Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Samm Henshaw: It's a soul devotion

Samm Henshaw
Samm Henshaw Samm Henshaw Samm Henshaw Samm Henshaw

South London-raised soul/R&B singer-songwriter-producer Samm Henshaw comes correct this month with the release through Columbia Records of his uplifting and distinctive-sounding new single “Church”. Which - alongside its thumping groove, full choral backing and churchy handclaps - additionally features Atlanta, Georgia-based EARTHGANG, a new hip hop duo signed to US-chart-topping rapper J. Cole’s Dreamville label.

Born Iniabasi Samuel Henshaw in London, UK on 22 February 1994 to Nigerian parents, Samm essentially first found his love for music while learning to play instruments in his pastor/reverend father’s local church. All of which - after him spending his secondary years attending Sidcup’s Cleeve Park School - would eventually lead to him going on to study for a Popular Music Performance degree at Southampton’s Solent University.

Meanwhile, almost immediately following his graduation from Solent, 2015 would prestigiously find Henshaw signing his current record-deal with Columbia Records for whom he would in September of the same year release his debut EP “The Sound Experiment” (featuring production and songwriting input from the likes of Wayne Hector and Fred Cox) with its follow-up “The Sound Experiment 2” arriving in July 2016. Since which time - with his music having garnered all-important mainstream radio support from BBC Radio 1 - Samm has impressively gone on to earn his stripes as a live performer by supporting UK rock/pop singer-songwriter James Bay on his “Chaos And The Calm Tour”; US pop/R&B songstress Tori Kelly on her “Where I Belong Tour”; and American hip hop/R&B star Chance The Rapper on his “Magnificent Coloring World Tour”.

… All of which brings us back to this month’s release of the aforementioned “Church”. As an affable and forthcoming Mr Henshaw relaxes over early-afternoon drinks with “Blues & Soul” Assistant Editor Pete Lewis at Sony Music’s UK’s ever-busy Kensington HQ for this month’s in-depth cover interview.

What he feels he’s bringing as an artist that’s different from what’s already out there today

“I definitely want to be recognised as a credible musician who I guess is bringing something quite different to the soul music that’s out there today. And to me what I think I’m bringing, in particular, is a bit more of the warmth and a bit more of the energy to soul that I haven’t heard in the music for a long time. Like I grew up on Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin... You know, all these incredible musicians most of whom had a gospel background and who were, in turn, able to bring that energy into soul music. And though this isn’t a dig at current soul music - which I think is incredible - at the same time compared to the artists I just mentioned, it is very laid-back and very mellow... So yeah, I guess I’ve always felt that there is a space and a void today in terms of that church type of energy and warmth that I feel I can hopefully fill.”

His songs’ lyrical themes

“For me, I think each individual song I write has its own different message or theme. Like with “Doubt” I’m talking about believing you can do something and actually working towards making sure that that can be done, and how having faith doesn’t in itself means you don’t also have to work hard to achieve what you want. Then the message with “How Does It Feel” is basically about really trying to understand the true essence of love, as opposed to just talking about it. While “Church” - which is probably the most gospel/hip-hop-influenced song we have - is more about my background and my upbringing. You know, with my dad being a reverend, it’s kinda like a fun little story about how, when I was growing up, my mum would have to wake me up on a Sunday morning to get me ready for church, and with me at the time being about 10 years old I’d be like ‘I don’t wanna do this - I wanna sleep in and then watch cartoons!’... So yeah, that one is basically just a very simple story that’s fun and easy to pick up on while at the same time being something quite a few people out there have actually experienced.”

How the more serious personal conflict Samm experienced growing up as a reverend’s son has also impacted on his lyrics

“Yeah, I have a song coming out called “Reverend’s Son” which basically kind of rounds everything up. In that it basically talks about how, growing up, I struggled with this stigma of my dad being a reverend in terms of everyone expecting you to be this perfect child and act a certain way and do certain things. Whereas, for me, I wasn’t like that, and so because of that I rebelled a lot. You know, for me it was more like ‘I wanna find this on my own’. To where now it’s like everything I’m doing in terms of the church is more of a choice rather than something that’s being pressured and forced on me. You know, today I can proudly say I’m a reverend’s kid, because I love my dad and I look up to him - and overall he’s just an incredible influence on my life.”

Samm will perform in London at Electric Brixton on May 16

The single “Church Ft. EARTHGANG” is out now through Columbia Records

You can read more from our exclusive interview with soul/R&B singer/songwriter/producer and current B&S cover star Samm Henshaw, including his thoughts on the impact the church has made over the years in terms of Henshaw's musicianship, growing up in South London and studying Popular Music Performance at Southampton Solent University... all in the current issue of Blues & Soul magazine - click the 'BUY NOW' link below to order straight from the B&S shop or read on for high street retailer details...

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