Singer / songwriter Sammie Hall has only just emerged in relatively recent times, yet she’s already made a huge impression on drum & bass.
Breaking through in April 2020 on Macky Gee’s Down 2 Earth Musik, just as the lockdowns kicked in, Sammie has since gone on to front some serious fire on a whole plethora of hyper respected labels ranging from DJ SS’s foundation giants Formation Records to sleek, futuristic stylings of Overview and the skank happy Deep In The Jungle working with the likes of Sola, Wingz, Sili, Tobax, Ripple, Rowney and many other established and highly rated artists.
With plenty more names to add to that list as we groove deeper and deeper into 2022, Sammie’s star is set to rise even higher… And her impression will be felt beyond the confines of drum & bass. In the month that she links up with DJ Hybrid for his first ever bass house tune, we called up Sammie Hall to find out more about her unique and inspiring journey so far.
You’ve been exclusively drum & bass since you first emerged but I see you’ve been doing some house tracks lately…
Yeah I’d say it’s around 95% D&B but I am experimenting with other styles. I’m on DJ Hybrid’s first ever house track which is coming out soon as a b side to the main D&B tune. He sent it over to me and it was like, ‘Wow!’ My husband is massively into house music and he listens to everything I do and he loves it. I’ve also just done a track with JMF which is on a harder type of vibe.
I Feel Fine?
Yeah that’s it. It’s something a bit different. My husband was a massive hard house head. We’ve been together for 16 years. When we met, I was 100% D&B and my friends dragged me to a hard house night. That’s where I met him and we went to loads of hard dance events together over the years. So when I got a message from the Untidy Trax boss Lee Haslam asking if I wanted to work on a track, it was a no brainer.
I got time for hard house. Like drum & bass, it attracts very loyal and very real fans
Totally. Once you fall in love with it that’s you for life. We spent 10 years going hard house and techno nights but then I went back to my true love – D&B. I’ll go to other nights every now and again but D&B is where my heart beats.
So you’ve been going to raves for a while now but your first tracks were out in 2020. Have you always sung, though?
Yeah since I was three, my parents would take us on holiday we’d do the talent shows. Singing, dancing, fancy dress, the lot. Then when I was a teenager I’d go to karaoke on the pier in Brighton. Every Friday night, I’d be signing away. Then, aged 18, I had the best job ever, I had my own radio show on Reverb Radio.
It was 7-9am, three days a week, hosted by me and my best mate Juliet Amani. It was sponsored by the career centre and we wanted it to be a show for people who were up from the night before. We’d go to all the raves like The Coronet, SE1, Fabric, Mass and everywhere else and we’d interview the DJs and MCs, trying to get backstage to chat to everyone.
What was so good back then was that people wanted to talk to us. It wasn’t normal for people to turn up with expensive equipment, also we were a pair of teenage girls so we weren’t sure if people were going to take us seriously but everyone we interviewed was really respectful and eager to be involved.
Wicked. When was that?
That was around the early 2000s then careers centre stopped funding it, so I started working in insurance and I became a mum so took time away from music for a while. Then, when I got more time to myself again, I started doing open mic nights.
I would approach them like karaoke nights and would request songs but it wasn’t quite the same vibe. Then, four years ago, I said to myself, ‘As much as I love these nights, I’m not going to one until I can play the guitar. When I set a goal, I go for it and can’t stop. So I practiced and practiced.’
And now you play guitar…
Yes! I was actually inspired by a man at an open mic night. He was so talented and in his 40s. I was like, ‘Wow you must have been playing since you were a kid’. He said, ‘No. I’ve been playing for two years, I got my guitar in a charity shop’. So I did the same, got a guitar for a tenner from a charity shop and practiced.
After a few years I wrote my first ever acoustic song and I started performing at open mic nights again. I was shaking like crazy on that first one. So nervous. But it went well and then I started doing them regularly, started getting bookings and eventually doing my own nights. People learnt the words to my songs and would sing along!
That’s amazing. Have you released these songs?
I still haven’t released them or had them fully produced. They’re really special, and I will release them one day, but I want it to be the right time. They’re like a story of how I’ve developed.
That’s awesome. So did the drum & bass songwriting run in tandem with this?
Well that happened as a result of all of that, in a way. It was at an open mic night and the drummer from the band before was still sat at the drums when I came on stage. I was about to do a song that was inspired by my love of Glastonbury. I asked if he was up for doing drums and if he could drum at 175BPM. He played it like it was D&B and everyone was singing along and I thought, ‘wow, this is what I need to do!’
And so it began!
You couldn’t stop me! So around that time, I was getting married and on my hen night I took some of us to Volks Club. I’d sent some of my acoustic vocals to one of the DJs – Hypolar, who, incidentally, is now married to my sister Sophie! He was playing that night and he had added them to a tune he’d been working on. When he played it out I was like, ‘Wow that’s my song!’ and as a result I got chatting to a producer there called Trouble. He asked me if I would like to work on something with him and I honestly didn’t think I could do it. He encouraged me and gave me the confidence to start getting some ideas for D&B lyrics recorded.
Are those tunes out?
No, they never came out. But if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be doing this at all. Those songs are great memories. From there I did some live PA’s but then Covid happened so I didn’t perform live any more and I spent the whole of my furlough working on tracks every day. I wouldn’t stop until my eyes hurt. From 10am to 1am I was writing, singing, recording and connecting with people networking. I pretty soon got to work with people I really respect and admire.
What a unique journey! So the recordings and your role within D&B as a songwriter and singer is really only just beginning?
Absolutely. There was another really random part to the journey, too. At some point I also worked for a franking company. They wanted me door knocking, trying to sell franking machines to companies. I had my suit on and was door knocking, super nervous, and I knocked on the door of this music school. Not because I thought they might need help with their post, but because I was curious to see what was going on in there!
The lady answered, I asked if they had a franking machine and she said, ‘No but we do singing lessons, come in!’ So I went upstairs and the next thing you know I’m belting out Adele songs. That led to a really lovely relationship with them and her husband used to be in the acapella group The Flying Pickets. He put together some vocal harmony groups and we did some amazing gigs and we’re all still friends now. So yeah, if it wasn’t for franking machines I wouldn’t have had singing lessons or maybe taken things this far.
When was that?
That was around 2015, and around then I was also learning the guitar. And it’s all built up slowly and gradually from there. I’ve worked with so many lovely people who’ve all taught me so much. I know I’m going to forget to mention some names but two I really need to shout out are Kit Rice who is a super talented singer and songwriter and also Sola.
Grand Theft Audio!
Those guys! I’ve worked with a lot of producers now and, alongside Airglo, I trust these guys the most with my vocals. James, one half of the duo, is now my co-writer. We met on Facebook during lockdown and he helped me with my sample packs. We went in on the last one. I think we both spent over 120 hours each on the EST one. James has been a huge support, we’ve done so many tracks together now. So I need to shout him and I really value my friendship with both the Sola guys and the support they’ve given me.
That’s great. Let’s go back to your first ever track. That was with Complex and came out right at the start of lockdowns didn’t it?
Yeah, that was my first ever one! We linked up through someone tagging me in a Facebook post. I’d been working with Trouble and those tracks were taking forever. I wanted to do more but I didn’t have much confidence and didn’t know anyone to work with. But yeah, someone tagged me on a post with Complex. I sent him over the vocals, totally untouched, but it worked really well. It’s funny; hearing that track now makes me feel so nostalgic.
From there you’ve worked with so many labels! Eloisa, Program, Formation, Overview, Grand Theft Audio, Play Me. This is one of those really inspiring lockdown stories…
Yeah it’s great that something positive came out of lockdown for me and I’m really grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve had. I spent so much time during 2020 connecting with other artists online and I think that really laid the groundwork for all the collaborations I’ve done since.
What’s really interesting is the range you cover as a singer. You’ve made a really strong name in the darker, techier side of D&B on productions by guys like Wingz and Tobax and Sili. Heavier tracks are quite often ones where vocalists find it harder to find their space…
Those are the tunes I really love, too. I love the little bit of silence before the big drop. That’s my favourite place. Actually, talking of Sili, that track we did – I Need You – is one of my personal favourites. It was finished in a week. We smashed it. The track I did with Wingz was actually where I got the most messages and feedback, too. So yeah I’d say the underground sound is much more my style. That’s where I come from. I’ve been sent musical, more mainstream tunes but I’ve turned them down because I don’t think they’re quite right for me.
That’s a good shout. Not every collab is going to work is it? Speaking of collabs. You’ve also set up a thriving collaboration page, right?
Yeah it’s taken off a lot more than I thought it would! It came about through those times when people wanted to work with me but I didn’t have time to collab because I was so busy. I felt bad because they want to work with vocalists and I’d turned them down, so I set up this group up and so many people have connected, it’s unreal. I get sent messages about how people have connected and created things through the page so that’s amazing. It’s for all abilities, too. From professionals to people who just want to have a chance. It’s great to be able to create that opportunity for people so they can enjoy the same type of experience and fulfilment I have.
That’s amazing. You’ve achieved loads since lockdowns began… It feels like you’ve been around for longer!
Yeah it’s really weird isn’t it? it feels like that for me too. I never would have thought I’d be getting to do this. it’s my favourite thing in the world. If anything negative or bad ever happens during my day, it’s always cancelled out by music.
Yes! So what’s coming up?
I have singles coming out soon with DJ Hybrid, Smooth, Dub Elements, Waeys, Sola and Airglo. Plus I’ve got lots of other really exciting collaborations in the works which I can’t quite reveal yet. I also want to get back to doing shows and live PAs when I can, too. So watch this space!