R&B infused with lush island reggae defines Sammy Johnson’s just-released new album, Cool & Easy, via Mensch House Records.
Even though we’re hardly into 2021, without a doubt Cool & Easy is one of the year’s best albums, mirroring the silky textures and stylish frisson of its title, delivering a warm, creamy, tropical feeling to the frigid winter months – a vacation from the cold core of winter and the pandemic.
From Auckland, New Zealand, Sammy has performed all over the globe: the One Love and Cali Roots festivals, among others, along with delivering chart-topping songs such as “Amazing” and winning Best Collaboration with Common Kings and The Green at the 2020 Island Music Awards.
Not only is the music on Cool & Easy deliciously layered, akin to a scrumptious five-layer cake, but Sammy’s voice drips with cashmere timbres and burnished sonic nuances, making the album ooh, la la good.
Tattoo caught up with Sammy Johnson to find out how he got started in music, why he’s enthralled by reggae, and why he makes music.
What three things can’t you live without?
My earphones. A curated playlist. And my doc martens.
How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory there?
By accident really; my family are all singers and I remember when I was young vowing I was never going to do music. So I studied social work. I ended up doing light background singing jobs here and there and, boom, here I am haha.
What inspired your new album, Cool & Easy?
Cool & Easy was definitely inspired by my love for traditional reggae. The subject and the overall vibe was a mixture of how I had been feeling at the time and me trying to bring an essence of Polynesia into the mix.
What is it about reggae that excites you?
Reggae has such a complex simplicity to it. It feels easy and smooth but when you play it there are so many things happening in there to make it feel that way. I also just love how you can add different genres and it mutates into something even cooler.
What’s your songwriting process?
Every time it’s different: I could be inspired by watching people, or a bass line in some old song jabs me in the heart, or some random memory pops in my head. I’m a Cancer so I’m highly emotional – (side-eyed haha).
What do you hope your fans/listeners take away with them when they listen to your music?
To FEEL music is truly a gift and that’s what I always set out to do. I don’t always get it right, but if I can evoke emotion in the listener then my job is done.
Which musicians/vocalists influenced you the most?
BRANDY! Stevie wonder, Jazmine Sullivan, Mary wells, and Alton Ellis – all for different reasons: tone, melody, song writing, vocal approach, etc.
Which artists are you listening to right now?
Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales is on repeat.
Do you have a guilty music and/or entertainment pleasure?
Lol! I LOVE all the crime TV shows, SVU, ALL OF THEM. But my favorite was Criminal Minds. I literally felt like I lost my friends when that show ended.
Why do you make music?
Because if I don’t it eats away at my soul! My relationship with music is almost like that of a medium – it speaks to me constantly.
How are you handling the coronavirus situation?
One day at a time; that’s all I’m going to say on that matter LOL.
Looking to the future, what’s next for Sammy Johnson?
A live album and live concert! We did it between lockdowns during COVID in New Zealand. And I’ve just heard it, it’s amazing!!