Sound-Savvy Interview: Def Jam Recording Artist Sterling Simms

Posted by Mack of Sound-Savvy On 4:54 PM

Singer/Songwriter Sterling Simms is on a mission – to bring back R&B music! As one of the newest artists on Def Jam, his solo debut, Yours, Mine and the Truth (read the review here) brings honesty, versatility, and a stunning display of his vocal skills. Along with his team, the Knightwritaz, he’s reviving the sound of R&B music and reminding the world what it’s like to be a real singer. Simms is on a fast track, and as you’ll find in this interview, he shows no signs of slowing down! His album is in stores now!

Sound-Savvy: How’s it goin’ today Sterling?
Sterling Simms: I’m chillin my dude just out here grindin ya dig?

Sound-Savvy: That’s wassup. First off, Sound-Savvy wants to know what does your life sound like? If you could take a few songs from any artists in any genre what would you say your life sounds like?
Simms: I’m from Philly so you gotta take a little Musiq Soulchild, and I’ve been down in ATL workin’ for the past 8-9 years off and on so you gotta take a little Usher and the ATL sound. So you put it all in one melting pot, put it in the crock pot, let it bubble up, add a lil’ swag to it and that’s me. That’s Sterling Simms.

Sound-Savvy: That’s wassup I’m feelin that. So you mentioned you were in Philly and you moved to ATL, how was that transition as far as your music goes?
Simms: I’ve been living in Atlanta off and on since I was about 15. Atlanta has a great music scene down here, it’s a lot of hitmakers down here so I was able to come down here and network with everybody. One thing I do love about Atlanta is that this city really supports its own. In Philly, there’s a lot of talent – there’s a lot of people that are doin their thing but they’re all kinda doin’ it on their own. I kinda wish sometimes that even in Philly – the Philly movement could be a lot stronger in my opinion if we all just supported each other, if we all moved as one unit like they do down here. Down here, there’s so many different grooves, so many people doin their thing, but they all seem to move as one, that’s why their presence has been so strong for so long. That’s one thing I definitely respect down here.

Sound-Savvy: I think a lot of areas see that; I’m originally from the DC area (the DMV), and it’s kinda like that up there, it’s a lot of talent but everybody’s just kinda movin in different directions so I feel you on that.
Simms: Yeah, exactly! I lived in DC for a little bit too and it was like that too. It’s a whole bunch of different go-go bands doin’ their thug thizzle and it seems like they was just beefin’ wit each other. I’m like “Why not move as one and support each other?”

Sound-Savvy: Exactly, yeah I feel you.
Simms: Strength always moves in numbers. That’s one thing I love about Atlanta.

Sound-Savvy: So where did you get your start in music; what made you take an interest in it?
Simms: I’ve really been doin’ music all my life. I recorded my first song when I was 6. My grandfather was a musician, composer and writer. I used to admire him and he had a studio in his basement. I used to watch him work all the time and I always wanted to do it. Being introduced to music at a young age, at first I just wanted to be a kid but as I grew older I grew an appreciation for it. Performing for different people and writing and creating music on my own it was fun. So I got started really young.

Sound-Savvy: When did you move into being serious about songwriting, because you do a lot of songwriting right?
Simms: Right. I wrote my first song when I was 13-14 years old but I didn’t really take it seriously til I was about 18-19, I was a late bloomer to it. That’s when I really started goin’ hard at writing. I was put in a situation in DC where I was just working on my album for the first time so I was able to sit down and really come up with records. I started producing at one point; I just wanted to do everything. I wanted to really perfect my pen and perfect my artistry so I was able to do that while I was in Maryland and DC.

Sound-Savvy: So what other artists have you written for?
Simms: Since I started writing, other than myself, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Marsha Ambrosius from Floetry, Mario on his last album, Jojo – I’ve got a record on her now, a girl group on Interscope that released their album last year called Girlicious, I did 3 records for them, The Pussycat Dolls. It’s a couple people. Just me being a writer, it opened up doors for me in a lot of different ways.

Sound-Savvy: Yeah man that’s big. So tell me about the Knightwritaz. Who’s a part of that and how did you get connected with them?
Simms: Knightwritaz is a company that I started a couple of years ago. It started with me and it was just three of us at one point: me, my man, and a producer we work with by the name of Oak. I had a job, (this is before I signed and all that); we all had jobs so we were only writing records at night. Because of our jobs, we weren’t able to get to work in the studio til’ around 9 or 10 o’clock at night. That led to us working all hours of the night. One day it was just like “Yo man, we really only work at night time,” and I’m like “Yeah, we’re night writers.” It kinda just rolled off the tongue and we kinda just stuck with it. Since then, we were able to expand; Mario jumped on board with the team, Marsha reps the team, Galina, Steve-O, Oak, Papa Justify, Sugar Tongue Slim, Ja. It’s just one big movement, we’re not tied to each other contractually, we just enjoy working with each other, we have a great creative chemistry together and like I said, strength moves in numbers so hopefully the team will grow bigger.

Sound-Savvy: That’s wassup. So let’s talk about the album for a bit. Your debut album is Yours Mine and the Truth. What was the concept behind the album?
Simms: I wanted all my songs to be really conceptual because I think when you paint a picture for people, it draws people in. I based this album off a relationship I was in. I’m single now so…. What we did is I gave her version of what happened, my version of what happened and then it’s the truth.

Sound-Savvy: So as far as producers, who did you work with?
Simms: Aside from the Knightwritaz, which is me and my writing team and big Oak, we did 3 records on there, I was able to get with Tricky and Dream, and they did 3 records. I worked with the CornerBoyz, this new kid out of Atlanta named Soundz who did the Love In This Club remix for Usher. I got in with a lot of different people; I worked with Rodney Jerkins on the last album trying to put records together for it. It’s a lot of talent on there. Adonis, Sean Garrett, those are some of the other writers on the project. It came out dope, its 13 records on there and if you don’t have it you need to go grab it. It’s dealin’ with relationships so if you ever been in a relationship, you’re gonna be able to relate to this album. It’s just the ups and downs of it, the good the bad and the ugly.

Sound-Savvy: Yeah it’s a dope album I definitely agree. You mentioned the Dream, he wrote your current single, All I Need right?
Simms: Yup, All I Need featuring Jadakiss.

Sound-Savvy: Aight, so what made you choose that as a first single and are you working on a video?
Simms: When I went in to work with Tricky and Dream I flew out to Vegas, they were working out of the Palm studio in Vegas. I flew out there to work with them; we went in for 3 days. I was in there recording another record by the name of Bad Dream and we were taking a recording break. Tricky was just going through the playlist of songs that he had and All I Need came on and I was just like “Yo is this open?” and he was like “Yeah…”. So I’m like “Yo let’s cut this now!” It just felt good, there’s a lot of energy behind the record. It seemed like it was fun, something that I definitely wanted as a part of the project so I recorded it, sent it out to Def Jam and Def Jam was like “Yo, this is your next single” so that’s really how that came about. We sent it to Kiss and Jada jumped right on it and it came out crazy. We’re taking in treatments now; we’re supposed to shoot the video sometime in March so definitely look out for that.

Sound-Savvy: Cool. Now there was a version of that floating around with Lloyd on it, were there plans to record that together? Or how did that happen?
Simms: What happened was, originally Trick and Dream had cut that record on Lloyd and I went in and I cut the record maybe a couple weeks after and they said his project was already closed out and he wasn’t keeping the record. So I’m like “Shame on them, I’m keeping the record.” I went in and got it paid for and we were putting the ball behind putting the record out. And a friend of mine called me and was like “Yo, your record’s on the radio!” and I’m like “For real?” He was like “Yeah a DJ was playin’ it!” but it wasn’t my version, it was Lloyd’s. Somebody from Lloyd’s camp leaked the record. So it’s a lot of back and forth about how it really went down. But we had Jadakiss on it. I had my Jadakiss version already so I leaked my version that same week just to show people that my version was the one that was official. It happens all the time; I got plenty of records that leaked that I did for other people. I had a record called Ghetto Love that I had wrote and Mario cut it, and my version leaked. So, it happens.

Sound-Savvy: Yeah it does, and I’ve seen that a lot with Mario and Ne-yo. A lot of songwriters’ stuff gets leaked.
Simms: Ne-yo just had that happen. One of his records leaked and it was actually a record he wrote for a female. People just being ignorant, they download and listen to it, it sounds like something… ya know, that it aint…

Sound-Savvy: Yeah cause I heard the record…
Simms: Ya know what I’m sayin, just makin him look all crazy. It’s just like come on don’t even be ignorant. Clearly it’s not for him.

Sound-Savvy: Right and I think that just comes from lack of understanding. People just don’t know the nature of the business and what goes on.
Simms: Exactly, exactly. It happens all the time.

Sound-Savvy: And of course bloggers go crazy with stuff like that. Not THIS blogger, but certain bloggers do.
Simms: I can dig it, it’s all good man, it’s all good.

Sound-Savvy: So what I really like about your album, I think you have some interesting music on there. You tell a lot of your stories from the guy’s perspective, especially stuff like Single. It’s one of those joints where you’re in this relationship but you’re reminiscing back like “I wish I had that again”. Was that from that personal experience?
Simms: Yeah, definitely. I’mma tell you how that whole thing came about. I was in the car with another female we work with, she reps the camp too by the name of Galina Harper. We were at the studio and she knew about my relationship and she just asked me “What’s up with homegirl? How is she?” I was like “She’s good, she get on my nerves every now and again.” She’s like “Yeah, I know. I know how that goes”. I’m like “Yeah, ya know some days I just remember being single. I remember when I ain’t have to check in no more. Ya know, we should write about this shit.” We ended up writing about it and it came out crazy.

Sound-Savvy: Yeah that is a hot record!
Simms: Anybody in a relationship can relate to that. It doesn’t mean you don’t love that person and you’re not happy about the relationship. You just remember when you didn’t have those responsibilities.

Sound-Savvy: Right. Another joint I’m really feelin is Boom Boom Room. What’s good wit that? I see you got a couple joints for the ladies…
Simms: I mean yeah, it’s definitely for the ladies. I invite all the ladies into the Boom Boom Room. You wanna hear how music gets made, come through! I’ll show you how to work the 808; I’ll show you where the chords need to go…

Sound-Savvy: Hahaha… a lot of metaphors there.
Simms: Exactly, a lot of melodies going down. You know what I’m sayin? Show you how to hit certain notes, wit the bridge and right when the song climaxes… ya know.

Sound-Savvy: A LOT of metaphors there! So what’s up for the next single?
Simms: Not sure yet, we still bouncing around a few ideas, I’m actually working on my next album, RSVP which will be in stores this summer. So I don’t know, I’m not sure yet. Maybe Doin’ Dat Dere, maybe Boom Boom Room. I think I wanna do a slower look so it might be Makin’ Music (Boom Boom Room) I got my vote on Makin’ Music (Boom Boom Room). So I’m gonna sit down with Def Jam, we gon’ figure it out definitely.

Sound-Savvy: You can put Sound-Savvy’s vote on that one too. I wanna hear that joint on the radio
Simms: That’s what it is!

Sound-Savvy: You doin any shows now, touring to promote or anything?
Simms: I just got back from Philly, I had to do a show up there with Bobby Valentino. We tore it down. Me and Dream are supposed to hit the road, he’s goin on the road the end of March, I’m tryin to work it out now so I can jump on the road with him. Anywhere man, ya know. I do impromptus all the time, as long as it’s a band and a mic. I got the voice so definitely keep a look out.

Sound-Savvy: You need to come through Charlotte man, I’ll come through and check you out and bring some folks to check you out.
Simms: Oh most def, fa sho. Fa sho!

Sound-Savvy: So you’re already working on your next album and you’re planning for a summer release. It’s called RSVP?
Simms: Yep, Raw Sex Vocal Pleasure...

Sound-Savvy: Say that one more time?
Simms: Ha haaaaa. I’m goin there with this next album. It’s like I got a raw set and I’m tryin’ to keep it raw. ‘S’ for sex - it’s gonna definitely be sexual. It’s also gonna be vocal cause u know I really sing. The death of the vocoder is the movement. We tryin to put death to all the vocoders!

Sound-Savvy: Hahaha…
Simms: I’m really tryin to do it man, I really sing. And ‘P’ is just pleasure; that’s the experience that you’re gonna get.

Sound-Savvy: So the vocoder, do you feel like that’s taken away from a lot of R&B artists today? People like Kanye are kinda crossing over because they’re using stuff like that…
Simms: I do appreciate it, because people have been using the vocoder for years. It’s not something that just got hot. It’s something that people have been using for years. But I’m trying to lean it to a different direction. I don’t want to become a trend. I’ve always been the person that tries to do the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing because that makes you stand out. If everybody is wearing black, I’mma wear white that day, just so I can be the one wearing white and everybody can ask why I’m wearing white. I like the attention, call me an attention hog. It is what it is!

Sound-Savvy: I feel ya
Simms: But I’m just tryin to really just bring the music back. I want my next album to be really musical. I’m goin in! I’m just gonna up the game. On my end, I’m gonna step it up as far as singin’ and my vocal delivery and the concepts and just the music. It’s all about the music! So I’m startin to go in man. RSVP – it’ll be in stores this summer, make sure you go grab that when it comes out. I’m not gonna go to far away from what I gave you on Yours Mine and the Truth, but it’s just gonna be Yours, Mine, and the Truth on crack!

Sound-Savvy: That’s wassup, lookin forward to that!

Sterling Simms on Myspace
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Related Post
Album Review: Sterling Simms - Yours, Mine and the Truth

1 Comment

  1. Martini Said,

    Naturally, out of the entire interview (which was great) I came away with this.. RSVP (sweet baby yeezus) ...WOW...can't wait....

    Posted on March 10, 2009 at 7:35 PM


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