R&B teen heartthrob Sammie was well-known for his 1999 smash hit, "I like it," off of his debut album From the Bottom to the Top. Now, the singer is back on top, with a new sultry sound and a new name. With singles like “Dancer” and “Passionately”, Leigh Bush, as he is called now, is proving that he is a grown man who is ready to give us what's been missing in R&B.
EBONY.com caught up with Bush to discuss his transition from child star, his new EP ‘The Leigh Bush Project’ and bringing back "real" R&B.
EBONY: You’ve gone from Lil’ Sammie to Prince Sammie and now Leigh Bush. Why the transition?
Leigh Bush: Okay, so Lil’ Sammie—I never was Lil’ Sammie. I was always Sammie. I think because I was little, I was 12 years old, they kind of labeled me that. Prince Sammie just derived from a sense of—not even vanity, but confidence. I just feel like every man should exude royalty as well as females, so Princess, Prince, King—we should all try to evolve into being great. But, Leigh Bush just derived from just maturing and evolving. Leigh is actually my middle name and Bush is my last name.
So, it was a natural transition. I didn’t want to just evolve melodically in content conceptually, but also from a name standpoint. When you hear Sammie, I think the first thing that comes to mind is “I Like It,” “The Crazy things I Do for Love,”—the things that I did earlier on in my career. And though that is very essential, I just wanted to give myself a kind of a rebirth and a new sense of energy, so Leigh Bush is that.
EBONY: Is the new name resonating with fans?
LB: Yeah, it’s pretty dope. I have been blessed to have fans who I call ‘my little cult,’ you know what I’m saying? No matter how long I’m gone, or if I’m going through label changes and whatnot, they’re rocking with me. From mainstream records to mixtapes to the EPs, etcetera, so they’re embracing the Leigh Bush campaign also. From the root fans, they know that Leigh is my middle name and Bush is my last name. And then I like the conversation for those who don’t know.
EBONY: Are you only releasing singles or do you have an album planned?
LB: Well, I’m doing two parts. The Leigh Bush Project that’s currently out is gonna pretty much last until the top of the year and then in March, we’ll be releasing Leigh Bush Part II, and then the album. I think we’re just in a generation now where you have to feed the fans music until they demand the album from you. Of course, there’s just the traditional [route], two singles and then dropping the project, but I definitely want to get them used to the Leigh Bush campaign and just the way that [I've grown] sonically also and perceptually. Like, “Dancer,” isn’t your typical strip record, you know what I mean? It’s more thought-provoking so, I want them to really, really embrace that.
EBONY: How would you describe your style of music? Is it pure R&B?
LB: R&B and soul. I mean, if I had to sum it up in one word, I would want people to say that it’s a passionate-filled project. A record like “Ms. Bartender” that’s on the record is like a bottom man who’s committed infidelity in a relationship and he goes to the bar and kind of drowns in his sorrow. In the midst of that, he meets this beautiful bartender and sleeps with her, so it kind of just shows how weak we men can be, even when we have a good thing at home.
“Free Falling,” is about a guy who falls in love first, which is kind of foreign in our generation because most women fall in love before the guy does. So, my music is really genuine, really honest, and really transparent. I don’t think that you have an R&B artist right now that’s giving that. You have to go to Drake, which is a hip-hop artist—although he sings, he’s a rapper. You have to go to a hip-hop genre to get that, so I feel like that’s kind of foreign and unheard of, to not have that in an R&B genre.
EBONY: Like that old 90s kind of R&B?
LB: Exactly. I was born in ’87 and I grew up listening to Joe, and Tank, and Case and Jodeci even. I just feel like it’s necessary to have that come back, you know what I’m saying? We as artists really have to be bold enough to create it and real R&B connoisseurs are gonna go and support it.
EBONY: Who inspires you musically?
LB: Particularly speaking, with this project, I did a lot of research on Marvin Gaye. I love Marvin Gaye. He was so passionate, so soulful—Motown, that classic sound. But he reminded me a lot of myself. He was spiritually conflicted with the flesh—I’m a God fearing man so, to come from the church—but I do party, I do club, I love ladies, so I could relate. And then, he created his best music when he was in his darkest hour in life. No matter what was going on in his life—divorce, trying to get approval from his pops—he would create the best timeless music that we still listen to today, so I listen to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder is my biggest musical influence, Usher—I grew up watching Usher. To me, he was the epitome of evolution. You saw him, as a child star to the 35-year-old he is today and I think to have longevity is like the ultimate goal. So that’s just to name the few. And, R. Kelly is undoubtedly still the king.
EBONY: Well speaking of kids, a lot of kids want to come into this industry and want longevity like you have had, what advice would you give to them?
LB: When you come in young—because I was 12 when I got my first deal—you have to be blessed to have a great, great supporting cast, because when you’re that young, you really don’t grasp what’s going on. When I was 12 years old and I was #1 on the Billboards and platinum at 13, I didn’t even understand, like, the magnitude of that. I just knew girls liked me, I’m singing and doing something I love to do and seeing parts of the world that I’d never fathomed.
I would pray that any young newcomer would have a strong team that’s going to protect them from the vultures and demons that dwell in this business. And then after that, once you get older, continue to evolve and get better from project to project and record to record. That’s what keeps you on the business. It’s easy kind of, to get a deal these days. It’s just hard to stay in the deal and stay relevant for the right reasons, not the wrong reasons. And then, protecting your brand. Once your brand is tarnished, it’s very, very difficult to get that love back and that respect back for that. So, that’s it. Just being able to be great and being allergic to mediocrity.
EBONY: You mentioned that you are a God-fearing person. Do you have plans of ever doing a gospel album?
LB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But, I would want to make sure that my lifestyle merits that, wholeheartedly. Again, I pray everyday, I talk to God everyday, I feed my spirit everyday, but I drink a little bit, I party a little bit, so I don’t think certain things that’s in my lifestyle currently would be acceptable in the gospel realm, you know what I’m saying? I never want to straddle the fence or have one foot in and one foot out. But that’s something that with time and maturity and growth, I’m sure if the right opportunity presented itself, I may do that.
EBONY: Is there anyone who you would like to work with in the future? I know you’ve worked with some artist in the past like Lil’ Wayne…
LB: Yeah, I’ve work with Bow, Wayne, Cassidy, Trey Songz on a few records, Lloyd, but a dream come true collaboration, for real, for real: production by Stevie Wonder and me singing over those keys. I would feel like a kid in a candy shop because I just respect his artistry. I think he’s arguably one of the greatest songwriters of all time as well as musicians. I think more on a hip side that makes sense, Drake. He’s a genius. He could do no wrong, to me, so, if I could ever work with Drake, it would be a dream come true also. And then, if Usher ever co-signed me, it would be the ultimate check for me—those three are on my priority list, indeed.