If this is your first time hearing about Samm Henshaw, you’re in for a treat. The 26-year-old singer, songwriter, and producer from South London, England is a music-lover down to the core, creating timeless, feel-good ballads and pairing them with equally powerful visuals that tell a whole story.
With his parents of Nigerian descent, Samm grew up in a musical household greatly influenced by gospel and soul, which plays a huge part in his sound today. It was last year’s release of “Church” featuring Dreamville’s own EarthGang that pushed his name from the underground to the mainstream, clocking in at over 14 million views on Youtube and counting. Having shared the stage with everyone from H.E.R. to Chance The Rapper to Tori Kelly, the rising star represents the new generation of R&B — amassing over 140 million streams with records intended to uplift and restore faith in all those who listen.
Ending 2020 on a high note, the 26-year-old returns to unleash “All Good,” exuding his signature style with big band instrumentation and endless warmth. Flaunt caught up with Samm via Zoom, who was enthusiastic to share about his love for pineapple on pizza, videogames, and meeting new people. Read below as we discuss his wholesome music, being from South London, how he got his name, inspo behind “All Good,” the independent grind, hitting one million monthly listeners on Spotify, studio essentials, and more!
Your IG bio reads “making wholesome music for mums.” How would you describe your sound?
Ha, yes. I’d describe it as soulful, in a sense that soul to me is about what’s authentic to you and whatever’s really coming from there. Uplifting… man this would be so bad if I was on a timer wouldn’t it? Soulful, uplifting, and joyous for now, until I can come up with another word to replace that later.
Being from South London, what was the household growing up?
It was quite a packed house, I lived with a few people. My parents took in two of my older cousins. They were a lot like my older sisters, my little sister didn’t come along till later on. We lived in a really small flat in Camberwell. I remember everything being played from gospel to Spice Girls. It was cool being the youngest in that house because there were different tastes from everywhere. My parents were obviously into gospel, my dad loved jazz, country music, and a bunch of other vibes. My older cousins were listening to whatever was on MTV at the time or on the radio. Whatever commercial, mainstream vibes were going, then the hip-hop stuff. My older sister as well.
Everyone had their own vibe so there’s so much to take from growing up. I had an uncle that loved music, he DJ’d a lot and would make mixtapes for us. The music he’s providing us with was very versatile, it was a vibe to have that much music taste. As I got a bit older when I was in secondary school (or high school), it was more grime. I started falling more in love with soul music and wanting to be a bit more intentional about educating myself on that stuff. I grew up with a lot of it but the older I got, the more I’m like “let me become a student on these people.”
At what point did you realize that you could do music for a living?
That wasn’t until about about 19. I was in uni and lived with a bunch of guys that were music producers. We’re making music together, constantly would miss lectures and stay in our dorm to make music from whatever time until whatever time. I loved it so much, I realized at that point that’s what I wanted to do.
Is Samm Henshaw your real name?
Yeah, my full name is Iniabasi Oliawester Samuel Henshaw. Samuel’s obviously my third name. It’s weird when I was growing up, I hated teachers trying to say my name in school and them getting it wrong. Them trying to say Iniabasi and kids laughing, I’d get very embarrassed by it when I was younger. I went by Samm from a very young age because I thought it’s easier and I wanted to stop stressing about my name. The older I got, the more I got over it. At that point Samm had stuck so cool, I might as well go with it for music. I added an extra ‘m’ onto it to be different and because it’s easier to find me on social media.
“All Good” out now. It’s such a vibe. What was that recording session like?
Like this, it was literally over Zoom. It was fun. It’s weird because the guys I wrote with, Josh Grant and Emma D. D., I’m used to being in a room with them. We’ll goof around for 6 hours, work for 30 minutes, goof around for a few more hours then get back to work. It was hard not being able to do that in the same room, but it was still fun. It was a unique experience having to sit down and write a song based off a flow we’d been given. We’d been given a bunch of flows, we had to come up with a song around it. This is what we ended up with, which is fun and cool.
What does a record like this mean during this time? I feel like we’re all going through it.
It’s important. For me personally, I had a year where it started off pretty good, got crappy when Covid hit, then remained crappy for a while. I started speaking for myself and having more time with myself, feeling like “I need to make the most of this situation.” I need to figure out what I can do and what can be done within this time with this position I’m in. How do I figure stuff out? A lot of what we ended up writing was based off of conversations about how the year’s going. The thing that kept hitting me was gratitude. I kept looking at all the negative things that happened this year, I kept looking at the negative sides of this year. When I took time out to pray or speak about it with people, I’d say things and realize how grateful I was for the time I had this year and the parts I could be grateful for this year.
The song really was to make me or anyone to look at the situation and their circumstance this year, be able to try to look at the positive side of things. That really changed the perspective on how things have gone and how things are going. That’s not to take away from any of the negative things that happened. It’s the idea of the more I dwell on the negative things that happened, it’s not going to change. It’s still going to remain very negative and that’s going to affect my mind, my body, my spirit, my soul. It became very important to give people hope, something to look at even if it’s a reminder. That doesn’t even apply to this year, that applies to life in general. If something bad has happened or I have a negative thought, I think to myself “it’s all good, it could be worse.”
Random, I accidentally ran through Skid Row last night. I was going through my own personal issues but it’s like damn, they don’t have homes.
That was me as well, I was having all these moments. I realized a lot of it for me was “wow, I really am complaining about stuff some people wish they could complain about.” Once I looked at it from that perspective, everything shifted and changed for me mentally. I really had to stop, that’s why I try to approach things in a different way.
How was acting as a 9 to 5-er in the music video?
It was fun, I’ve never really been able to do that before. It was fun to play a character and be someone different. I always found the idea of acting cringy for myself. I cringe when I think of me having to be a different person, I did feel that way but I’m starting to embrace it a bit more. It seems a bit more fun to embrace the wackiness and fun of all these things. A lot of fun, one of the most fun shoots I’ve ever had. Watching the way sets were designed and being able to speak with the director Max Weiland, watch his process and his ideas come to life. It was super exciting, the whole team was incredible. I was really happy to be a part of that.
You collaborated with Samsung Electronics U.K., inspired by a fan photo?
We were given a photo by Samsung, there’s a picture taken off of one of their new phones. They approached us and said “we want you to pick a photo and write a song based around this photo.” That’s how we ended up with the song, it was a picture of a smiling dog. The picture said everything it needed to say so it came out really well.
How does it feel to hit a million Spotify listeners monthly?
It’s cool. It’s funny, I talked to my manager today about that. I don’t even look at any of that stuff, my cousin’s the one who told me. I think that’s a big deal, so I posted about it. I don’t actually know what that means but I’m really happy about it, it seems really cool. I can’t log into my Spotify, so I can’t personally see it for myself. I forgot my password so I can’t actually log in. It seems really dope, I’m really happy and really grateful to everyone who’s listening to the music.
I was listening to “Broke,” why’d you get fired from Five Guys?
[laughs] That’s a story for another day.
Looking back, how does it feel to be where you are today?
It’s great, I’m grateful. It’s a big deal. I wasn’t the best type of human growing up. A lot of people who knew me thought that I wasn’t going to amount to anything and I felt that way about myself a lot of the time. To be doing something I love and to be doing it the way I love to do it, the experience I’ve had, the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met, I can only be grateful. It’s incredible.
Talk about the independent journey and wanting to start your own label.
I was with Columbia for the majority of my career, the easiest way of putting it is both of our visions for me were different. The way they perceived me, the way I perceived me, was very different. The things I wanted to accomplish and the things I ultimately cared about weren’t the same things they cared about. When it comes to labels, they’re very much a one track way of doing everything. The more I’ve been in this industry, the more times have changed, I’m seeing there isn’t one route you need to take now. It’s about what you prioritize and what your end goals are. We were on two very different wavelengths. Ultimately that’d affect the creative side of everything, which I hated.
We parted ways and now, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’m really getting to use my brain and use the creative side of me with everything I do. Get to pick who I want around, run it how I want to run it. I get to learn from my mistakes. One of the things that pissed me off a lot about being with a label is someone else can make a mistake and it’s still my fault, because it’s my name on it all. It’s nice to be able to make decisions and choices and it all be down to me at the end of the day.
3 things you need in the studio?
Snacks. Fruit: grapes, apples, bananas. Haribos, maybe some crisps or potato chips as you guys would call them. And water.
What’s your favorite comic?
At the moment, I’ve been reading one called Saga. It’s weird, but really good. I love it when people create these worlds. It astonishes me how people can use their brains to come up and create whole new worlds, what those concepts are based off of those worlds and what inspires them. Saga is this really weird world where these two races are at war with each other. In the midst of that, these two people from opposite ends of the war end up falling in love and have a kid together. They go on a run because it’s forbidden, it’s really interesting.
How does it feel to have the Pharrell cosign?
Dope, it’s wavy man. He’s the GOAT, it’s incredible to have worked with him.
What can we expect next?
A project finally. We’re going to start doing a rollout for the project hopefully. Otherwise, it’s going to be a couple virtual shows. Music, a whole project, a few more creative endeavors. Be able to see where it leads me to and what I can do with it all.