If you’re like most Spotify users, you find yourself using the music streaming service for a few things: To listen to an old favorite album, artist or song, to attempt to find that one song you heard while out and about or to listen to your current favorites. Music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music have cut out the need for recommendations from that “cool friend” you used to rely on almost entirely. All platforms suggest music, artists and playlists for listeners based off their listening history. Spotify, for example, curates a unique playlist — Discover Weekly — for each of its listeners that is released on a weekly basis and is an opportunity for music lovers to be introduced to music that may have been unknown to them. This feature is not only beneficial to listeners, but to smaller artists and bands, such as Sammy Rae & The Friends, as it allows them to gain recognition and to gain new listeners.
Samantha Bowers, who goes by the moniker Sammy Rae, is a 25-year-old Brooklynite who made the big move from Derby, Connecticut to New York City as an ambitious and hopeful singer/songwriter in 2013. The musician took an interest in music at a young age. She was writing her first songs at the age of 12 and at the same time was taking piano lessons and gaining inspiration from many heavyweight musicians, like Bruce Springsteen and Freddie Mercury.
The singer began to evolve her sound and interest into more of a jazz focus and learned about beloved jazz musicians Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James. It was at this time that Sammy Rae began to perform her original pieces in the tri-state area, resulting in the release of LP “Hopeless” and her first EP, “Celebrate My Heart.”
Shortly after moving to New York City, Sammy Rae began a residency at popular jazz club Cotton Club in Harlem that lasted six months. A few years later in 2016, the singer/songwriter debuted her second LP, titled “Sugar.”
The Friends of Sammy Rae & The Friends is a group composed of friends of Sammy Rae, as well as experienced musicians local to the Brooklyn area. In 2018, after performing live together at several small venues, Sammy Rae & The Friends released their first EP, “The Good Life.”
“The Good Life” features five tracks: “The Feeling,” “Good Life,” “Flesh & Bone,” “Talk It Up” and “Kick It to Me.” All five tracks contain a perfect blend of both jazz (thanks to the eight-piece band, The Friends) and pop elements, making the EP perfect for the jazz connoisseur and pop fanatic alike. Songstress Sammy Rae sings about themes that are quite relatable to teens and twenty-somethings everywhere and does so in a way that is both melodic and enticing to the listening ear, but also tells a story if you pay close attention to the lyrics.
“The Feeling” examines the struggles and hardships that come with falling in love and deciding if the good of being in a relationship outweighs the difficult parts. Aspects of falling in and out of love are also prevalent in the song as well. Sammy Rae expresses this with lyrics such as, “And it ain’t worth it, being hurt by love isn’t worth it” and “On a Monday get-together, and by Friday you’ve already fallen out of the groove, ah.”
Happier and sweeter themes are sung about in another track from “The Good Life.” The title track is about a budding relationship and the feelings and emotions running rampant at the start. From lyrics about “the stupid sneakers he wore” to freshening up with “a tin of mints and a pack of gum,” the song is realistic and catchy with a witty and sarcastic tone to liven things up.
Not long after the release of their EP, Sammy Rae & The Friends released a few singles. In 2019, the group released “Saw It Coming,” “The Box” and “Denim Jacket.” Both “Saw It Coming” and “Denim Jacket” contain that jazzy upbeat saxophone forward essence that is unique to Sammy Rae, while “The Box” is a bit more outside the box (pun intended) for the singer. It is a slower, rawer and more stripped tune, but just as beautiful and dynamic as her previous works.
Along with her ventures in releasing and recording music, Sammy Rae has also had many opportunities to perform her songs and support those who are important to her, including the LGBTQIA community and women. In February, Sammy Rae & The Friends performed a set at an event for female-fronted bands called Women That Rock X for Women That Roar. The group also performed at Lofted Voices, a night of music and conversation from the LGBTQIA musicians. Sammy Rae and her musical friends have also brought their talents together to help teach youngsters about music and finding their passion at a youth retreat in the Hamptons.
Sammy Rae & The Friends are also gearing up for a tour. The lead singer and her trusty musical sidekicks will be travelling around the East Coast on their Denim Jacket Tour from August to November as they are scheduled for shows in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and D.C.
Those who are unable to make the tour, or do not live near any of the show locations need not worry, as the artist has her music available on many platforms like Spotify, and has many live performances available to watch at any time on YouTube. The singer is present on Instagram and loves to chat with fans that she, like her band, calls “The Friends.”
If you listen to or watch Sammy Rae & The Friends, you are sure to enjoy the truly underrated artist and appreciate her original talent.