With the release of her debut single, actress, singer and television personality Samira kicks of summer 2022 in serious style!
Created in collaboration with super-producer collective W.D.C, ‘I Love Your Smile’ sees the former Love Island contestant breathe new life into American recording artist Shanice’s 1991 global smash hit, successfully updating and reworking elements of the much loved, feel-good R&B anthem for a new generation of pop fans to enjoy!
Having already carved out an incredibly successful musical theatre career, appearing in West End productions of Mamma Mia! and Dreamgirls, Samira now stands of the cusp of a new era in her life, as she embarks upon a journey that she hopes will take her straight to the top of pops premier league!
Having spent the last twelve months crafting material for her forthcoming debut album with some of the music industry’s hottest songwriters and producers, including Kal Lavelle (Ed Sheeran, Izzy Bizu), Cutfather (Demi Lovato, The Pussycat Dolls), Ryan Ashley (H.E.R, Anne-Marie) and Lil Eddie (Maluma, Rita Ora), Samira’s decision to collaborate with W.D.C (Who Dis Collective) – an anonymous collective of producers from the UK responsible for millions of record sales and multiple well known hit songs – should come as no surprise to followers of the 26-year old star, whose determination and risk taking has, so far, afforded her the life she’s always dreamed!
To celebrate the start of this new chapter in career, we caught up with South London native to talk the challenges of remaking classic 90’s pop records, musical inspirations, embracing change and the important of self-belief…
Hey Samira! You’ve clearly had an epic couple of weeks – how are you finding life as a pop star?
I love it! I’ve dreamed of being a singer my whole life – so there’s actually a part of me that can’t quite believe any of this is happening (laughs). Seriously, for as long as I can remember this all I’ve ever wanted to do, so to be out here doing it is amazing, and I’m super grateful with how things are going.
‘I Love Your Smile’ is doing big things, you must be so happy with the response and attention it’s getting!
I’m so happy, I really am! I was definitely quite nervous in the beginning, and I was worried about what people would think, but I’ve actually found it quite exciting to see people’s different reactions to my version of the song; they seem to be really loving it which is a relief (laughs). And it’s crazy all of the different places and territories that are playing it, that’s not something I’d ever really thought about! My Mum was just in France on holiday, and she called me one night and was like ‘Samira they’re playing your song in the bar I’m in!’ and we both just started screaming (laughs).
There’s no denying, the original is an absolute tune! The lyrics are so uplifting, and the melody just sounds like a warm, care-free, sunny summers day – what is it you love most about the track?
Oh it’s honestly such an important song to me! Not only is it one of my Mum’s favourite songs, but my sister is actually named after Shanice, the original singer! So it really does have a special place in my heart – my family and I just love it, we really do. Putting my personal connection to it to one side though, I like the fact that it’s the kind of song that appeals to people of all ages, like you can find enjoyment in it and dance to it if you’re 90 years old or 4 years old, it crosses generations because, forgive the pun, it really does just make you smile (laughs). For years it was the song I would turn to when I was having a down day, because I knew as soon as I heard it, it would lift me up and make me feel good. So to be able to record and release my own version is amazing.
So we guess when W.D.C first approached you with the idea to remake the song, you didn’t think twice about saying ‘yes’…
Oh it was a complete no brainer, I didn’t have to think twice (laughs). I felt like it was the perfect launch pad for this new chapter in my career.
Did you ever feel a pressure though in taking on such a popular, well known song or ever worry about how you were going to make it your own?
Erm… do you know what, it wasn’t all that daunting to be honest with you because I felt confident that I could do something really special with it, and add little flavour to make it sound fresh in 2022. Obviously there are moments when you doubt yourself, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t, and I guess my biggest fear was that I didn’t want people to think I’d ruined such a beloved and iconic song, and therefore spoilt it for everyone forever (laughs). But on the whole I’ve felt good about this whole project.
Right now it feels like everybody loves a classic 90’s throwback, but presented with a modern day twist – it’s almost like people find comfort in the nostalgia of re-living memories of their youth. You must be excited at thought of bringina little bit of joy into people’s lives and also, potentially introducing the track to a whole new generation of music fans…
Exactly! I think Shanice released her version back in 1991, so there’s a high probability that that a lot of young people today might not even know it. When I was growing up, whenever I heard somebody do a cover version of an old song, I would always google the original artist and find out all about them; that’s actually how I discovered a lot of my favourite singers! So I kind of like the idea that somebody might hear my track, do a little bit of research online about the original and then re-discover Shanice – I hope that happens because she’s amazing!
W.D.C x Samira – I Love Your Smile (Official Lyric Video)
There’s no denying that you have well and truly paid your dues in this industry! And finally you seem to be reaping the rewards… you must be on cloud 9 right now?
Do you know what, I honestly couldn’t be happier! I know it sounds super cheesy, but I really, truly feel like I was born to do this. As a child I would daydream and fantasise all day long about being a famous actress in Hollywood, or being a pop star and on stage performing in front of thousands of people, so to be able to live out some of those dreams now just blows my mind.
If we were to go back in time, to those days of you growing up as a kid in London, dreaming 24/7 of making it big in the entertainment industry – what do you think it was that initially drew you to the bright lights of showbiz?
I always loved dancing, and I used to LOVE watching Britney Spears perform because she was an absolute force on that stage! Seriously, if you go back and watch any of her old award show performances, she was just giving it and serving so hard! That kind of energy that she exuded, kind of made me feel alive, and I just remember thinking how I’d love to be able to do what she was doing one day.
Other than Britney, which other artists had an impact on your life and inspired you to do what you’re doing now?
There were so many! So as well as being obsessed with Britney, I was also really into people like Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson – you know, those one of a kind artists, and megastars, who just took over the world and made a massive impact with their music, and their performances and videos? They were legendary and everything they did was iconic!
Very early on in your professional career, you appeared in some pretty big stages, performing in West End productions of Mamma Mia and Dreamgirls – how are you finding the transition going from the world of musical theatre to planet pop?
Do you know what, from my point of view, I don’t think it’s been that much of a challenge to be honest with you because I’m somebody who thrives off of change. That being said, I’ve definitely had to shift my perspective on a couple of things though, like when I was first going into the studio I used to overthink everything because there were no rules to follow. When you’re working in musical theatre, you’re playing a character, you have a director telling you what to do and how to perform, whereas you don’t really have that in the studio working on your own music – you’re just being yourself and doing you. So that maybe took me a minute to adjust too, but I love that I can totally be myself now, and that I can be a bit more chilled and laid back, and go with whatever vibe I’m feeling that day.
And how about vocally? Are you enjoying exploring and discovering new textures and tones of your voice as you work in the studio on your solo material?
Very much so, I’m having a blast. I’m used to having to be quite dramatic and over the top, and belting out these big musical theatre songs, to the point where it sometimes felt like I was screaming rather than singing (laughs). But being in the studio and working on my own music, has allowed me to discovered more of my in-voice, and all of the different quirks and sounds that I can produce as a singer which has been cool. Having said that though, I don’t think I would be able to do any of those things vocally had it not been for my musical theatre training. Putting in the work and really learning my craft has helped me to develop my technique and given me a really good ear for what sounds good… and what doesn’t (laughs).
As you’ve just mentioned being in the studio, and working on your own music, we’ve got to ask what can expect from to hear from you and your original material in the coming months?
My original music is so good, and seriously I cannot wait for people to hear it! I’ve taken all of the mad, crazy and creative ideas that I’ve had stored away in my brain for years, and turned them into songs that I believe my generation are going to love! Even though I’m really inspired by all different styles and genres of music, I’d say my sound is quite unique and individual – it’s ultimately dance / pop, but it definitely has more of an edge. I’ve always been obsessed with songs that just make you want to dance, like I’m all about doing full choreo and bringing back some old school Janet Jackson style dance breakdowns (laughs), so you can expect a lot of high energy and empowering anthems… I’m striving to make music that people won’t forget!
Even though you’ve established yourself as a bonafide West End performer, it’s probably fair to say that a lot of peoples first introduction to you came following your appearance on Love Island back in 2018. Does pivoting back to your first love of performing, make releasing music more nerve-wracking now that you’ve got more eyes on you?
I can’t lie, it can be difficult sometimes to know what direction to take or when to launch a project, and I think that’s mainly because this industry is always constantly changing and evolving – sometimes from week to week (laughs). There’s always a new trend to follow, a new artist or personality arriving on the scene, a new social media platform to get your head around – you’ve got to constantly be on your toes, and be adaptable to whatever’s thrown at you. But at the end of the day though, you just have to listen to your gut instinct, and know within your heart that things will happen as they are supposed to.
Since your time on the show, you’ve done a wonderful job of engaging with your audience and building a strong online presence…
I think you have to build up some sort of rapport with fans / followers / supporters to survive in this industry now! It’s almost like you need people to invest emotionally in what you’re doing, to continue to be successful because it’s one thing for me to put out a song and have people like it and listen to it a few times, but it’s a whole other thing to have them care enough about what I’m doing to then want to head over to my Spotify profile and invest more of their time listening to more of my music, do you know what I mean? You just have to keep people interested, so I’m always trying to come up with new and different ideas for content that will hopefully set me apart from everyone else. And I think I’m doing a good… I hope I’m doing a good job should I say (laughs). I know I’ve gained a much bigger following since being on the show, and I’m so grateful to everyone who supports me, I’ve got some really cool followers, and I hope they are able to see what I post online is just me being me, and that everything I do is genuine and authentic.
You recently shared a video of you reacting an episode from this years series of Love Island, as they played your version of ‘I Love Your Smile’ – that must have felt like a real full circle moment for you?
Oh that was incredible! I think some people were a bit confused as to why I posted that, or why I was so emotional at them playing my song on the show – but it was HUGE moment for me! Can you imagine being on a programme, and deep down knowing you have all of these dreams of making music and performing, and so for years later for that same programme to play my song… it blew my mind (laughs). I’m quite close to Coco who was on this years series, and she said they played it one night in the villa and everyone was dancing to it which I loved.
As you embark upon this new chapter in your career, how are you feeling about everything you’ve done and achieved in your life so far?
I’m so proud of myself, and how hard I’ve worked to make all of this happen because it’s not as easy as people think. There’s A LOT that goes into making music, and it takes more time and energy than people think. I’ve been travelling a lot recently, going back and fourth between here and Copenhagen to work with some incredible songwriters and producers, and as much fun as it’s been, there are some days that you’re in the studio till 4am, and then you’re back at it a couple of hours later so it can be tough, and it takes a lot of time, dedication and sacrifice to make it all happen. But I’ve never been afraid of hard work, and I’m willing to put in all the hours it takes.
Samira we have LOVED talking you today and we can’t wait to see what you do next! But before we let you go, can you tell us a secret about what you’re working on at the moment?
Well… I don’t want to be too specific or give too much away, but I will tell you that I’ve recently been working on bringing to life some pretty epic ideas and concepts for music / performances that I think you’re going to love! I want to be memorable, and so I’m going to go all out to make sure I’m someone that you’re never going to forget!