I’m going to do music and it’s going to take me somewhere…
London’s Steadfast is a series focusing on up and coming artists around London. Enter RnB artist, Sammie Halliday.
Despite having heard the stories of many artists around London, it never ceases to amaze me the lengths that some go to in order to pursue their dream. From the moment he set out to be a singer up until today, Sammie’s Journey has to be the most incredible one that I have heard so far. The RnB artist not only shared details of what he had to go through to break into the industry but also the obstacles he had to face in his personal life along the way. Since he was a young child, there was only one thing that Sammie wanted to be when he grew up. In order to become that, he did everything he could. No matter how little the resources at his disposal, no matter how many overwhelming odds were against him, Sammie never gave up on music.
His story began during his primary school days. While most children around the UK got home from school, switching on the TV or darting outside to play before tea, Sammie was hanging out with the underground artists of So Solid Crew. Back in 2001, the group were the first UK Garage to reach Number 1 in the charts with their hit single ‘Twenty-One Seconds to Go.’ It just so happened that his neighbour was cousins with one of the band members and so these sensations of the music industry were round Sammie’s house nearly every day.
“So, from when I was eight, I literally fell in love with music. From meeting them and being face to face with them, that was like my first little celebrity meeting. So, I’m just there as a little kid: ‘Can I get your autograph?’ Like every single time they would come to my house.”
One day, the young boy saw Harvey (also known as MC Harvey) waiting outside in his car. Sammie seized the opportunity to have a one to one with the man who just so happened to be his idol. Sammie remembers this moment as if he had lived it only yesterday. The moment that Harvey imparted him with a piece of advice that would remain engraved in his heart, helping him follow his dream of becoming a music artist.
“Just do it. Just keep working on it and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t.”
At the age of fourteen, Sammie’s life took an abrupt turn when his mother moved out of their home. He and his sister were left with a bank card that was topped up with £15 every week. The house and utilities were taken care of, but these two young people still had to put every penny of that budget towards groceries. When Sammie recounted the hard times that he had endured, he did so with incredible modesty and in a way that seemed almost matter-of-fact.
“I’m going to do music and it’s going to take me somewhere, but I don’t have to worry about that now. So, this whole thing of the struggling, or living in poverty so to speak, is not an issue.”
At the end of a seemingly impossible year, there came a knock at the door. The siblings opened it up to find Social Services, who then asked for the whereabouts of their mother. When their situation had become clear, the two were swiftly moved into hostels and started receiving £50 a week.
Becoming an Artist
For any aspiring singer, shyness is one of the biggest handicaps to have, especially in an industry as tough as the music one. For Sammie, this was just another hurdle that he needed to overcome. The singer had actually begun creating music in his bedroom, not long after receiving Harvey’s advice. Out of earshot from any unwelcomed audience, he would spend hours writing songs and singing to himself.
Sammie was able to do this for several years until the day came, that he had to make the decision to confront his fear. That was the day he realised that the only way he could get his music out was by performing in front of a live audience. And so, every Sunday he would go to Church and sing in front of the congregation. It soon came to be that Church was not only beneficial in boosting the boy’s self-esteem. The gospel music that was sung throughout the services, would also be one of the biggest influences to his music.
“I would say Church though. It’s a lot of where the style of my music comes from. Because, the whole RnB and the runs and rifts, I feel like that comes from singing gospel. I’m just trying to show-off in a way. And Church is all about that. It’s not about what song you’re singing, it’s about how you’re singing it, the vocals, the range. So, that led to my style being as it is now.”
Sammie decided to go to College and pursue studies in Music Technology. He was able to benefit from the College’s studio and discover how to produce music. Arming himself with the knowledge and skills, Sammie was finally recording his own music and with the tracks he recorded, the RnB singer went out to find gigs. Sammie recalls working hard to find any gigs he could to perform in front of an audience. His determination meant that the young man was he was performing all around London in no time. The beginning of any career in the creative industries is incredibly difficult and, as I have noticed, demands a certain kind of perseverance. It is for that reason, that artists like Sammie get as many gigs as they can.
These are perfect places for artists to build up a fanbase and network with others in the music industry. This never usually happens fast as it can take time to get noticed. It did, however, work for Sammie.
“So, I started to meet a lot of people in the industry. I wouldn’t say like, I wouldn’t say stars. I would say, within respect, they are to some extent. And I tried to hang around that crowd. Just to be involved. It was a little step into the door, being around managers, labels etc. and things like that.”
Upon finishing college, Sammie met a renowned female grime artist. The two became very close friends, travelling across the country together to reach their gigs. Having been an established artist in the industry, Sammie took the opportunity to learn some things from her. Not long after they had started to spend many of their days together, Sammie witnessed his companion achieving great musical success with one of her releases. It should come as no surprise that having been so close to her, Sammie started to gain some great exposure. This increased exposure, however, lead to more gigs which meant a lot of travelling and more space for tiredness. As unstoppable as Sammie felt, his hectic lifestyle would catch up with him eventually.
“So, I started doing shows, up and down the country, non-stop, back to back, every day. And I would say, literally, within that year, I performed in every city in the UK… let’s put it that way. And it was non-stop like I had no sleep. I would be in Birmingham one day, Coventry the next. Then I would be in Oxford and then I would be somewhere… I had no sleep, it was just literally, that was live and breathe, eat, sleep and music. Driving non-stop.”
Sammie had done it. He was quite literally living out his dream. He was known to some of the biggest labels in the industry, constantly performing up and down the UK and had a lot of recorded work just waiting to be released. Yet, the boy from Croydon hasn’t been featured in the steadfast series for having made it. Misfortune struck the dedicated artist, as his time at the top was cut short.
In 2015, Sammie was on his way home from a show in Birmingham. Both the dark and the heavy rain made it hard for him to see the signs after his phone Maps went blank. Around 2 A.M., a car turned into Sammie’s lane (the middle) and clipped the back of his vehicle. This sent Sammie hurtling into the left lane, where there just so happened to be a lorry. The front of Sammie’s car found itself momentarily trapped underneath the enclosed cargo space before it was torn from the rest of the car. The remaining part, that held Sammie, was thrown into a spinning motion until it came to a stop in the hard shoulder.
“The engine blew, so all I could see were the flames from the engine. My face, the glass shattered from the window shield, so I had the glass in my face. My face was quite hot because I could feel the heat from the engine.”
Sammie’s instincts screamed at him to undo his seatbelt and remove himself from the car. The near-death experience had the young man’s adrenaline pumping, causing him to take a walk down the hard shoulder. As an odd thing as that may seem, that was a decision that saved his life. Just moments later, the lorry came flying into the hard shoulder and collided with the back of Sammie’s car. The dream chaser had survived the crash but suffered severe damage to both his body and his career.
“I fractured my C6 [vertebrae] and my Adam’s Apple… it was causing pressure on my vocal cords. So, I had a lot of pain. Even when I was talking, it would hurt. I’d say I got depressed. That’s the easiest way. I got depressed. And then I kind of just took myself away from everybody.”
Sammie revealed that he had lost a lot in that car crash. It wasn’t just his vocal cords that he feared losing forever. The incident had taken a rather big blow at the confidence that he had worked so hard to build all those years. It also didn’t help to watch as the industry carried on without him, along with the friends he had made in those recent years. Sammie spent several months in the University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire and the Croydon University Hospital.
“Now that I’m down, where is everybody else? I couldn’t go anywhere, I had a cast on my leg, I had all these things on my head, and I was like bed-bound. I kept having blackouts… there would be a couple times where I would wake up, just trying to pick myself off the floor… And then I felt like, I was going to take a year to myself. Just to fix myself and my life as well.”
Once Sammie was fit to leave the hospital, he managed to find a place to live in a hostel under the Y.M.C.A. These weren’t the conditions that Sammie wanted to live in and so, for the first time since he spoke to Harvey, he put his music to the side and focused on regaining stability in his life. By disconnecting himself from that world, he had begun losing motivation for his old passion. He rarely went on social media and when he did, he gave no updates to the fanbase he had worked so hard to build. When asked about his absence from preforming or future releases, Sammie would say that there was music on its way. Sammie, though, had not been near a studio in a long time.
“Part of me knew that I would get back to it, but part of me didn’t have that courage to do it.” Sammie may have lost his courage but when you get to the level that he was on, it’s incredibly hard to lose hope. As small as it may have been, the RnB artist had held onto his. For the first year after the accident, Sammie went to physiotherapy sessions and still struggling to sing.
He realised, eventually, that his voice would never be able to do what it used to. With that, however, comes a silver lining as he is now able to do better things with it. Four years on from the accident and Sammie found himself hanging out with his friends, who happen to be well-known music artists. There was something about that day that made something click in Sammie’s head. He had taken the time that he had needed, away from the industry. This entailed the questioning of a decision to stay behind the scenes or reclaim his spotlight on stage. “Part of me had to tell myself to keep the dream alive.”
The Bounce Back
Sammie Halliday only needed that one small push to get him back in there and that push came when his friend Yxng BT asked for his help in the studio to produce a track. After stepping foot in a studio for the first time in years, the dream chaser knew that he was at home. He had learned so much from his time before the accident that it all came back to him without any trouble.
“I know that as soon as I stepped on that studio, it was like: ‘This is what I need to do.’ Because before, I was like I’m not sure, but as soon as I got to that studio. And then I was like: ‘Yeah, let me show you how to do some things. And then, I’m checking… that was my way of checking that I still got it. Then from there, I was like: ‘I need to push myself harder.”
The track that he helped his friend with would soon become a collaboration and the release of ‘Finer Things,’ officially announced Sammie Halliday’s comeback. That same year, Sammie was also asked to perform at London Pride 2019. It turned out that hope wasn’t the only thing that Sammie had held onto during his time away. Despite the countless gigs he had attended in the past, the RnB singer’s absence had made him question his capabilities.
“When I performed, the whole time I was just like: ‘Can I even still do this? It’s been so long…’ But it was funny because I looked at a clip of when I was performing at about 16, to a clip of me performing at 25 at Pride. The two are exactly the same. My movement was exactly the same. My presence on stage was exactly the same.”
Sammie Halliday had a lot in store for 2020, including tours around the UK and Europe. It shouldn’t come as news to read, that the global pandemic cut any hope of concerts and gigs happening. That is, at least until the winter months of this year. Now that you have heard his story, it would seem as though coronavirus and the difficult times that it has brought, would not stand a chance against Sammie and his destiny. In January 2020, the RnB singer released his second collaborative track with rapper Yxng Bt, ‘Can We.’ He also has a new track coming soon, which you will find on the streaming platforms, titled ‘Going Down.’ Sammie reveals that his upcoming release has a tropical RnB sound but that some have claimed it to have a bit of a House vibe. Keep an eye on his socials to find out more.
Check out this link, to discover where to find his most recent music.
By Sam Dawson
Images provided by Sammie Halliday
Check out our first feature in the London Steadfast series, focusing on Jade Moss.