Sammy Jackson is a Canadian singer-songwriter who’s recognized for her distinct sound fusing elements of jazz, R&B and pop.
She’s shared the stage with renowned musicians including Barbra Lica, Robi Botos and Larnell Lewis. Her latest project is With You, a five-track EP that’s honest and relatable. It has thoughtful lyrics and genre-melding compositions.
For the New Music Spotlight, she joined us to talk about her new music and the challenging of being vulnerable.
Your debut album Take Me Back was released in 2016. How have things changed for you musically in that span of time?
Now that it’s been four years, I’ve developed more of my own sound and I feel that I’m more sure of myself as a songwriter. As you grow older, you become a little bit more confident. It’s still the same idea of meshing jazz, pop and R&B, because those are the genres I really love. It’s still based on that, but I feel like I’m coming into my own now.
Were you trying to deliberately grow musically, or did it just come naturally as you became older and wiser?
It was a bit of a process. I had done some other schooling, because I was going to pursue a different avenue altogether, but I made a decision to figure out what I wanted to personally put out to the world. I just decided that this is what I want to put out there and how I want to present myself.
What is it about this style that you really connect with?
In jazz, I really love the idea of improvisation and being spontaneous. When you play a standard, it never sounds the same if you play it twice. It’s always a little bit different. I love the idea of collaboration as well. You can have a lead sheet, and the players can come up with their own ideas to make one whole, cohesive sound. I love that aspect of it. With R&B and pop, that’s what I grew up listening to and it’s really ingrained in me as a singer.
Tell me a little bit about With You. How did this EP come about?
I put out the first one in 2016, and I had been thinking about releasing some new music but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was trying to develop as an artist and as a person. There were a few events that had taken place in my life that I wanted to share with other people and get them out of my system. I started writing songs pertaining to those specific events, and that’s how it started. That was the inspiration behind it.
It does feel like a very personal album. You deal with love, insecurity, relationship troubles. Does it ever feel hard to be that vulnerable?
Definitely. For example, the song Past Tense is about being super insecure. A part of me had second thoughts about it, but I feel like people can relate to these topics and I wanted to push the boundary of what could be seen as acceptable. There was some vulnerability there. But at the same time, it’s just what it is. It’s me being honest about things that have happened.
While I was listening to the title track With You, it felt like a twofold love letter — to a person and to a place. Can you talk about that song?
This song was written in collaboration with Jacqueline Teh. The idea was to talk about my experience while travelling in Canada with my now-husband, but also to talk about our relationship and how it’s grown over the years. The idea was to take people on a little ride with us as we were travelling, and throughout our relationship as well.
I love the references to places you’ve gone. Is there any particular place that really stuck with you?
I was so surprised by how beautiful Canada is. The place that I really loved was Banff. That was my favourite place to go, and I’m hoping to go back next year. It’s absolutely stunning there.
This interview has been edited and condensed.