It is quite interesting to note how some of the best singers in the world often have their origins from the Church. For a musical artist like Samm Henshaw, growing up in a reverend’s home shaped his essence. From navigating the pressures of expectations to the evolution of his musical identity, Samm’s music has a semblance to his faith and a seamless blend of genres. His full-length debut ‘Untidy Soul,’ and the unexpected turn into Afrobeats with ‘Jumoke’ is enough evidence. For Superbold Mag, we sought to discover the heart behind his music, collaborations, the nerve-wracking anticipation of new releases, and his future aspirations that transcend the realm of music in this interview.
Let’s talk about your origins. How was growing up in a religious home as a son of a reverend like?
Samm Henshaw: This is interesting, I was chatting with my Dad the other day about this. You don’t realize how much that shapes you. For me as a kid, looking back now, there’s a lot of my character that’s based on that time; whether it is positive or negative. But yeah as a kid, I generally felt it was awful. There were so many things I felt I was missing out on, there was so much pressure from people outside expecting me to be someone I wasn’t sure of. So I had to figure out my identity. I’m sure a lot of reverend’s or pastor’s kids can relate to what I’m saying. I believe that was the negative side to it at the time but as I grew older, I got to find my faith and myself. You learn to appreciate what you were actually taught.
Now you move from this, from being around gospel music to making songs that border heavily on r&b, hip hop, soul and pop. What would you say caused that switch?
Samm Henshaw: I never actually made gospel music, which is quite interesting. I had written one or two songs in church, but actually becoming a songwriter was based on honing my abilities when I was in university. I think the switch from leading worship at church to doing what I guess we’d call more secular stuff is due to me perceiving these two as not being totally different; because I still lead worship at church. People tend to think worship and secular music are two different things but I believe worship is an ongoing thing. Music is just a form or tool that you can use to worship. So there was an understanding of that for me quite early on. I think there are a lot of people in gospel music who believe that gospel music and worship are the same, the former is just a genre of music. For me I don’t see it different from me singing R&B, only thing that matters is the subject matter. I just remember talking to my parents and telling them this is what I want to do and my Dad told me, “no matter what you do just make sure that you are encouraging people, uplifting people and making something to help them, and not harm them.” It really made things very easy for me to go down this path.
It’s quite interesting you say gospel music is just a genre. Because regardless of the kind of music you make you can still make worship songs or lead worship. The only difference is you get to see the music at the forefront of everything but it’s just another outlet to stay in touch with God and try to connect with other believers.
Samm Henshaw: Exactly.
We get to see traces of these genres in your debut, ‘Untidy Soul’ as well. Tell me what you wanted to achieve with such a project?
Samm Henshaw: I think ‘Untidy Soul’ was just an opportunity to introduce people to me. It’s my debut so it was obviously a chance for people to get to know me a little better, my character, experiences, thoughts and feelings. Even sonically, I wanted people to catch a vibe on what I was interested in and what my taste was musically at the time. I always want to give people a semblance of hope, always want to encourage people in the best ways I can and also make the music conversational. It was just about making relatable music because I believe we are all going through something, and one thing most people look out for when listening to an artist is relatability. So that was super-important to me.
Now your latest offering, Jumoke, sees you go away from what you’re normally known for. There are traces of afrobeats and african rhythms in there. Why that approach?
Samm Henshaw: Truth be told, I actually was never going to put that record out. I don’t like limiting myself when it comes to what I can create and for the most part I hate genre labels. But I appreciate and understand why they exist because when you enter a library, you can’t just find a book without it being categorized and put in a section. With ‘Jumoke,’ it all kind of happened accidentally. I actually made the song with my 3 closest friends who I get together with whenever we have a milestone or something to celebrate, but this time around, we were in the COVID era so we ended up at one of my friends’ studios. So me and my boy ended up starting this idea and I wrote and sang melodies to it. Before that I had an uncle called Steve, who had worked in the afrobeats world. One thing he’s always wanted me to do was to dabble in Afrobeats. He was a visionary; he predicted all that is happening to Afrobeats now. He unfortunately passed away last year without getting to hear the song so for me, it then became a need to put it out to honor him. So I gave the masters to his four (4) kids as well.
You probably might have touched on this briefly when you spoke about the conversation with your Dad, but as an artist, what drives you?
Samm Henshaw: God and faith aside, I’ll say it’s the ability to create and the fact that I get to wake up then I use my brain to make stuff. It’s incredible! Even if it’s not me contributing actively to society, the fact that I’m allowed to make things blows my mind.
When one takes a look at your discography, there’s a carefully selected list of artists and musicians you’ve worked with in the past. How do you approach collaborations?
Samm Henshaw: It’s really just based on their ability and knowing if they can. For the record with Tobi [Nwigwe] for instance, we had spoken a couple of times for me to understand his ability as an artist and lyricist. I often picture the sound in my head and who fits it. If I’m getting a singer on a song, I would imagine their tone sitting nicely on anything I have created to inform my decision.
Do you ever feel nervous when dropping new music?
Samm Henshaw: Yeah every time! It’s a fun mixture of excitement because I have made something I’m excited about. I have made something that’s brand new and I’m excited to see how people respond to it. But on the other hand there’s a lot of apprehension and fear because I don’t know if they’re actually going to like this or not. It’s a good mix of emotions I must say. I try not to get it to be negative because when it does, I might end up not putting anything out.
Do you remember your first million streams on a particular song?Samm Henshaw: Oh God No! I don’t look at that stuff. I don’t even know the total of all my streams.
What does the future look like for Samm Henshaw?Samm Henshaw: I’m moving into different creative endeavors. The prospect of that is really exciting. I want to do stuff in film, fashion and other stuff. What I love about music is, it’s a fun avenue to delve into everything. I’ve been really blessed and fortunate to have had a peek into these different worlds. By God’s grace when we are ready to show some stuff we will. Obviously making music as well. I’ve got another project coming out next year and hopefully have another following up shortly. It’s honestly fun to say I can do this, live it and breathe it.
Thank you very much for speaking to us, we wish you all the best in your future endeavors.