Pearls Of Wisdom: An Interview With JoySmith
Stages housed in the North East were ablaze from the beaming smile and radiance of actress Samantha Morris and bore her many content years of bringing words to life through drama. Yet, always present in her conscious was an aspiration for the performer to pen her beliefs through song. "I’ve been quietly writing for years and always singing. As is often the case with these things, it was a voyage to get here but looking back, what came before it was preparation for this," she enthuses, on the day where her debut EP T.H.R.O.U.G.H is aired.
"I think it’s taken until now to dare to do it, plus the pandemic created this time I haven’t had before, as well as having so many things I wanted to write about; it just all felt right," she reasons. A new venture often demands a new name, and Samantha claimed the moniker JoySmith, revealing the meaning of her title: "I once met someone whose name was Joy Smith, and the idea grew from that. The notion being that Smith outlines a person’s trade, craft, what they work with or make- like a silversmith or goldsmith. I loved the idea that my trade could be joy. So a smith of Joy."
With a spellbinding voice, often offered ballads and folkish ditties, Morris thinks of its foundation and how it became the quasar feature in her collection of songs. "I took singing lessons when I was younger, which were mostly classically based, and studied musical theatre at drama school. I love both, but they are both distinct styles. When I started writing and recording my own songs, I went on a bit of a journey to find my natural, organic voice, which I feel like I found on this EP."
T.H.R.O.U.G.H was recorded at Broadwater Studio in Gateshead under the guidance of Paul Worthington, who proved a guru in this novel world, bestowing his knowledge to Sam. "He taught me a lot. He worked hard to deliver what I had in mind and my vision for this; it turns out I’m specific, which I didn’t know about myself until I started this. In terms of the vocal being a focal point, this was very much the case as my main instrument is my voice. I play a little piano (badly; my piano teacher sacked me!), and I write most of my work, starting with the vocal and build the track from there."
"Also, I love acapella and layering lots of harmonies, which I tried to do throughout. I love the simplicity that harmony can change the feel of a song in such a simple way and can emphasise what is said, so I wanted to make loads of space for the vocal throughout." Craving the words written to be without distraction, concentrating on vocals was a natural process for her.
The six Pop tracks with Jazz flavours are as elegant as a row of freshwater pearls: unfussy and hold a modest power and grace, with a particularly gospel appreciation in number Do Less. The chirpy chanteuse expands, "I love gospel music and try to bring that feel in FEAR pt 2 as well. I’d actually love to be in a gospel choir! She collaborated with several 'ridiculously talented people' and still pinches herself regularly about the prospect. "All the piano is by North East musician James Peacock who is incredible and totally got my vision for each song."
"The backing vocals are by three members of North East choir, Voices of Virtue: April Olatunji, Chinyere Igun and Glen Smiley. They are all performers, musical directors and composers in their own right, so it was incredible to have them be part of this. April also teaches singing, and I did a few sessions with her, ahead of getting the vocals down for the EP. The trumpet part on Missing was by David Olatunji, who again is a stunning musician. I love what he created for this track. We literally had a Zoom call, and I talked through my idea once; David went away and crafted the most beautiful part."
Song What We Thought developed immense meaning during the pandemic as a method of bottling life lessons that Morris does not want and must never forget. However, it is the brass tones of Missing that has the most heartfelt purpose to her: 'I started it years ago when I lost a family member and was trying to work out grief really and also about how annoying missing people were. It bugged me because it can be such a horrible and painful feeling, but cruelly it can’t change anything. She could not reach an answer and so left the song to stew.
"In the first wave, my boyfriend and I got locked down separately, and I couldn’t see him for ages, and obviously then family and friends etc. One day I missed everyone and was trying to shake it off, went back to the song and discovered my answer and the final line: it’s just a sign of love. I realised the amount that you miss something is related to the amount of love held. That helped me too and was a little revelation."
Sam signs off by attempting to process what she envisages the listeners gaining from her work, keeping in mind that she has never released anything before this point. 'So far, only friends have heard it, and they’re all kind people! I wish that people grab hold of a lyric and use it for themselves for whatever they need. On my social media, I post song lyrics that I hope are encouraging, so maybe that. If I could choose what people gained from it, I think it would be that they felt encouraged."
Article by Beverley Knight