Sammy Rae & the Friends To Bring Party Vibes to Beachland on March 21

click to enlarge Sammy Rae. - Courtesy of Stunt Company
Courtesy of Stunt Company
Sammy Rae.
When she was still a teenager, singer Sammy Rae stated to listen to several great American female jazz singers. Discovering that music would leave a lasting impact.

“I listened to Sara Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald,” Rae says via phone from her New York home. Sammy Rae & the Friends perform at 8 p.m. on Monday, March 21, at the Beachland Ballroom. “I fell in love with that and started listening to a lot of that. Shortly after college, when I wanted to start singing, a lot of those gigs originally were dinner gigs and cocktail hour gigs. That really informed the sound of my voice as I started to write and release authentically original music.”

Rae, who’d taken piano lessons since she was 4, admits she’s “not a keys players by any means.”

“But I have a basic enough understanding,” she says.

And she gets by with a little help from her musical friends that she met after moving from Connecticut to New York.

“I came to New York when I was 18,” she says. “I wanted to become a teacher and then opportunities presented them to me to make music, and I was making connections in that world. I also was doing odd jobs to get myself on my feet. At that point, I formed a great relationship with a studio on the Lower East and started working on The Good Life. I had released some singles and other productions before that, and I was very interested in the production process and how to make records, but when it came to recording The Good Life songs, I had met some musicians from around New York and took them into the studio. Some of them stuck around and some of them didn’t. When we put the EP out, there was this pleasant response, and this audience showed up out of nowhere. We started playing live shows, and that was about 2017 or 2018.”

Though the pandemic threw a wrench into her operation, Rae has steadily recorded and gigged ever since assembling her band. In fact, she even managed to write and record Let’s Throw a Party, an EP, during lockdown.

“It’s songs that were pulled together during the pandemic when we weren’t touring,” she says of the EP. “We were all quarantined in other places and sending songs to each other. It took us a while to get back into a space where we could safely collaborate and bring these songs to life. In the throws of the pandemic, I had this ‘we’re all feeling the same way’ feeling. Everything was chaotic, and we didn’t feel in control of anything. I knew songs coming out after that — and they’re wonderful and we need them — would be sad and meditating on the future or about sadness and being alone. I knew those records would come out, but I didn’t think we needed another one of those albums.”

The tour that brings her to the Beachland supports the punchy single “Follow Me Like the Moon,” a snappy song that finds Rae sounding particularly soulful as she sings the catchy refrain over sporadic blasts of spirited horns. She wrote the track when she was only 16.

"It kicked around for a couple of years, and I always liked it, but there wasn’t a time for it yet," she says. "Having formed this relationship with the band, a song like that makes a lot more sense when you have a band. The band knew the song. Our manager knew the song. We very spontaneously started playing with that song. We liked what we got in the studio, so we put it out. It’s nice. It’s very upbeat.”

As the title of Let’s Throw a Party suggests, Rae's live show will be especially spirited and energetic. That’s something that's become the band’s trademark.

“We have this audience that’s very young and very energetic and very excited to make friends,” says Rae. “They’re very kind to each other. They’re very thoughtful and want to have a good time. We’re grateful for such a pleasant fan base. We cultivate an environment where people feel welcome to come and be themselves. A lot of this has happened by word of mouth. It’s gonna be great."  We had a couple of weeks off, and we’re excited to go out and do it all over again.”
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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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