Singer-songwriter Sammy Rae is the bandleader of Sammy Rae & the Friends, a collection of musicians whose genre encompasses classic rock, folk, and funk with a little bit of soul and jazz and features a rhythm section, a horn section, keyboards, and two backup singers.
In case you haven’t heard their songs, they’ll probably get stuck in your head, and I mean that in the best way possible. In advance of their fall tour, I had the chance to talk with Sammy about her music and her influences.
How long have you been creating your art?
I’ve been writing music since I was 13, performing my songs since I was 15, and serving in a bandleader role since I was 19. My first experience with the stage was in a theater company when I was 7. I continued performing in theater productions, in a school and professional environment, until I was 20.
Where are you from? How does that influence your art?
I grew up in a small town in Connecticut. My backyard was a state park, and I spent a lot of time in the woods alone or with a neighborhood friend. . . I think my time alone and unplugged as a kid helped me process things attentively in a way that influenced my lyrical style.
My parents also had me when I was young, and we listened to a lot of classic rock/hard rock in my house. That definitely inspired me to start a band that played hard, where all of the musicians on stage were important players.
What are you currently working on or recently finished?
We’re currently working on a few new unreleased songs and will be playing them live on our upcoming tour. We will also be in the studio in the coming months.
What is your inspiration? And why?
I’m deeply inspired by our community. We attract a relatively young, kind-spirited, generally creative audience of people who enjoy togetherness and thrive when they feel like they belong.
I’m also deeply inspired by children’s media, from literature to theater to television. I’ve spent a lot of time working with kids in childcare environments, music education environments, and on children’s projects in recording studios. I’ve learned some of my most valuable life lessons from children. I once had a three-year-old look me in the eyes and say: “Sam, did you know you’re getting older every day, not just on your birthday? So every day counts.” I went home and started writing a new EP.
Why is your music important to the queer community?
I think our music and our brand is so important to the queer community because we don’t paint queerness as an “otherness” or “spectacle.” I don’t platform my queerness as my only identifier. I’m a powerful leader, a talented musician, a woman, a diligent lover and friend, a socially concerned citizen of Earth, and I happen to be queer.
What do you hope to achieve as an artist?
I want to change the way people think about themselves, and each other, for the better. I want to reach as large an audience as possible, of all ages. I want to build a career on healthy relationships, big talent, and a bad-ass fan base of kindhearted people. I want to be remembered as a powerful vocalist and advocate. I also want to be remembered as a humanitarian and a free-thinking global citizen.
Who are your top 3 major influences?
Freddie Mercury (big freedom), Ella Fitzgerald (big vocal talent), and Bruce Springsteen (big band, big songs).
How can we all support your work, talent, and gift?
Stream our songs. Attend our shows. Buy our merch. Purchase crafts and products made by members of our community that we platform on our socials. Elevate the queer voices and BIPOC voices around you. Change the way you think about the world. Be good to your inner child. We say this at the end of every live show: “Go put a smile on somebody’s face, go tell somebody they got a place in this world, go tell somebody you wanna be Friends with them.”