Interview: Always Sammie

Destined for stardom from the tender age of twelve, Sammie candidly talks life lessons and what he has been up to during his climactic return to R&B.

Describe your debut in the music industry as a twelve-year-old.
It was a blessing. I decided at the age of eight that I wanted to pursue music professionally. To be able to fulfill that dream at such an early age was both humbling and refreshing for me. I remember that my life changed drastically—for the better of course. I went from a typical student to requiring security because I was being chased by thousands of girls on a daily. When you are young, you don’t understand the magnitude of things. No regrets, I wouldn’t change any of that for the world. Traveling within the states and to other countries opened my mind. A crowd of twenty thousand people singing along with me, word for word? That is a dream come true. I am super humbled and blessed by all of it.

What are you working on currently?
I am excited to share that my album will be out this month. Reaching this point has been a long time coming. I have gone through a lot of mixtapes, EP’s,trial and error. The entire experience has developed character and helped me as a songwriter, creative, and performer—most importantly as a man. It is a genuine R&B project full of transparency and vulnerability. This is something I feel has been lacking for quite some time in this genre of music. Each time that I do an interview, I am asked how I feel about the current state of R&B. I feel like such a question wouldn’t be a thing if rhythm and blues had been in the right hands over the last several years. I’m happy to have the opportunity to bring soul, passion and feeling back to the music.

Do you have the freedom of creative control over your work?
For sure! My situation is very elite with Empire. Shout out to Ghazi and Nima– I appreciate everyone in the Empire family for bringing me on board and trusting me. I played them the album about two months ago. The immediate response I received was that A&R wouldn’t be necessary. I have always been self-contained. Many years ago, I was forced to learn to write an album from top to bottom. I know how to vocal arrange, record, sequence the album, and even dictate which mix to put out. Doing this on a regular basis has allowed me to master the craft of creating a great body of work.

How would you describe your approach with new projects?
I don’t write music every day, but I do believe that every day is a song—you must seek it. When it comes down to creating a project, I pretty much just live life. If I’m in a relationship at that time, she will be the foundation for my inspiration. I pull from things that I have really experienced in life. I won’t ever rant on social media about my personal business, although I tell on myself in my music. I feel that music provides the best medium to be honest. Everyone speaks music–it is the universal language. I draw inspiration for my work from people that are close to me, and life experiences. I believe wholeheartedly in learning from the experiences of others when you can– to avoid obstacles. Everyone goes through heartbreak, infidelity, love, pain, and all the various emotions that mesh souls together. I incorporate that into my music, and I hope that it resonates with the people.

After taking a break, surely you have had some life experiences that touched you as a man, and artist. What was your inspiration for your latest project?
To dive even deeper, in 2009 I was in a very dark place. I had to part ways with a business partner that was supposed to be in my corner. I was told by this individual that I would never be able to become a great songwriter. All the negative things that this person attempted to feed me, I turned into a positive. I used that negative energy as fuel to become the machine that I am. I didn’t do it solely because of him, or to prove him wrong—but it is good to take negative feedback and transform it into something positive. That is what I did. The success speaks for itself. It is the best way to silence the haters—to win graciously and with a smile.

How would you describe your style and what makes it unique from the countless male singers in the industry today?
Well first, I am not one to auto-tune the entire project. That alone sets me apart–you are going to hear my real voice. I believe that if you cannot hit the note in the studio, then you need not do it. You must convey the same passion, energy, and delivery on stage or in live format that you do in the studio. Secondly, I listen to a little of everything just to see what is going on, but I am never trying to duplicate anything. If you go right, I want to go left. I want to create my own lane and I think it’s wide open right now. Somewhere down the line, it became real cool to degrade women and talk about popping bottles, partying, and getting bags. To be honest with you, most people aren’t doing that. They can’t resonate with that. Me talking about real life and relationship issues sets me apart also because it’s transparent. Some would deem it sensitive, and that is okay because I’m a Pisces–I am sensitive. I am very much in tune with the emotional layer of myself. I think it is okay to showcase that side while still being masculine and confident about it. Lastly, I’m simply Sammie. I have always done it my way. I know what kinds of records work for me, as opposed to what would be forcing it. I know how to push the envelope without going too far left. I am at peace and comfortable with the artist that I have become over the last few years while underground. I am just happy to bring myself to the forefront again.

Who are your favorite artists? Do you have a dream collaboration?
I grew up on Stevie Wonder. I think that he is the most talented artist to grace the earth. As far as a dream collaboration goes, if I could raise the dead—Marvin Gaye was amazing. I was raised in the church, but of course I sing secular music. I watched a documentary and his battle with flesh and spirit was something that I could relate to. Usher Raymond is yet another phenomenal artist. I think that he is one of the select few to evolve from a child star like myself to the man he is today while remaining successful. R. Kelly is also very talented. Those are the four artists (no chronological order) that I grew up on, that I get my inspiration from. I have a true admiration and respect for each of them.

What advice do you have for young black men striving for success in the music business?
I don’t like to force religion on anybody, but I am a Christian man. I would say keep God first and last in your life. In this industry and life in general curveballs will be thrown at you. You must take the bumps and bruises as they come. I don’t have all the keys to success, but I do know that you must keep moving forward. Stay true to yourself and the vision. If you have a plan, see it through to the end—don’t half-ass it. Educate yourself– something I made a mistake doing some time ago was to focus on being creative while not focusing on the business side of things. Once you do that, a gateway of hell in your life opens. Possessing the intellectual component to mesh with your talent is imperative. Those are gems I would drop on anybody, especially young black men trying to get into the industry.

– Trish Vaughn


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