It might still be early days, but Samm Henshaw’s resumé is already chock-full of accomplishments. In the past few years, he’s signed to Columbia Records, racked up millions of Spotify streams with his two Sound Experiment EPs, and toured with James Bay and Chance the Rapper – both of whom, upon hearing Henshaw’s rich, soulful pop, hand-picked him to support them on the road. Now, his latest single ‘Church’ will be added to our UNCO[V]ERED spot for the week.
Touring with Chance the Rapper in 2016 inspired Henshaw. “I went to LA after the tour and hung out with him, and that was wicked. Watching him work is amazing; they basically rented out a house and there were maybe 50 people, and everyone was making music. I was super inspired.”
But it is Henshaw’s South London roots that have most shaped his identity – artistic and otherwise. Not that he was always particularly proud of being from South London. “Because it’s got such a bad rep, and there’s a lot of negativity and so on, I used to want to disassociate myself with that. But then you realise how South you are when you’re around people who aren’t from that area, and that background. I wouldn’t have learned any of that if I hadn’t taken a step outside of where I’m from. When I did that, I realised this is actually who I am. Now, it plays a much bigger part. It’s great to be able to do this, and to say to people, ‘Listen, you don’t have to be limited to your circumstance, you can do what you want if you put your mind to it.”
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Henshaw‘s family have been great role models for him. “I’ve got great parents and sisters,” he says, “They encourage me always to be a better person and to set goals.” Every week, Henshaw would sing as part of the worship team at his local church, where his father was the reverend. Doing so not only gave him a group of supportive friends, with whom he is still close, but kick-started the love of music that led him to where he is now. Performing in church, he says, “helped me so much in terms of my confidence and stage presence. I’m quite a shy person, so standing in front of a bunch of people and being able to sing helped me with that.”
‘Church’ is an irresistibly fast-paced, soul-pop song, which recalls a time when Henshaw was hardly enthusiastic about giving up his Sunday mornings to watch his dad’s sermons. “She says, Good morning, wake up wake,” he sings, before his smoky, playful voice bursts into faux admonishment, “Wake up and get yourself to church!”
“Growing up,” he recalls, “my fight with my parents was, ‘Listen, if you really want me to be into this, and get it, let me do it for myself.’ When I got to a certain age, I was like, ‘I’m done with this now.’” Eventually, in his own time, he found his way back. “Now, I go pretty much every Sunday.”
UNCO[V]ERED premieres on [V] on Saturday at 12noon, after the Spotify Countdown. Channel 801, only on Foxtel.