Tony Cummings spotlights one of the most talented new artists on the UK music scene, SAMM HENSHAW
Now beginning to register on the Cross Rhythms radio playlist, and helped by a truly brilliant video, "Church" by British-Nigerian Samm Henshaw is a potential number one on the Cross Rhythms chart in the coming weeks. The thrilling single, released by Columbia Records, follows on from two critically acclaimed EPs, 'The Sound Experiment' and 'The Sound Experiment 2', and clearly shows why the hugely talented singer, songwriter, rapper and producer was handpicked by James Bay, Tori Kelly and Chance The Rapper to tour in 2015 and 2016.
Iniabasi Samuel Henshaw was born in London on 22nd February 1994. His father was the pastor of a church in South London. He told journalist Amar Mehta about his memories of growing up in Peckham/Camberwell and later Thames Mead, "It was rough and grimy but there was also this sort of beauty as well. You met such incredible people out and about and you see this whole side of life that I guess other people are never exposed to. It's just very realistic and grounded, I guess. I think anything to do with my life and my experiences has helped shape who I am and how I have grown. You may not directly hear the influences in my lyrics but it's more in how I am doing things, the things I've seen and so on, it's always going to find its way into my songs and my experience."
From an early age, Samm was singing and playing in church, though also being pulled into the harmful influences of South London street life. He told Blues & Soul magazine, "For a very long time in school as a teenager I was very much like following the wrong crowds and doing the wrong things and getting expelled a lot. And it wasn't until maybe Year 10 or 11 that I actually stopped giving so much of my energy towards hanging out with certain people and instead started spending more time just sitting in the music room and just concentrating on learning to play keys and drums and writing and practising. . . I am very grateful to God for music, because if it hadn't been for music I'd have ended up in a very different place."
Samm went on to study popular music performance at Southampton Solent University. During his final year there, he signed his first publishing deal with BMG. Later in the year he went on to sign his record deal with Columbia Records. Henshaw began work on his debut EP, 'The Sound Experiment', which was released in 2015. Besides Henshaw, the EP featured production and songwriting input from Wayne Hector and Fred Cox amongst others. His second EP was released in the summer of 2016 and received considerable critical acclaim, as did the videos "Our Love" and "Night Calls".
Talking about his songs' lyrical themes Samm told Blues & Soul, "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 mean 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."
Harking on the theme of his "Church" radio hit, Samm said, "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."
(profile photo: Arthur Garros)The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.