This issue, we return to Sammie to talk about her phenomenal CDs, her song writing, and her performances. In the process, we learn more about Sammie Jay the woman.
Part 2 The Artist
MTT: Your first two CDs were collections of covers. The “Classic Song Collection” has some beautiful versions of older songs. The first two selections on the album were made famous by Etta James, “When I Fall In Love,” and “At Last.” “At Last” is very close to the James version, but “When I Fall In Love” seems closer to the Nat King Cole or Doris Day versions. When you do a cover, do you first think of a previous artist’s version or do you start with a clean slate and make it the “Sammie Jay” version?
Sammie: I always start with a clean slate and make it the Sammie Jay version, I open my mouth and see what comes out, usually it works for me that way. I like to think it is what has helped me to be individual.
MTT: “Classic Song Collection contains songs by Gershwin, Bacharach, Hoagy Carmichael, and Dolly Parton, among others. I have heard you talk about singers that have inspired you, but can you talk about song writers who have also inspired you?
Sammie: One of my favorite song writers is Diane Warren, she has written so many amazing songs in different styles. I would love to have her credits some day, she has written for the best. I like the new talent of Bruno Marrs too, he has written some very good songs.
MTT:. Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” was the first song I ever heard you sing. I read in your bio that you sang it when you were only 7. It originally had a more country flavor, until Whitney Houston’s classic version. “Even God Must Get the Blues” is also a country song, but your versions of these songs are very emotional and very soulful. How were these songs picked for the album, and what were your thoughts in moving away from their more country origins?
Sammie:I recorded my classics CD mainly for demonstration purposes for bookings. Because I have so many styles of music that I like to sing in, I have to have samples I can submit to people who may want to book me for private events. There are some songs that I sing live that people keep requesting, they are the ones I try to record when I am making a new CD. I am writing for my next album at the moment which is going to be called Flowers, I have some great new original songs which are going to be on it, I love song writing.
MTT: Your second CD of cover tunes, “Pocket Full of Songs” contains more classic songs, but mixes them up with some recent hits. “Nothing On You’ and “American Boy” both have rap or hip hop elements. What are your thoughts on Rap and Rap/Melodic mixes like these and “I Love the Way You Lie,” which you perform live?
Sammie: I love all styles of music, I like to listen to Rap and Hip Hop, If I could I would record an album of one or two songs from each style, but that is never usually done by artists, people who buy your music expect it to be all of one style.
MTT: Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” is such a perfect song for your style and vocal range. What is your vocal range and did this develop from formal training or were you born with such a wide range?
Sammie: I was born with it. I have no idea what my range is, I have not had it tested, I had a few vocal (mainly breathing lessons) when I was in Nashville at about 12yrs old, I was taught how to protect my voice which is very important, using support and good vocal technique. I had already developed my singing style before that.
MTT: Your first two albums may be hard to find as they didn’t get mass distribution. For those outside of the Los Angeles area, where can they be ordered?
Sammie:Any one who would like to purchase them, can contact me directly, by going to my website: www.sammiejay.com. CD Baby, Amazon. or iTunes has my latest album, "I'm a Lady."
MTT: My Teen Topix recommends our readers buy all three. You won't be sorry.
MTT: “I’m a Lady” is your debut album of original Sammie Jay written works, and it is pure dynamite!. It’s a wonderful showcase of the breadth of your talent, and contains a lot of exploration of interesting styles and arrangements. I especially like the use of your voice to sing backup, harmony and counter point to your lead vocals. How long did it take to produce the album? Also, did you do all the arrangements or did others help?
Sammie: I did all the arrangements myself. It took over a year to produce because I had a long break at one stage and then returned to recording after a 6month or so break. I hope my next album will be a shorter process, I have been writing for songs over this past year, and sometimes I pick out one I might have written quite a while back to record.
MTT: The title track of “I’m a Lady” is an ode to self-respect and a plea for proper treatment from potential suitors, an unusual subject for contemporary music. This seems like a very personal song, did you write it with yourself in mind?
Sammie: Absolutely I am a lady and expect to be treated that way. I have a lot of self respect and always wish to be treated well.
MTT: “Don’t Stop” is a great come hither tune that mixes pop and soul elements with some cute talking passages. You refer to yourself in the song, in a playful way that is really charming. Were the various elements of the song (lead vocal, soulful backing, talking section) designed at the time the song was written or were they added while you were designing the arrangement?
Sammie: The song and its layout developed while in the studio, as did most of the other songs on the album. I start with a simple idea, and then it grows.
MTT: “Two Times” has one of the most beautiful and sweet lyrics; a recommitment to love. Along with “Beautiful,” these two songs start with a simple melody and build to powerful gospel-influenced dramatic endings. Many of your songs have a strong dramatic structure. How has your work in theater influenced your ability to bring this power to your songs? Have you ever considered writing a musical for the stage or screen?
Sammie:I would love to write a musical someday. I like to sing powerful songs so I tend to write in that style, however, my next album will probably have more organic sounding songs. I have started to explore a different side of me, one which I feel may be even more commercial.
MTT: “Back in the Sack”, “Love Bug,” and “Fake-O’ are clever songs with catchy melodies and intricate arrangements. They seem like they would be fun to write and perform. They all have a humorous quality, How would you describe your own sense of humor and how it affects your writing?
Sammie:I have a good sense of humor, I like to see the funny side of things. Life is too short not to live it up a little, take a few chances and have some fun along the way.
MTT: “Killing Me Slowly,” “Waiting,” “Let’s Get It Over,” “How Could You,” and “Why Do I Breathe,” all are heart-wrenching songs of love gone wrong. Your soulful voice makes these some of the most powerful and emotionally charged songs of any artist today. Yet, I heard you say in a radio interview, that you have never felt the kind of pain found in these songs in your own personal relationships. How do you summon up the emotional intensity that these songs deliver? When I have seen you sing these songs, they seem to take you over. How are you feeling emotionally when you sing them?
Sammie: I write songs from the heart, if I have not experienced the pain myself, because of my sensitivity to others, I feel what they are going through, and write from what I see within them. I am an actress too, so I do the same thing in my acting, I have never taken drugs or got drunk, or been in an abusive relationship, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pick up from the energy of others that are close to me that have been in these situations, that is why life is such a learning process everyday. I will take the good of what I see and want to be a reflection in my own life, and the bad I see that I want never to be a part of and live my life thinking good thoughts with positive vibes.
MTT: Are you presently working on a new album? If so, will it be covers of other artists or original material or a mix of both? When can we expect it to be released?
MTT: You and your parents are always so friendly and generous to your fans. How has appearing on the Promenade in Santa Monica affected your work?
Sammie: Being a street performer at times is much different from when I am playing a big stage or concert. You have to be good to capture the audience, if they don’t like what they see, they will soon move on. I now perform at Universal Studios in City Walk, which is the entertainment capital of LA. It is great exposure, I get my love of music out to the public, they give me their feedback, if I have written a new song and it isn’t drawing attention, I know there is something missing. I love it when I see fans singing to my original tunes, I can’t wait to show off my next album, but it can’t be rushed. Performing on the streets has also brought me into contact with the homeless and war veterans. Movie stars might stop and watch a song or too, but in the corner there may be the wonderful kind old homeless man who pops a $1 bill into my tip jar. That means more to me than anything, I love that I get the chance to bring my music to people that might not have access to the big stages I will be playing on. Yet I can’t deny how awesome it is in contrast to be performing on a huge stage with good mics, sound system, lighting and all.
MTT: You were fabulous as “Jenny Tinkler” on “Big Time Rush.” Are there any plans to bring back your character for future episodes? Are there any other up coming projects or appearances you would like to share with our readers?
Sammie: I will be playing Jenny Tinkler in series three, I have not shoot the episode yet or anything, but it does look like I will be called back sometime in the near future. I will post up on my facebook when I have more news. Facebook.com/sammiejaymusic
MTT: Thanks so much for your time, Sammie. Keep us posted at My Teen Topix, about future projects and appearances, so we can keep our readers up to date on our favorite singer.
Buy Sammie's latest album, "I'm a Lady"