Mr Sam - The song writer who became an artist
In the world of Soul and R&B every record company have their own staff of writers who delivers hits for the big stars. The situation used to be the same in the blues field, sixty years ago Bluebird Records made sure they had their own sound and Chess Records had Willie Dixon. But somewhere in the 1960’s the black blues lost it’s commercial appeal. The blues turned into an auteur-music, where it was genuine first when the artist wrote both the lyrics and music. When Malaco Records grew bigger twenty years later, the black blues again got dedicated song writers and in today’s successful southern soul market, there is a great need for good solid song writing.
The Memphis artist Mr Sam, Sam Fallie, is a new solo artist, but as for almost all of his colleagues in the modern blues and soul, he has been in the music business a long time. Sam got started in the late seventies when he performed with local bands and a few years later he got some moderate success with the group Perfectionist. In 1983 Allen Jones, the producer of the Bar-Kays, discovered Sam and asked him to join the Bar-Kays team as a song writer. Sam now focused on this new musical road and let his solo career rest. During the next five years he worked hard together with Jones and the Bar-Kays.
Allen Jones got more and more impressed with Sam and they started planning on recording an album with Sam. Unfortunately Jones had a heart attack in 1988 and for Sam the death of Jones was a hard blow. Sam disappeared from the music scene and got back to regular work instead. He even had a stint when he was in the streets and choose the wrong track for awhile. After ten years Sam got his life together and got back to music. During his absence the southern soul scene had turned more and more commercial and Sam’s song writing fitted the new market perfectly. He wrote for Archie Love, J Blackfoot, Lacee, Theodis Ealey and Bar-Kays. Several of the songs turned into hits for the artists. Sam Fallie was a name in the writing field again.
When he wrote a song for Terry Wright, Lookin’ 4 Love, it never got used. Sam liked the song and someone asked why he didn’t record it himself. The thought of being an artist again got Sam to search his drawers for other songs. He found several he wrote for other artists that had not been recorded.
I wrote these song for other people. Since I hadn´t anybody use them, I just put them on my album. I had a couple of songs I wrote new, Since you´ve been gone, Teach me, the rest of them was written for other people.
JEA Records couldn´t take on Sam and he released the album by himself, on Archie Loves label. But there no one had the time to really push the album. Then Sam met Jazzii Anderson. Jazzii is most known for being one of Bobby Rush’s dancers, but she also has her own production company, MiLaJa Records. Jazzii and her husband took Sam in on their label and it´s been a cooperation that Sam is more than pleased with.
I just love it, they are so supportive and good. It´s a big difference working in the background and being up front. I knew a lot of people before, but I didn´t have the connections that Jazzii have or the drive Jazziii has, she has a lot of drive with what she does, she has a lot of passion and she believes in me. – that´s the key.
Today it´s probably easier than ever before to record and produce an album on your own, but it´s still hard to reach out. The album Lookin’ 4 Love was released in 2007 and has since been on hit lists for Southern Soul. Marketing is the key thing.
We have to do a lot of show cases, meeting people interviewing me, lot of free stuff, it pays up. I´m new, I have to go and take my cd and [go out to the radio stations]. We need more of these magazine [pointing at Jefferson], we got Chitlin Circuit, Living Blues gave me a great write-up. I was shocked! Cause I didn´t know about that, it´s a big magazine and they gave me great write up. Blues Critic gave me thumbs up. Internet is very important, they are the only listings we have. Awards, the pay-off, because I can put that up front. People hear that and they Oh, who´s the best artist? [Package tours], that´s what draws people, TK Souland I are trying to get some stuff connected. We´ll probably do a cheating tour. TK, Mr Sam, Sir Charles Jones… That would be great.
To get the attention of the radio dj’s and recordbyers, the artist needs to have a style of his/her own, something that immediately hooks the audience. Mr Sam is fully aware of this.
It´s like wrestling, people recognizes the wrestlers. My hook is dancing. He´s moving! It´s important. That´s what makes people come to see you doing your thing. ! I take entertainment back to old school. I dance a lot. I like to move. I like to entertain. As far as I remember, the entertainers I used to love where energetic. They gave people something to look at. A lot of artist does come out and they just stand, I don´t understand that. People want to be entertained. I want people to say: I really enjoyed the whole total package. Skids , the little jokes, the whole thing.
Sam has already started working on a new album, it´ll be out in the summer of 2008. A first single, Voice Mail, has already been released. It´s a duet with Floyd Taylor which immediately hit the top charts and radio listings. Sam has also continued to write top songs for other artist like Kenne’ Wayne, Floyd Taylor, Archie Love and The Dutchess. Mr Sam’s awareness of the writing is something that shines through during the whole interview. For Sam there’s no short cuts and when I ask him of the tendency of writing nostalgic songs reminding the audience of Saturday fish fries and how to party liked we used to he gets slightly irritated.
They´re going to do that, because of lack of …it´s an easy way out and I don´t respect that. I don´t want to hear everybody´s song, besides… I want to do a new story. With a twist. I do sex songs, if I am going to put one on my album, it´s going to be interesting, It´s going to give you…, it´s not just going to be plain. I love to tell stories. I love to tell life experiences. True life experiences. I got a lot of my learning skills from Alan Jones. He learned me to write, how to put a story together, to make it like a book. You got a beginning, you got your meat in the middle, and you got your good ending.
Toni Green and Mr Sam in Memphis Jan -08. Photo: A Lillsunde
Mr Sam’s first album album has been successful, but it’s also a sign of where the southern soul genre is moving. Southern soul has gone from a blues influenced music leaning on old soul , a genre reaching out to a rather narrow audience, to a more commercial style moving more and more towards modern r&b. And when TK Soul hit the Billboard in the summer of 2007 a barrier against r&b was broken and now artists like Usher, R Kelly and Akon in their turn get into the southern soul lists.
I have noticed that a lot of people right there in between 25-35, they get tired of rap and there’s not a whole lot of r&b people out there like it used to be. How long can you do rap? You have some like LL Cool J, he´s a mainstay, but how long can you do that before you loose appeal? If you look at Chris Brown, Usher, they´re too young. They (the audience) come looking for people like me, Archie Love, J Blackfoot, giving them a grown-up appeal. So if we keep the music kind of young, then we are gradually pulling them in. It´s going to take a little more, but we are gradually grab them and then we got to get radio. The radio has to start playing this. It´s hard over here to get radio play.
Mr Sam himself is somewhere between soul and r&b, his style is quiet soft where the role models rather are Al Green and Babyface than ZZ Hill. The blues is nothing that he feels at home with
Actually, I´m not a blues person. I grew up on Commodores, Jackson 5. I never thought about playing some type of blues, so for me to come out and being a bluesman… I want to keep writing r&b. Boogie, at Boogie report, he tell me Man, you got something different. You´re not just blues, you´re kind of blues, southern soul and r&b. More and more people are coming to me to write now, I have to do what they need. Karen Wolfe, Koko Taylor? That´s Blues! They came to me about to write some stuff. I have to go back to the blues. I have to go down! But I have a friend who´s real big, a big producer : I got some prearranged tracks so I write stuff , I´m writing for younger artists, I can´t go back in time, hopefully some of them songs will be used. I think song writing is what´s going to get me out there.
Maybe it is then that the song writer Sam Fallie who became the solo artist Mr Sam finally gets his major breakthrough as a writer for a new young yet unknown super star. Regardless of the future, Mr Sam has given me a new way to understanding the blues and black music of today. A new generation of audience has grew up with the r&b from the 1980’s and the artist today who wants to break into a market directed to this target group must consider these new roots. Since then it has been painfully obvious for me how much great music I have missed when I have focused so much on that it should be genuine blues - I have therefore entirely missed artist like Teddy Pendergrass, Destiny´s Child and R Kelly. So for the curious blues lover, start with Mr Sam’s 12 Steps for Cheaters and Voice Mail and you maybe end up next to me in the record stores r&b department.
Mr Sam's homepages:
Tommy Jansson / Jefferson #156