Soulful singer-songwriter, Samm Henshaw, speaks on being an independent artist, writing his new song over Zoom and shares a few songs that are on his current playlist.
When listening to the discography of Samm Henshaw it becomes very clear what his mission is as an artist and songwriter. On each track filled with his infectious positivity and charm, Samm navigates the qualms of love and relationships and the not so pleasant things that life sometimes throws at you. Against the backdrop of funky guitar melodies, his soulful vocal display and upbeat rhythms, his gospel roots always shine through, resulting in music that instantly leaves you feeling lifted.
The start of 2020 saw Henshaw begin his extensive US tour that was later cancelled due to the global pandemic. With lots of time to reflect, he has now embarked on a new journey as an independent artist and is preparing for an album release in the coming year, with two singles (“Thoughts & Prayers” and “Still Broke”) already released as a ‘COLOURS’ session.
His latest release, “All Good”, came from being challenged to write a song inspired by a fan’s photo. This is undoubtedly another track that connects with people, leaving a trail of positivity and feel-good energy upon the first listen.
Notion caught up with Samm Henshaw about the process behind creating his new single, his first experience songwriting and some of the songs on his current playlist.
How would you describe your music in three words?
Soulful, Thoughtful, Honest.
What was the first piece of music you felt that you could truly connect with?
I can’t really remember but the earliest song in my memory is probably Kirk Franklin’s – “Something About The Name Jesus”; that joint is mad.
When was your first experience with songwriting?
To be honest, my earliest memory of creating songs was probably in nursery where I used to make up songs and perform them during playtime. In terms of actually sitting down to write songs, I was pretty late to the party – probably in college.
There are loads of Gospel elements embedded in your music. What artists/bands inspire you from this genre?
I would say there are Gospel elements in all soul music as Gospel is the root of where it all came from. I just took the more traditional elements of Gospel. In terms of artists, there are many, so I’ll just name a few: Kirk Franklin, Helen Baylor, Marvin Sapp and more recently Mali music and Jonathan McReynolds.
You also decided to leave your label and take the independent artist route. How has this journey been for you so far? How has it compared to your expectations?
So far I’m loving it, I feel like sometimes you can get lost in ticking the boxes and you forget why your making music in the first place. I definitely prefer this route as I’m learning a lot more about myself and the industry as a whole, sometimes when your in a label you can feel very sheltered and feel like you can’t get your hands dirty so I’m enjoying this experience. I’m enjoying having the freedom I’ve always dreamed of having around my music.
Your new song “All Good” was inspired by a fan’s photo that you were challenged to write a song about – in collaboration with Samsung. Was this different from your usual writing process?
This particular process has been a bit challenging due to the fact that I made the song with two people based in LA over zoom. So whilst juggling any internet connection issues I also missed the vibe of creating with my collaborators in the same room. I’m a vibe person so I’m used to sitting in the room and coming out with vibes, seeing how we all feel in the room and then committing to an idea. In this instance we just had to figure it out as we went along. I would say I’m not used to creating off one picture, usually a lot of what I write is inspired by my life or a conversations I’ve had with someone. The picture was a unique experience in as much as I was given the bones and I had to create the meat around it, why was he smiling, what was the owner thinking, what was the dog thinking etc
How do you want people to feel after listening to your music?
Honestly I just want people to feel something, sometimes you can hear a song and feel nothing, I want my music to at least bring some type of feeling, whether it be joy, frustration, curiosity, whatever it may be just feel.
In a lot of your music videos, there are bits of really cool animations. How do you come up with these concepts?
I’m a very visual artist so most times when I’m writing a song I usually have an idea of what a video would look like whilst making the song, I just love to tell stories and the video is a massive part of it, its an opportunity to give the audience the full picture where as sometimes a song can only provide part of the picture. I also watch a lot of animation and the boundaries are endless in cartoons so whenever I get the opportunity to collaborate with a director its always fun to see how crazy and weird the concept can be.
You are set to release an album next year, with two singles out already. What story are you trying to tell with this album?
With the project I just wanted to create something that was honest and felt like it was authentically me. I wanted relatable life stories from my real life, at the beginning of my career I felt like I held back quite a bit in regards to writing about things that I was going through and instead wrote songs based on conversations I had with my Dad or friends. This project is all about me.
What is currently on your playlist?
Sza – Hit Different
Radiant Children – Mariposa
Pa Salieu– My Family
Sam Smith ft Labrinth – Love Goes
Ray Charles – What’d I Say
Busta Rhymes ft Kendrick – Look Over Your Shoulder
Spillage Village – Baptise
Dante Bowe – Voice of God
Chandler Moore – Where Are You
Maverick City – Have My Heart