ANGI KIM: I am definitely excited to discuss the beginning of your solo career and how it came about. You’ve spent years collaborating with many different artists and performing in local New York bands like Freekbass and Turkuaz. I actually first saw you on Youtube, I was with a friend who was into jam bands at that time, and he put a video of you guys [Turkuaz] performing ‘Bubba Slide’, he points to you and goes, “You see her? Yeah, I’m gonna marry this girl!”
So that was the first time I ever heard or knew about Sammi Garett and this was six years ago. You were in a Brooklyn based, 9-piece orchestrated jam band. As a fan and also a spectator, I look at this band and think, “Yeah okay these were the band kids in high school right? These were the band and theater kids for sure”. Do you feel like you fit into that category? What were you like growing up?
SAMMI GARETT: Oh yeah, I was a band geek, I was a drama freak. You hit the nail right on the head. I was in marching band, uniform and everything. My first instrument was the drums. I played snare in the marching band and then played the bass drum for like a year. But I’m so tiny and the bass drum was so huge I was like, I don’t know if I can march with this anymore. I grew up doing all the school plays, school musicals, band, choir and all that stuff. That was me.
AK: We love the nerds and we love the theater kids! That’s cool though because I feel like you go to high school with these said people right, and then they grow up and they’re still themselves, but they're different. In high school you saw them as these nerds, then you see them pursuing their careers as adults and all of a sudden they’re not nerds anymore. As well as collaborating with others who identify as former nerds, have you done many solo gigs in the past?
SG: So I graduated Berklee College of Music in 2009, then I moved back home and it was just me and a guitar. I think I played at a place called the Rivington Lounge which doesn't exist anymore which is so weird. I was just trying to gig out as much as possible and I’ve always written songs and music. So it was just me and a guitar, playing clubs and as many shows as possible, playing with as many people as possible.Then I decided to try some improv comedy so I joined the Upright Citizens Brigade and took improv classes there, it was incredible. I feel like everyone should have to work a service industry job and take an improv class in their lifetime. Anyone can sign up for classes so improv helped me meet so many different people. It also made me an even better listener in life and on stage, because very similar to music, in improv you're playing off of the people you're on stage with. You have to pick-up on these little cues, find the unusual in the moment and play off of that. It helped me come out of my shell a little bit, because I feel like I’m fairly shy and have social anxiety. So when I'm in big groups and get very anxious, I can sort of turn on that improv comedy thing.
AK: Okay well I would never have figured that you would be anxious or uncomfortable in ANY way at all. Watching you on stage, the very first time I saw you, you had your infamous pink hair and you were in this amazing ‘Sandra Dee’ outfit. I remember very enthusiastically waving at you, you blew me a kiss, then I looked over at my friend next to me and was like, **Wink “Yeah, we’re friends on Instagram”. But I don’t think anyone would have a clue that you have social anxiety or any type of problems with putting yourself in front of people because you possess such an aura and an energy when you perform. Again, the first time I saw you it was on TV and my buddy was like, “I am going to marry this girl!” and I kinda grumbled like, “Yeah okay you can try…”
SG: Yeah and that's what I love about it so much. The city is so small in so many ways, especially within New York’s underground art community which is truly an underground community. Like you said, it's the art nerds and the band geeks in high school and middle school, and now that we’re grown up, we’re sort of those same people and we still also found our group and our community.
AK: I always refer to New York as a place where the unwanted go to feel wanted. Like you tend to belong in NYC if you didn't necessarily feel like you belonged in your hometown. NY is our home and our own community of like minded individuals, we have a community, a medium, a space to network ourselves. The underground world is so cool. I saw you on TV and within the world of music and art, I found you on Instagram and we’ve known each other for years before I met you in person.
SG: It’s so weird. We’ve been internet friends for years, but we met in real life like last month. But because of a relationship we had on a deeper level, within New York’s artistic community, it wasn’t weird. Like old friends picking up where we last started and just immediately clicked.
AK: Absolutely and social media has had the biggest part in that right? We wouldn't have had that connection as friends or artists if I didn’t see what you were doing everyday, or looking at your stories all the time. But as much as I have a lot to say about Instagram, Facebook and the algorithm, social media has become such a great platform for people to become more successful, especially as artists.
SG: And it makes it more personal too. I see people posting photos about one part of their life, but then all the live videos and the stories they post, makes them feel more accessible and human.
AK: So now I wanna transition into a question that I know you’ve asked yourself and I know many artists have asked themselves. You're starting off as a solo artist and asking yourself, ‘Okay, what is my brand gonna look like, what is Sammi gonna look like?’. That's the hardest part. Often when I talk to artists, it connects with them when you mention that your true self is a part of your brand as well. People love to see the weird things you do, people love to see Sammi Eats [a segment on instagram where Sammi just eats stuff], people like to see what’s in your life. People like to see you cry and be a real human AS WELL AS watching you sing and perform.
SG: I’ve always wanted to put out my own music but when I was graduating college there wasn't platforms like Spotify. It wasn't as easy to put out music and art as it is now. I've always wanted to put out music, and like you said, when I was trying to think of what I wanted my brand to look like and what my image should be, I had this epiphany where I was like, wait I'm already a thing. I am Sammi Garett and Sammi Eats. Why am I trying to create this whole other, start from scratch image, when I have what’s right in front of me? So I just leaned into it and it all just fell into place and it all of a sudden just clicked.
AK: Ok so now I think it would be super cool to talk about the music video. This is your first single and your first music video as the main solo artist. I thought it was cute as fuck, I loved watching you eat cake, sing and pour champagne. I thought it was sexy and bazaar but also purposely so. The song, the music video, the process….. can you elaborate on that?
SG: So I loved the juxtaposition of being photo shoot ready to being really messy with food or cake. I thought it was funny but also pretty? It showed my goofy side but also the stage presence, glam side of these two worlds coming together. Going back to the subject of social media and being accessible, with this first video coming out I really wanted to show people more of the me that’s not just on the surface.
AK: The song, was it something that you had written in a notebook somewhere and you didn’t ever find the right time to release it?
SG: It was something that I wrote during quarantine slash the pandemic. I was just writing a bunch and I had a bunch of beats and loops that I made on Ableton. Every once in a while I’d write some lyrics then go back to what I recorded on Ableton to see what fit. So yes it was one that I had written. Freekbass was producing the music, so I went to him with one song thinking I was gonna have that one be my single, and he was like, “Actually, I think this should be your single.” I ended up liking that a lot better. ‘With You’ wasn’t going to be my first release, but like everything else, it felt very right, it fell into place and I just went with the flow.
AK: I think that’s a theme for a lot of artists and just people in general lately is taking things one day at a time and just hoping that what you give out to the world will be brought back to you.
So to wrap up this interview, I would like to ask you a question that I have been asking all of my artists lately, because I’m still having trouble with it myself and I know a lot of artists struggle with it, but when life shits on you, whether it’s money related, job, family or mental health related, and you still have to maintain your art, how do you get out of a slump that is the unmotivation monster that keeps you from your creative process?
SM: So with my single I thought my other song was gonna be my single. I ended up bringing my music to Freekbass and also to Greg [my fiance], and just putting stuff in front of another set of eyes was helpful, I feel like you get to a point where you hit a wall. So presenting it to some other creative mind and looking at it from a completely different angle, you’re going to notice things that you would’ve never thought of. That I think is super helpful and even though sometimes I get overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I have to do, I like being busy. I feel like being busy helps me focus more on all the stuff I have to do rather than if I just had nothing. I like working, I like being busy and having a lot going on. Collaborations are awesome! Even a visual artist and a musician, finding another person who can see something completely different that you might not have seen before.
Photographed by Angi Kim, February 2022
9:00 PM EST
New York, NY