On Thursday, Nov. 18, while most other R&B fans spent the evening watching Stephanie Mills and Chaka Khan on Verzuz, I slid over to The Peppermint Club in West Hollywood for the last night of Samm Henshaw’s Sorry I’m So Late I Was Busy Doing Nothing Tour.
Since discovering a hypnotic jam from Henshaw called “Chicken Wings,” I wanted the world to know about this emerging new artist. Yet with 1.2 million Spotify followers and counting, it quickly became clear I had joined an already well-established fandom. And once the show began, I found out just how diehard Henshaw’s American fans are. Following sold-out shows in both New York City and Atlanta, the British crooner found himself at yet another sold out show on a late, lukewarm Autumn night.
The pre-show, sponsored by Love Baked Wings, My/Mochi, and Love Swirls, included boneless chicken wings (obviously) as well as individually-packaged mochi and cotton candy. Under warm yellow lights, I sat with restless anticipation until I made my way to center stage for the main event.
Outside of performing singles (”Grow,” “Still Broke” and the aforementioned “Chicken Wings”) from his forthcoming debut album, Untidy Soul, Henshaw sent the crowd into a frenzy with live renditions slightly older songs like “The World Is Mine,” “How Does It Feel,” and “Church.”
“I don’t think any of the singles really represent what [the album] sounds like,” Henshaw explained to me with surprising candor. “[That’s] also the reason I don’t want to release more singles, because I want people to get what is there and take it for what it is.”
During our interview at an obscure cafe in Hollywood, Henny From The Block (as he sometimes playfully referred to) spoke with vibrancy that felt reminiscent of his onstage persona. Aside from chatting about Untidy Soul and my favorite song of 2021, we laughed while discussing jet lag, the depths of R&B history from America and the UK, the tour, and of course, chicken wings.
This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.
What is Untidy Soul?
It’s got a lot of different meanings and parts to it, but overall, a lot of people would ask me what my sound was and I couldn’t tell for the longest time. Then, one day I must’ve just randomly said the music’s just very messy, sort of unclean, unkept, untidy soul and I was like that can be a cool name. On top of the fact that for me, in regards to the process, I’m a bit of a scatterbrain and my whole process of thinking, the way I put stuff together is quite messy and untidy, but I just kinda found this beauty in that.
Favorite track from the album?
At the moment, it’s a song that we did called “Joy.” It’s the end of the project and I don’t know, it gets me every time. We played it at a show in London. It was the first time we played it, which was a massive risk. My music director was just like, “I don’t think we should play this song last.” And I was like, “Bro. I really want to.”
I always knew I was gonna have it at the end of the show. I did [it and] I ended up crying. I can’t exaggerate; that’s never happened to me before and I had to rush off stage ‘cause I started weeping. It’s a really great song.
Is it a personal song for you?
Yeah. I think the whole project is quite personal, but that one in particular… “Joy” is just the end of this story that’s a journey of me trying to find myself, trying to figure out who I am, trying to grow. “Joy” is this place that I get to and I find out that was what was I was looking for all along. So, yeah it’s definitely my favorite.
What was it like headlining your first tour in the US?
It was an incredible and sort of overwhelming experience. Meeting the fans was great and to see my music connecting with people so far from where I live was very humbling. It just made me excited to come back and do some more next year.
Which crowd has the best energy?
I think the crowds were all great for different reasons. NY had that raw energy. ATL was very hospitable [but] LA felt like a home show.
What can fans expect from Untidy Soul?
A little bit more insight into my life. I’ve heard that I don’t reveal a lot of myself to people, which I like, but there’s a lot more about me—the way I think, family stuff. I [also] don’t write songs for people. I write basically for an individual and on this project, there’s a lot of stuff that I hope people can relate to in regards to growth and learning from stuff.
I think that’s a big part of it for me. It’s just a project about lessons and growth [and] I hope people take away some of that stuff. “Chicken Wings” is the only of its kind on the project, and the same can be said for every other song, but somehow it works. Someone said to me the other day, “It feels like a journey of every generation of soul and R&B.” I appreciate that because I wanted to go for that. In a way, it works for me. I found all the stuff I love and listen to, put it into my thing, and created my own version of that.
‘Untidy Soul’ is slated for a Jan. 2022 release. Watch the video for the album’s lead single, “Still Broke” below.