Just one day prior to our chat, gospel king Kirk Franklin mimed along to Samm Henshaw’s anthemic affirmation anthem ‘Church’ in a video posted on Instagram. Not unlike a mentor and his protégé, Franklin’s seal of approval ranks up there as career defining.
“It means everything,” Sam shares with pride. “I showed my mum and sister immediately. Kirk has probably been the most important, consistent influence on me musically. A moment I’ll never forget.”
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In an age where religion has been misaligned and exploited by propagators of the far-right movement, Samm Henshaw is reclaiming the narrative. He poeticises faith as integral to his culture and his blackness through songs that seek to uplift and restore hope. Born in South London to Nigerian parents, Henshaw imbues his music with anecdotes from his childhood as the son of a church-going family. Does he worry about becoming another ‘fringe gospel act’?
“The process will always be oversimplified,” Samm reflects. “My influences are wide-ranging and it’s a little grating when you put so much of that into your work for someone to limit what you do.”
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Endorsed by heavyweights Chance The Rapper and Pharrell, Samm is a multi-faceted musician. Utilising live instrumentation that calls to mind early Kanye, Samm’s buoyant retro-drenched odes shun the mechanised wave dominating music today. His John Legend-esque voice mines emotion from experience and he appeals just as much to the secular amongst us, to the ones seeking daily deliverance.
“Music is lacking soul and feeling at the moment,” he muses. “We need storytellers. When someone listens to my music, I want them to be able to feel what I’m feeling at that moment.”
In 2015, Henshaw signed to Columbia Records, and within a short span of time released two EPs, which he describes in hindsight as “experiments and forays”. Now, having plied his craft, embracing solitude over mass-exposure, Henshaw has a body of work he hopes to release when the time is right.
“Music is ephemeral and plans change, so I like to drop bangers when and if I feel like it. That being said, an album is in the works and it’s about growth. It will be soulful, personal, real and raw.”
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Words: Shahzaib Hussain
Photography: Elliot Kennedy
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