INTERVIEW: Get to know the musically ‘Untidy Soul’ of Samm Henshaw

After a year and a half on hiatus, British-Nigerian R&B-soul singer Samm Henshaw is set to tour again in November ahead of his highly-anticipated debut album, Untidy Soul, out on January 28, 2022.

We spoke to the South London-bred crooner on his new record and creative accompanying music videos for singles ‘Still Broke’ and ‘Grow’.

There’s just something about Samm Henshaw’s silky smooth voice that makes him one of the best soul singers to watch out for right now.

Growing up from a religious family, the soulful English crooner constantly wowed fans over with his gospel-inspired soul/R&B sound, beginning with 2015’s critically-acclaimed The Sound Experiment EP.

His voice, sprinkled with elegance and passion, captivated listeners over the years. Singles such as ‘Broke’, ‘Church’, and ‘How Does It Feel?’ take listeners on a continuous journey through his blossoming singing career, offering glimpses of his personal life and inspirations.

Now, Henshaw’s ready to take a more honest approach to songwriting as he prepares for the release of his debut album, Untidy Soul. The latest collection of songs is shaping up to be the singer’s most vulnerable, unified under the theme of the potential to pick yourself up from rock bottom.

Also read: #NEWMUSICMONDAY – October 4, 2021

Moreover, a series of episodic music videos takes his artistry to new heights as he flexes his creativity in forming narratives for his songs.

Part 1 of Untidy Soul, ‘Still Broke’, sees the singer bored in a mansion, representing with the fact that fame and fortune isn’t everything that would lead to a happy life.

In Part 2, ‘Grow’ shows the trials and tribulations of a couple as we see specific moments of Henshaw’s character Sonny and his love interest Selah (played by Motown-signed R&B singer Tiana Major9.

However, the album also features fun and lighthearted tracks including his newly released single, ‘Chicken Wings’. The song sees the multi-instrumentalist sing for his love of the fried finger lickin’ goodness.

He sings, “Cuz the heart what it wants, and it wants me you and some chicken wings.”

With a busy release schedule, Henshaw is also preparing to go back on tour in November, with gigs taking place in New York at SOB’s on the 15th, at Vinyl in Atlanta on the 16th, and at Peppermint Club in Los Angeles on the 18th.

We caught up with the rising star to tell us more about his new album.

AsiaLive365: Hey Samm! How are you? How’s the year been treating you?

Samm Henshaw: I’m good, thank you. This year’s been interesting, I think. Last year was a better year. I think this year, I feel like I’ve been trying to figure things out. It’s been good, but it’s been a mentally challenging year. I can’t complain, though.

AL365: I’m sure it’s been like that for a lot of people, but this year you’re prepping for your new album titled Untidy Soul. Could you tell me about the meaning behind the title?

Samm: Its got a number of meanings. Whenever people would ask me how I would describe my musical sound like, I would find it very hard to explain.

Musically, it feels like a mesh of things. There’s gospel, hip-hop, and soul influences in there. Sonically, I thought my stuff isn’t always the cleanest, it always feels a little bit messy. For me, in my head I was like, ‘Yeah, it kinda feels like untidy, unkempt soul’.

I’m a bit of scatterbrain a lot of the time, so there was that element of it as well. I think for myself as a person, and for us as people in general, I think we all have sides to our lives. We are sort of messy, and there’s this idea of where we can pick ourselves back up again, get things cleaned up and change things if we choose to.

AL365: Whether your music is sonically unkempt or not, we’ve had the pleasure of listening to two beautiful singles from the album – ‘Still Broke’ and ‘Grow’.

I believe ‘Still Broke’ is about losing yourself in the pursuit of fame whereas ‘Grow’ talks about persevering through the struggles of a relationship in order to evolve as people. Do you find personal experiences help shape the music you write?

Samm: 100 percent. I never used to, I used to be really scared of the vulnerability side of it, with having to show people who you are. That’s a super frightening thing, especially when there’s a bunch of people are actually looking at you and see what you are doing.

It was very tricky, but as time went on I started to see how people connected with the music when you were showing yourself. You are kinda being naked for people in order for them to see everything, and them being able to relate to that was really big.

It was a surprise to me, but at the same time, it is very important because no one wants to feel alone.

AL365: For this new album, the music videos are episodic in nature that serve to tell a bigger narrative. How was the creative process like when filming?

Samm: It’s been a lot of fun.

There’s been so many people involved. If I’m honest, in the past, I was pretty lazy to the point I’ll let other people deal with a bunch of things.

This time around, I was put in a position where I sort of need to take charge. Everyone’s coming up to me and asking, ‘What the music video about?’ and I need to have the ideas this time around. It was a great opportunity to be fully involved in the creative process.

I’ve always loved TV series and the way they connect, even if it’s not super obvious. I love when things feel like it’s one and connected. I want to present Untidy Soul like a TV series and want people to be invested in the story and its characters. I really enjoyed the experience, it made me thing about how I could pursue things later.

AL365: How many episodes can we expect?

Samm: There’s two more. You got one that’s about to come out called ‘Chicken Wings’ and then there’s a finale-type episode.

AL365: For ‘Grow’, you’ve also shared a live music video where you play as this fictionalised version of yourself who’s a tad difficult to work with. Hopefully nobody actually got fired in the video?

Samm: No! No one was officially fired (laughs). I definitely told my little sister I fired my band for real and she believed me for weeks.

AL365: How did you come up with the idea behind that, why portray yourself as such?

Samm: I love really awkward and weird narratives, they just make me laugh.

I like people to not just watch someone sing for three minutes, so I wanted to be more creative with these live videos we’re doing.

I was sitting in my room one day and was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we were to do a live performance for a TV show and the moment they cut to the artist performing, the artist is just screaming at his band and firing them, and they basically told him they’ve been live the whole time and he just goes into the performance?’ I’ve got a very unusual, weird sense of humor.

AL365: It did give me a good laugh.

Samm: Oh good, I’m glad. I love making people feel awkward because I’m a very awkward person.

AL365: I would also like to talk about ‘Still Broke’. I think there’s great juxtaposition there because it’s a follow-up to your song, ‘Broke’.

You were singing about how it would be nice to be more famous so the girl would love you more, but here in the MV for ‘Still Broke’, you’re in this mansion and you look like you’re feeling lost and there could be more to happiness.

Personally, how does it feel to be where you are today?

Samm: It’s weird, I was talking to a friend the other day and they were talking about a specific year like ‘This year was a great for me’. And I was felt like that was a really weird concept.

What I was basically getting at was my 20’s were amazing. I’ve been touring around the world since I was 20. The fact that I’m still in a position where people want to listen to my music. Even talking to you right now, it’s great to be in these types of position. I’m just grateful, I’m 27 and I still get paid to do what I love.

When I think about ‘Still Broke’, it’s based off of the fact that there have been a lot of moments where depression has played a huge part in it. I doubted myself heavily in what I’m doing and whether I should continue. Also the pursuit of, as you said, wanting to be bigger or “more successful”. What does that actually even mean in the grand scheme of things? Like coming to a place of peace and content with everything that I’ve accomplished.

AL365: You come from a religious family. What have they thought about your music so far?

Samm: They are incredibly supportive. They’ve been so loving and caring for everything. They really are the best.

AL365: When can we expect to hear Untidy Soul in full?

Samm: January 28, which is crazy to me. We actually have a date now.

AL365: Great, looking forward to it! That’s all the time we have for today, thank you so much Samm for being here.

Samm: Thank you so much, Nicky. It’s been a lot of fun. God bless you.

For more Samm Henshaw, follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Also, check out his music via Spotify below.

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