In Staying Authentic, Sammie Has Quietly Created A New Standard For R&B
Sammie Remains True To Real R&B On Mission To Resurrect The Sound That Made Us Originally Fall In Love
R&B singer Sammie Leigh Bush, Jr. has been on a tear musically for the last few years, penning a number of hits and releasing some of the best EPs and mixtapes of the modern R&B/Adult Contemporary era. Known professionally as simply, Sammie, the singer practically grew up before our eyes, making his debut in 1999 with his breakout hit, “I Like It”. His debut album a year later, From The Bottom of the Top, officially propelled him into super stardom at just 13 years old! Successful tours followed, while posters of him lined the walls of young ladies all over the country!
A 2001 collaboration with fellow young stars, Lil Wayne, Lil Zane, and Lil Bow Wow, with Sammie singing the hook for the title track from the Hardball movie soundtrack was a coronation from the music industry that Sammie was here to stay.
And then suddenly, it all stopped.
Fans would find out that Sammie returned to life as a normal teen, putting fame on hold to attend high school. His return to music in 2005 was a bit of a surprise but longing fans welcomed the return with open arms! His sophomore album once again partnered him with industry hit making veteran, Dallas Austin. The self-titled Sammie album would feature production from the likes of Jazze Pha, Bryan Michael Cox, Dre and Vidal, among others, and just like that, the then 17 year old was right back where he left off. His single, “You Should Be My Girl”, which featured Sean P of YoungBloodz was a hit and Sammie was on his way.
But shortly after the album’s release the buzz seemed to taper off once again. Touring, as well as personal and professional obstacles kept Sammie out the mainstream limelight, but in 2009 a collaboration with Soulja Boy, for the blossoming rapper’s “Kiss Me Through The Phone” single set Sammie in motion for what would become an all new independent grind.
Sammie began releasing mixtapes, helping him find his sound as an adult. Year after year Sammie became the picture of consistency, releasing projects and touring, both nationally and overseas to keep the buzz going. Mixtapes included Swag & B Volume 1 with DJ Holiday, It’s Just A Mixtape, It’s Just A Mixtape 2 and then in 2012, in my humble opinion he solidified his sound as an adult with the gamechanger, Insomnia.
He’s since released The Leigh Bush Project, a four track EP called, Series: 3187, 3187 2.0, Indigo, and most recently the I’m Him EP. Sammie has created a new standard for R&B with his releases, and each project seems to be bring an original vibe to his matured sound and his personal R&B rejuvenation.
We caught up with Sammie for an in-depth interview to talk about his lengthy career in music, his impressive discography, clearing up some misconceptions and detailing what’s next for the singer. We got it all here.
We pick up right around 2005 before we bring you up to date…
Parlé Mag: You have such a long career that we can start anywhere, but lets start at that comeback. You stepped away for a few years to go back to school, and then you hit us with the come back around ’05. Talk to me about the way that whole return played out. Did it work out to your expectations?
Sammie: So I went back to high school 2001 to 2005 [West Orange High School in Winter Garden, Florida]. It was like the most amazing four years of my life just to have a sense of normalcy. I was one of the blessed ones that was able to have the best of both worlds. I was able to be a superstar before my time from 1999 to 2001 and then also to step off and become homecoming king. I played basketball for 2 years, I joined the choir to make sure my voice stayed up to par. And I think bigger than that I met some of the most amazing people. Those friendships and some of those brotherhoods still last to this day. I found my significance outside of just being in the musical realm and that’s very important to me. And it was very important to my family and my parents.
Once I came back, because I reunited with Dallas Austin a lot of people assumed that I was signed to a major label, but I wasn’t. So the push that I had when I was a kid back when I was with Capitol Records wasn’t there. It wasn’t the same amount of money and I didn’t have the funding to match with the movement I had. But I learned from being independent how hard you have to work, I learned not to take things for granted. I learned the difference between working an R&B project versus trying to work a record in the Hip-Hop genre. So it was like going to school all over again, it was just real life. And it helped make me the amazing man that I am today and the artist that I am today
That said I think we made an amazing album, with the single, “You Should Be My Girl” and then I was able to collaborate with Soulja Boy on “Kiss Me Through The Phone”, so I was still able to get major records out of an independent situation. And I did like four worldwide tours also, so it was a blessing!
Parlé Mag: So after that project you it felt like you took another hiatus before you released Insomnia. Let folks know what you were working on in between time.
Sammie: After “Kiss Me Through The Phone” happened for me I was on tours and I was overseas a lot. I went to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Germany, Paris, I been to Tokyo, Japan, different parts of Asia. I just got the opportunity to take my gifts out of the States and that was cool but I was also able to disassociate myself with an ex-business partner. You hear the sad stories of people getting manipulated or taken advantage of, I was one of those ones that happened to, unfortunately. And it’s nothing to cry about or to really marinate on too much further because I was reintroduced to God, I was always a spiritual guy, but when you don’t have your mom and dad to hold your hand in real life you have to reach for a higher power. So that was why it felt like a hiatus, but it wasn’t. I was doing EPs, I was doing mixtapes. I was doing all I could while dealing with what was going on with my ex-business partner and trying to separate myself from all that negative energy.
Parlé Mag: You’ve been in the industry a long time so you have a lot to pull from, but what’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned while trying to stay consistent in music?
Sammie: From a business aspect, you can’t trust anybody wholeheartedly. That may sound cold, but it is what it is. As humans, we have vices, all of us. It could be liquor, it could be drugs, it could be women, it could be all of the above. It’s not for me to distinguish what it is, it’s for me to protect myself from. So I would say, always stay on your toes when it comes to business. When things don’t go right in my camp now, I want to be the one to take the blame. I want to be the one that takes responsibility for it. I don’t want to deal with the consequences nor the repercussions of another man’s mistakes. So I would say that’s first. And then I would say, always stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. Although I was dealing with different changes and trying to separate myself from toxic business relationships, I stayed in the studio, I stayed in the gym. I didn’t drink too much alcohol, I didn’t participate in drugs. I kept my mind and spirit and body aligned because I knew I was talented enough to get back in the game. I think today is living proof of that. When you go back and you listen to Insomnia or The Leigh Bush Project or 3187 or Indigo or 3187 2.0 all the way up to I’m Him… it’s consistent R&B. I master my craft, and it’s something I take seriously. I take great pride in staying consistent and giving the people something they love and that can resonate to R&B lovers all over the world.
Parlé Mag: You mentioned a bunch of quality projects and you’re right, consistency at its finest with those. Now throughout the rush of music you’ve remained an independent artist, is that by choice?
Sammie: Yeah, yeah, yeah, because what I’ve learned, I’ve discovered myself by being independent. It’s not easy, don’t get me wrong. I have a home that I pay for, I have a sister that I help take care of, my mother, my father, my siblings so it’s a lot financially. You have to fund your own videos and hotels and travel and publicity and all those kind of things. But I also have the freedom to create whatever is on my heart and soul to create, and what I think the people will love.
Parlé Mag: Let’s jump to 2015 for a second and talk about the Indigo album.
Sammie: Indigo was a passion project of mine. I had just got of a relationship, that, I would take the blame for its demise. I wanted to share that with the world and the way that I’m able to do that is through the gift of song. If I was on a major this is what I would have wanted to hand to the VP of the label and say this is what I want to put out, trust me I know in my soul and I feel in my spirit this is a great body of work. I don’t have to go through that filter when I’m independent. I don’t have to deal with the politics as an independent artist. I just can be myself and give myself to the world. And that’s what Indigo was.
Parlé Mag: Last year you dropped the I’m Him EP. Talk to me about putting that out and building that buzz around the project as well.
Sammie: Well that was just the Universe and the stars aligning for Sammie Leigh Bush, Jr. All the work, from when I signed myself to myself and became independent, all the mixtapes, all the EPs, all the years of being “underrated”, this was that project that finally made sense to the world at the right time. I’m sitting at home on instagram like I usually do and I’m leaving like little samples of what became “I’m Him”, my first single. And I didn’t know it was gonna be so special, but I thought it was dope. I was sitting in my car playing around with the melodies. I write so much music and I have so much content that I have to either record it on my phone or on my computer so I don’t forget. So I do that on instagram and an hour later TheShadeRoom (see post below) reposted it and I got an onslaught of Sammie fans “dm”ing me. They didn’t know I was still doing music, they thought I had disappeared, and it was just this love that only God could’ve planned. It led me to getting a situation with EMPIRE over in San Francisco. They put some money on it and we had a Top 5 debut on iTunes. Just a couple weeks ago it actually charted again Top 10 on iTunes. So it’s just amazing. It only took 2 weeks for me to create this body of work. I got in the studio—shout out to my team Doh Boy, Tha Bizness, my manager Anthony “Skino” Lopez—and we created something that was us, which is what I feel would be an awesome “comeback” in a mainstream standpoint. And the records are speaking for themselves. I didn’t have to do a lot to garner attention to the project. The music is just resonating. I’m really humbled by that and grateful for it.
Parlé Mag: The industry has changed so much since you started making music with YouTube and social media overall, but also R&B mixtapes and streaming services. What would you say has helped the most in keeping you connected with your fans.
Sammie: Social media! I’m a prime example of how you can use it successfully. It’s crazy though, because even with artists I like that I follow it ruins the facade or the image or the storyline that you thought or had about the person. For me, the biggest change is the Internet. I’m one of those artists, I was around, my first album, it came in not just a CD but it also came as a cassette tape. For shows I had something called a DAT (digital audio tape), then it came to walkman’s and then ipods and now it’s come to where streaming is the big thing now. So it’s cool to be able to evolve and have a career this long, but the biggest thing for me is the Internet because it’s so impulsive. It can be great for you or it can actually hurt you, but for me I would say I champion and support how Internet driven the industry became.
Parlé Mag: Okay, I don’t hear that often. So you don’t have an issue with streams as compared to how it used to be for your first two projects?
Sammie: Um… financially of course, the royalty side of it is awful. It takes so many streams just to make real money. You can have streams, but if it’s not crazy you still lose from a financial standpoint. And that’s why I write all my music also because there is this beautiful thing called publishing. I believe in this concept, you gotta evolve or you evaporate, so I can’t be that worried or complain about streaming being the dominant why for people to listen to music. It is what it is, and I don’t see technology slowing down any time soon, so you kind of have to roll with the punches. Find your niche, find what works for you and master that. Don’t get to crying about what it used to be. Those people that cry about what it used to be like, I call them dinosaurs and they still lost in time. Me, I’m still trying to grow and do it at an elite level so I’m rolling with the change.
Parlé Mag: What are your thoughts on the current state of R&B and where the industry stand with R&B right now?
Sammie: Ah man, I stated actually in Billboard that I’m not trying to be the Prince or the King of R&B, nor trying to save the genre of R&B, because I feel like since auto-tune has become so dominant, what happened was rappers began to rap a melody, but they kept their content the same. It’s still bashing women, still talking about partying, smoking, drinking and the jewelry and it caused some of my industry peers to do the same exact thing. It was just one long Rap song and that’s where the game was confused and messed up. It’s in a terrible place, it’s on life support and I’m here to resurrect it, and not in a competitive way, but if Sammie works then that opens the eyes of all my industry peers to go in the studio and reconsider their content and create something that’s vulnerable, that’s honest and has substance still as opposed to trying to keep up with what rappers are doing.
Parlé Mag: I completely agree! Moving forward now, you’ve released new music now every year for the last few years. What’s this year’s project?
Sammie: This year we definitely going to get the third official album. I have the title for it, but I’m not ready to release that yet, but I’m just excited to be working on an official album. I can’t say if I’m going to release it independent or with a major, but I will say that it will be a classic. The I’m Him EP was just a sample of what people can expect, but I’m over mixtapes, I’m over EPs, I haven’t done covers since I think 2010. I think people deserve an official third Sammie album.
Parlé Mag: You’ve written songs for other artists as well, namely a single with Tank. Is that something you want to continue doing?
Sammie: Yeah, so in 2012, the same year I did Insomnia actually, I co-wrote “Next Breath” with Tank. He’s one of my biggest musical influences. And the song went number one Urban Adult Contemporary. That really turned a light bulb on for me that I don’t really have to just write my own material, I can write for other artists. Actually as of 2014 that’s what I started to do. I did some ghost writing—of course I can’t say for who—I developed a catalog, because Sammie the singer and songwriter, I’m one in the same. I don’t have to separate myself. And again as a writer, as I was saying before, those publishing checks are kind of nice. I definitely, definitely want to continue to be diverse and put my pen on a plethora of projects in 2017.
Parlé Mag: What do you want your legacy in music to be when you’re all said and done?
Sammie: Well its hard because, first of all when it’s all said and done, I want to retire music, I don’t want the music to retire me. I would love to leave on top with something left in the tank. I would like people to say he was really passionate, genuine, organic and I made my own lane. I don’t want to be compared to anybody. I aspire to inspire people. And I want them to say I stayed true to real R&B, even when other people conformed and everyone else switched to stay relevant, I stayed true to what was in my spirit. So that’s why I’m so big in resurrecting it because if I’m able to do it, slowly but surely it will begin to happen and start to manifest. No one can say I did it because of a feature or because I turned the auto-tune all the way up. I chose my gift and my core and the people chose me back.
Parlé Mag: Why do you think Sammie hasn’t gotten the acclaim and fame that some of your counterparts have received, particularly in recent years when the music, growth and talent is all there.
Sammie: Ah that’s simple… a lot of people didn’t have the ex-manager that I had. So when you have 5, 6 years of battling somebody who is waking up every day trying to stop you from maximizing your potential and reaching those heights, you know, it’s a lot. You got some people that’s able to stay with the same label their entire career, the same manager their entire career. My cards weren’t dealt that way and we don’t cry about it, I’m just better for it. And I believe in God’s timing. There’s no such thing outside of God’s timing and I very well can say—and I’m not God but I am his son—that it’s become my time again, that’s why these things are starting to flourish and the attention I’m starting to garner which is just organic, that’s because it’s almost that time. That’s it, just battling somebody that had a hard time letting go. And now that that’s over in its entirety, I’m able to shine and blossom. Simple and plain.
Parlé Mag: I want to go back to that Insomnia project for a second because I truly feel as though that switch went off for you at that moment and you reached another level of greatness. What inspired you to create that project?
Sammie: I was actually going through insomnia. I was 25 years young, I had some things taken away from me by my ex manager. That altered some friendships, it altered some business relationships, it altered a relationship I was in with a kindred spirit at the time and I started taking ambien to go to sleep, so I just hit up my mentor Troy Taylor like, ‘yo, I need some tracks that are kind of gloomy’. And to be honest with you, he asked me not to put it out. He thought it was too dark. I didn’t do it for the fans. It wasn’t a project for the world per se, it was just my personal journal that I kind of delivered through song and melody. I said, I don’t care if it don’t reach commercial success, this just something I need to get off my chest so I could feel better. It was more like self-therapy. Lo and behold, my pain made people gravitate toward me. It made me relatable, it made me real. And that’s how I found my niche. Every time I do that in my music, that’s how I prosper. My EP is real music. Indigo is real music, another project I was advised not to put out. Every time I go with my gut and I move creatively without distractions it resonates.
Parlé Mag: A lot of your music just reflects what guys are going through, particularly in that young adult age group. Thinking about those songs and some on the songs on Indigo and the I’m Him EP, have you talked to your exes recently?
Sammie: Yeah… we all cool. I don’t have any bad blood with any of them actually. It’s love. A lot of times, if we’re dating or if it’s a song particularly about them, I let them hear it before it comes out, 1. Out of respect and 2. They understand that I’m a creative at all times so I’m inspired by what I live.
Indigo is like the code name for my ex. That whole project is for her. So she definitely called me like, ‘please fall in love with someone else and write songs about her because everyone is calling me like, ‘did you hear this?’
(LAUGHS) And I had to apologize but at the same time she understood that that’s how I truly felt and that I was remorseful for the way that we ended and a lot of things I wasn’t ready for as far as what she had to bring to the table. But it’s all real music man! And I got love for all my exes.
Parlé Mag: Any final words you want to put out there.
Sammie: I’m about to shoot my third video, off the EP I’m Him, which is available on all digital outlets so tell a friend to tell a friend, “Better” I’m excited about that.
I also got some tours in the works, a lot of ideas and collabs coming together in that aspect. And I’m just ready to bring it to life on stage. There’s nothing better than bringing that to the forefront on stage.
Also going back in the studio probably early Summer to work on my third album, I’m excited about that as well. Thank you all for the support and the love and God bless you all!
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I’m Him EP is available at all digital retailers. Purchase on itunes HERE.
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