You may not have heard of Harmony Samuels but I can guarantee you’ve definitely bopped your head and listened to one of the many hits that he’s had a hand in composing. The British native has turned the music world upside down producing songs for big names in the industry such as Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, Brandy, Kelly Rowland, Fantasia, Keyshia Cole, Maroon 5 and many more.
I recently spoke with the multi-talented producer for an in-depth interview touching on everything from his humble beginnings in London to producing Ariana Grande’s breakthrough hit to future career plans and aspirations.
Get into the mind of Harmony Samuels below…
Sope: How did you get your start in the music industry?
Harmony: There’s two phases to it, there was a music industry in London and then there was a music industry here which is two complete different industries. I guess in the industry in London I started off as remixer. I was remixing everyone’s songs at the time and if a record couldn’t get on Choice FM, they would ask either me or Tim Blacksmith to do the remixes back in the day. That’s how I got into the game in London. But after a while you know I needed to progress, that’s when I came to America and got discovered by Rodney Jerkins and it all sprung from there.
Sope: Are there any differences in working with American artists compared to UK acts and do you feel pressure as a British producer to deliver a high standard when working with American artists?
Harmony: You got to remember the acts that have broken in America have been very good, they’re high-end quality acts. So when you look at Adele, Emeli Sande and Labrinth, they kind of expect a high standard from you. I think England take more time in creating something more musical where over here if it’s hot just run with it. But if you get a big song out here it can go on forever, I just did a song with Ariana Grande which went crazy over here and took off by itself. But to be honest a lot of its really fast-food sometimes in America whereas in England, we take more time even with our single releases sometimes we need a 8 week or 6 week lead up.
Sope: You produced 3 songs on Kelly Rowland’s latest album so what was that process like especially with the song that reunited Kelly with Beyoncé & Michelle?
Harmony: It was amazing; unfortunately I wasn’t able to be in the studio with Beyoncé because she was in New York at the time but I was there with Kelly and Michelle, so working with them was awesome. Kelly’s my little sister, that’s my friend – she’s family. It was real spiritual, the song is really about her life, she’s not fronting or trying to sing songs she can’t relate to. I had already met her in London in 2007 so it was just a matter of time. I was honoured that she picked 3 of my songs and put them on the album and ‘Gone’ might be her next single after I believe ‘Dirty Laundry’.
Sope: It’s also been said you will be doing all the production on Michelle Williams’ new album; is there any insight or exclusives you could share about that?
Harmony: Probably not all of it, but most of it like 95%. It sounds awesome, it’s a gospel album and as a church boy it’s a blessing to write songs about my spiritual side and her spiritual journey. And a lot of people will listen to the album and go “Yo that’s a gospel album right?” – It doesn’t feel like or sound like one but you just realise she’s talking about God and not anything crazy. She’s talking about life experiences and the good and bad of a situation so it’s quite enlightening.
Sope: What was it like working in the studio with Fantasia being the sole producer of her latest album ‘Side Effects of You’
Harmony: Fantasia’s album on the whole is pretty much a UK album because the guy on the other track is another British producer who was Naughty Boy. So I felt that album was a representation of UK producers flying the flag in America. But being the main producer was a vision of mine and it was a chance to prove to the world and people who doubted me that I could do the job and show that I’m not just an urban producer. Working with Tasia was amazing because she’s been through so much emotionally and the media buried her out here. So to see her come back with such force is very powerful and a good feeling to watch. Seeing the album going No 1 on R&B and No 2 on Billboard 200 is a very amazing feeling, not even just that the album did well but it’s amazing for someone to get themselves on their feet and have a life again because she was suicidal at one point.
Sope: You produced undeniably one of the standout cuts on Chris Brown’s FAME album which is ‘Oh My Love’ so tell about the creative process with that song and being in the studio with Chris.
Harmony: ‘Oh My Love’ and ‘Say It With Me’ on the FAME album were defining moments for me in America because both songs were made in a 24 hour radius. I went into the studio at like 7 in the evening and did ‘Say It With Me’ and the next day we did ‘Oh My Love’ literally 10 hours afterwards. Which is why they have similar feels if you listen properly but ‘Oh My Love’ was me and Chris just on steroids going crazy in the studio with no limitations or having to play by the rules. ‘Oh My Love’ is an expression of art and love of music, it was also our first time really connecting as brothers and ever since then we’ve had a great relationship.
Sope: Keyshia Cole’s ‘Enough of No Love’ is in my opinion one of the best R&B songs in recent years so how did that song come about?
Harmony: To be honest with you ‘Enough of No Love’ she kind of stumbled across that record. Like it’s weird because when I work with people they never really want to go in with me because they don’t know who I am. So what took place was, the album was finished and she was about to put out ‘Trust & Believe’ first. ‘Enough of No Love’ the actual beat itself was actually another song and it was Chipmunk’s. When she heard it she was like “Yo I love this beat please let’s try and make it work”. So Chipmunk was like “It’s all good you can give it to Keyshia” so the first single became removed and that became the first single which was exciting.
Sope: What’s your opinion on the state of R&B music and do you feel it’s a genre that’s generally unappreciated in the UK?
Harmony: Part of the reason why I don’t live in the UK is I feel they undermine urban music. The truth of the matter is they don’t respect it and don’t give it time. I feel it’s lost its value, it’s a got a worth now but I feel like in the UK we’ve never really embraced it, I mean we get the odd one coming through that do well but we’ve never embraced it and I don’t believe we ever will as a country. But even over here, it’s kind of lost its value but I’m fighting to bring it back – Justin Timberlake did an amazing job with his album so R&B is starting to find its ground. Brandy kind of birthed female R&B last year with her record and I was fortunate to get one on there. That was my dream anyway when I came here; I wanted to be one of pioneers who brought R&B back to the forefront. I’m happy with the fact that we’re making ground, Ariana played a big part – I don’t care what anyone says she’s a pop artist but ‘The Way’ is an R&B record.
Sope: Who’s the one artist you want to work with, that you haven’t had the chance to collaborate with yet?
Harmony: Hmm I don’t know I think Justin Timberlake is someone I’d love to work with because if you listen to his album there are no limitations. I want to work with Jay, I love J. Cole – I love everything he’s about and what he brings to the table. I think Coldplay and One Republic would be amazing for me.
Sope: Are you working on producing your own artists?
Harmony: We have two artists; I have an American artist and a British artist. My American artist, her name is Jamia, she’s 16 years old and is the future Brandy to me – she’s very ‘Never Say Never’ meets ‘Full Moon’ and sings her butt off. She’s dropping at the top of next year. My UK artist her name is Carmen Reece, she was on the scene a bit in the early 2000’s, has an amazing voice and plays piano like Alicia Keys. Her sound is amazing; it’s like 80s disco meets Afro-beats with Michael Jackson chords and she’s the only one I know who can pull it off.
Written by Sope Soetan (@SopeSoetan)