“I want people to know that I’ve been blessed with the gift to sing,” says the 18 year-old prodigy. “At 12 you’re cute. Most people were in awe because I was 12 and could sing. At 18 the market is different, there are a lot of young artists out now,” explains Sammie, who is determined to make an impact with Sammie. “I feel that R&B has died a little bit and I’m here to resurrect it.”
Resurrect he does, after reuniting with Grammy Award winning super producer Dallas Austin who executive produced both albums. “I knew when he was 12 he was incredible and at 18 with time to marinate, he’s exceptional,” says Dallas recognizing Sammie’s growth and amazing vocal ability. “He is all that I thought he would be plus more.”
Obviously more mature than his preteen debut – having gone through a high to low voice change and critical teenage years – Sammie is more personal than the first album. “You learn and grow as you get older,” says Sammie who co-wrote most of the songs on the album, drawing from life’s experiences.
The album is a perfectly blended mix of hip-hop influenced mid-tempo tracks and soulful R&B ballads collected from some of today’s hottest musical producers including Brian M. Cox, Jazze Pha, Adonis, Daron Jones (112) and of course musical mastermind Dallas Austin. Infused with inspiration from some of Sammie’s musical icons — Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Michael Jackson, and Usher — Sammie raises the bar for entertainers today and showcases Sammie’s sheer talent and wide vocal range. “Every time I got in the booth, I sang my heart out,” says Sammie passionately about his craft. “I’m a singer. I sing passionately and I like to touch people through my music.”
He began touching people at the tender age of 4. “Nobody knew I could sing,” says the Miami native, recalling his first performance of “Troubles Don’t Last Always” in church. “I used to watch my uncles and my family do it and wanted to get up there and try. After that day they called me up every Sunday to lead a song.”
But it was disruptive behavior in class and a teacher with a keen ear for music that set the path for Sammie’s success. “I was humming during a test and the teacher asked ‘do you want to share that with the class?’” explains Sammie who thought he was in serious trouble. “After I sang she sent me to the office where I was told to sing for the principal.” The administrators recognized Sammie’s gift and transferred him to Charles Drew Elementary, a magnet school with a performing arts program.
It was there that a music teacher recruited him to join a group with two older boys who eventually auditioned for the television program “Showtime at the Apollo.” The show responded with interest in Sammie only who performed in 1998 on an “Apollo Kids” segment. Ultimately making it to the finals in 1999, Sammie performed a breathtaking rendition of “My Cherie Amour,” which led to a call from Atlanta based entertainment executive Joyce Irby. “She flew to Florida, got me on camcorder singing, showed it to Dallas who told her ‘don’t show it to anyone else, I’m going to sign him,’” remembers Sammie who spent that summer after his sixth grade year recording his first album.
The first single, “I Like It” went gold and exploded to the top of the Billboard R&B Singles chart. The follow up single “Crazy Things I Do,” was a top 10 hit, solidifying and extending Sammie’s debut success. He traveled extensively performing and making promotional and media appearances including a high profile performance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Sammie participated on a national Nickelodeon tour and was also featured with Bow Wow, Lil’ Wayne and Lil’ Zane on the lead single from the Jermaine Dupri produced movie soundtrack “Hardball.” In spite of his success, Sammie and his family made the decision for him to return to Florida and finish school. He moved to Orlando with his mother, younger brother and sister where he attended West Orange High School. It was there that he resumed a typical teenage life, playing on the basketball team, being crowned Homecoming King and making what he calls the best decision of his life, to join the choir. “I knew passionately in my heart that music was where I was going to go, so I joined the choir at the end of my junior year,” he says. “It taught me different techniques and gave me an appreciation for other genres of music.”
Sammie describes his second chance in the music industry as bitter sweet. Hurricane Francis caused his family to evacuate to Atlanta where he reconnected with Malcolm Lee of MEG Artist Management – his current manager and one of the only entertainment contacts he kept in touch with during his high school years. Lee brought Sammie to a birthday party for Dallas Austin, who Sammie vividly recalls assured him as soon as he graduated he’d be taken care of. “For four years you’re just the average kid,” says Sammie humbly, “and in one split second you’re ‘Sammie the artist’ again.”
Even as “Sammie the artist” he continues to stay grounded. With a strong belief in education, he plans to attend college and is working hard so he can afford his brother and sister the opportunity, too. “I was raised God first, family second and all else will fall into place,” he says, “I think if I keep that I’ll be alright.”
When he’s not making music, the self-proclaimed “Madden champ” is dominating his friends in the popular football video game, or he’s playing his second love, basketball. But ultimately, it all comes back to music. “Music never left me,” he says confidently,” you can’t hide what’s in you, no matter how hard you try.” For Sammie that’s the gift of song.