Untidy Soul

Samm Henshaw

Untidy Soul

“Still no album?” asks the intro to Samm Henshaw’s debut full-length—a tongue-in-cheek nod to expectations placed on the singer-songwriter from the tender age of five-years-old. “When the family came round, I’d grab everyone and make sit them down,” he tells Apple Music. “I had a small guitar and I would have my very own service, basically. I would lead worship, I was also the pastor, and choir—and with worship songs, they’re not just one style and genre. So, that’s where this all began, learning to cover all musical bases.”
On Untidy Soul, R&B-meets-gospel for a rich serving of big-hearted tracks that provide a dutiful brief of Henshaw's journey. Sighted through the lens of love and eventual heartbreak Henshaw’s warm debut—featuring contributions from Josh Grant, Pop Wansel, Rahki—provides searing statements (“Thoughts and Prayers”) home truths (“It Won’t Change”) and bitter acceptance (“Still Broke”) before the winding road to redemption (“Joy”). “I know all of the ingredients that went into creating this recipe,” he says. “But I never could quite put my finger on it to describe where, or what world, this music sits in. I would get asked all the time, and it was tough, until I came across the answer myself, it’s messy, untidy soul music.” Below, Samm Henshaw talks through his personal debut album, track by track.
“Still No Album (Intro)” “I made this with my friend, Jeff [Benjamin], who’s one of those people that delivers his words so funnily. A lot of the time, you can’t tell if he's serious or joking, but I’ve always said to myself: ‘If I have an interlude on my album, Jeff's going to be on one.’ This is me almost mocking myself a bit, and it's fun to be able to have the line: ‘Still no album?’ as we cut, straight into it.”
“Thoughts and Prayers" “I was taking a trip to the studio in the back of an Uber, feeling frustrated with what I was reading. I do believe in prayer, and it’s importance, but the question I asked myself, that triggered me writing this song, is ‘When people give their thoughts and prayers, do they actually think, and do they actually pray?’ It was that simple.”
“Grow” “A lot of these songs came from a relationship I was in for three years—she was the inspiration, and was there for a lot of the creation. If I'm the dad, she's for certain the mother of this album, that’s also why it took so long to finish—I wanted to go through the entire process of feeling and being. This is song is about perseverance, not giving up at the first sign of trouble, if you do every time something goes wrong, it’s likely you won’t grow. And that's not just about relationships, it’s life. Period.”
“Chicken Wings” “This song, honestly, is as simple as anyone would think. I had a craving to write a song about chicken wings, and we did it!”
“Mr Introvert” “I worked closely with [British producer and multi-instrumentalist] Marco Bernardis on this song, who’s absolutely killing it at the moment with his group [Radiant Children]. It’s about how, with my girlfriend at the time, we had this way of knowing each other, and all the tiny details. It was her recognising how I’m introverted, in my favourite line, that says: ‘She likes to call me Mr. Introvert / I say I only save my words for her.’”
“8.16” “This is easily one of my favourite songs on the project. It began in a session in LA; there was myself, Wayne Hector, and Sebastian Kole—going through beats and sounds, until we found this sample. It was such an amazing, fun and simple experience. I speak about those feelings you have in the early honeymoon phase of a relationship. I wanted to make something classic and timeless about being in love.”
“Mr Introvert (Reprise)” “It was [UK producer] Josh Grant's genius idea to split ['Mr Introvert'] in half as he’s pretty much the executive producer of the album. He showed me how it sounded, and I flipped out, it’s perfect—I love how the songs slide into one another. As it cuts off, if you wanna hear the rest of the song… we’re in control of whether you can, which I really like. It reminds me of certain hip-hop albums that I loved growing up, when the DJ would scratch and mix one song into the next.”
”Loved By You” “I made this track in London with [UK musician and producer] Fred Cox, he’s someone I've worked with since the start of my career. I sat at the piano, playing keys, and these lyrics started coming out, pure sentiments of love. We ended up getting this song finished in a day. I wasn't even going to put that on the album, but we released it for Valentine's Day [in 2019], on YouTube. Soon after, my manager Jackie called like: ‘Samm, you need to put this on the album.’”
“Take Time" (feat. Tobe Nwigwe) “This song had so many different versions at one point. I went to different people, like, ‘We've got this hook, it’s really good, but we still need verses for this song.’ There’s parts from every person that's contributed to the song—Anais is the vocal you hear on the chorus, Josh Grant, Trey Campbell and we had Braxton Cook, an incredible artist and saxophonist come in and play. I didn’t know about Tobe Nwigwe for the longest time until I saw his [NPR] Tiny Desk performance, which is just the coldest thing ever, one of the best I’ve seen. I check him up, and realise that he follows me [online], I freaked out and messaged him, ‘You're incredible.’ We had tried a few rappers initially on this song, but we ended up landing on Tobe: who loved the concept, came through and delivered.”
”Waterbreak” “Whilst mixing down the album, I still felt that it needed to have a weird moment where people are told to go and have a drink—inspired by those intermissions in theatres. This is Josh Grant speaking on this Interlude, and that’s Jeff's voice you hear at the end asking for cookies!”
"It Won’t Change (feat. Maverick Sabre)” “This is probably the oldest song on the album. I worked on this first with Marco [Bernardis], and for a long time, it was one we were struggling to write. I was with [Columbia Records] at this time; feeling very frustrated with our relationship and music in general. So we had Mav come through to help, and he just sang. I don’t talk enough about the part Mav plays in the change of my sound, from The Sound Experiment II onwards, I was with him all the time. His part was put down as a reference initially, but he sounds gorgeous on it, I didn’t want to sing it, literally. It didn’t feel like I needed to, and I’ve loved this song ever since.”
“East Detroit” “This is where we get into a sadder realm, this is where the two characters have broken up. With my breakup: she ended it with me whilst I was away in America. Once it happened, I remember having thoughts of this entire life we were supposedly meant to live, the two of us. And now, none of that matters, there’s something about the concept that’s so amazing to write about. And the funniest thing is: I wrote this with Sebastian [Kole], and he came up with the ‘East Detroit’ line, I said, ’We might need to change that because we've never been to East Detroit. We’re in New York, in fact!’ I was adamant that we make it literal; but I’m telling you, there was nothing else that sounded better!”
“Enough” “This is a song about being content. We should always ask: If this is not what I want, then why am I doing it? Am I always going to chase the next big thing? Whatever it is, I think there's a problem we all have with trying to keep up.”
“Keyon (Interlude)” “Keyon [Harrold] is responsible for most of the trumpet you hear across this record. I think Keyon gave us so much trumpet for song in particular that we had enough for this interlude, here.”
“Still Broke" (feat. Keyon Harrold) “We were in LA., I had made 'Still Broke' and I really needed some horns on it. Keyon was in LA at the time, for the Grammys and stuff, so he pulled up and helped us finish off this record. It was very special.”
“Joy” “When we were finishing off the album, in 2021, it just didn't feel compete. I always had this idea of ending the album on a 'Thoughts and Prayers (Reprise)', but I came back to this song because it really sums the album up. If you want to know the story, and conclusion, of my debut in three minutes, this is the song to go to.”

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