah

That’s so great. Are your followers your age? Do you know?

There’s a variety. A lot are in their late 20s. But some are really young, only like 20 years old. 

Music is such a good way to connect people across ages, across geography. 

I have been lucky.

Well, talented it sounds like!

It’s a blessing. I have that gift, so I’m sharing it with people.

Some of Sam’s (and our!) favorite Smule recordings: