It’s always said that the only thing constant in life is change. Artists, especially those in the R&B genre, know this to be true. When the sounds of artists such as Jodeci, Boyz II Men and New Edition are remembered as treasured moments in R&B history, it becomes difficult for current day acts to hold up to the standard of some of the greats.
One man in particular that’s doing his part of holding up to those standards is none other than singer and Grammy-nominated songwriter, Sterling Simms. Now signed to RCA Records, and 5 years after the release of his debut album, Yours, Mine & The Truth, Simms is back with the new single “I Know Love” featuring Pusha T.
With his sophomore album 11 Missed Calls due out later this year, Sterling has been making it his point to give us the R&B sound that we’ve been missing. We recently got the chance to catch up with the heartthrob during his busy schedule to discuss his upcoming album, thought process behind it, how he feels about Marsha Ambrosius and the evolution of Sterling Simms thus far.
Peep our interview below:
How has working on this album been?
It’s been a dream come true. I think I finally have – in my mind – the perfect album and the perfect label to help support it and to help put it out. I love it. 11 Missed Calls is my baby. It took us a little over a year to complete only because I was very…I wanted to be very strategic with the songs that we did, the production that I used and you know, it’s concept driven so we had to wait until the album really flushed itself out.
I know that you’ve been working with Pop and Oak for a long time, and now they’ve become some of the most sought out after producers. How is working with them now and how much of the album did they do?
They did 85% of the project. It’s almost not fair to other producers. There are a lot of producers that I have great relationships with, but Pop and Oak are family – more or less. I’ve known Oak for over 10 years and I’ve known Pop for close to 7. It’s almost not fair to other people because they know so much about me, so they know exactly what I’m gonna like, what I’m not gonna like, [and] the headspace that I’m in. You know a lot of times if I’m going through something at home and I just want to flush it out, I talk to them. We have honest conversations so they’re able to translate how I feel musically, which is their one-up on a lot of people.
Sure, that’s understandable. You mentioned that they did 85% of the album. Who did the other 15% go to?
I worked with Fisticuffs, they did the single “I Know Love” featuring Pusha T, and I also worked with DJ Camper.
Speaking of “I Know Love”, what made you use that as the lead single from the album?
I think it’s the perfect set-up to tell the story of the album. It’s an emotional record – if you’ve heard the record you can see that I’m going through a little bit of an emotional roller coaster with the record. But it’s an honest conversation with me and a young lady that I’m talking to. It comes from an honest place – it’s gritty, it’s soulful – you know what I’m saying? It’s a different look for myself because I actually wanted to do something different. I wanted to show a little vulnerability with the next record I put out and you know, just show an emotional side of me. I’m not just always in the club all the time, I don’t just party…it’s not always a good time with me, you know? Although it is a good time with me most of the time [laughs]. This just showcases a different point of view for my fans and my listeners and just give them a different side of me. It’s a great starting piece for exactly what’s to come on the album.
Great! I’m a fan of the song and I’ve been a fan of your sound for a while. One of my favorite songs is actually “Sex In The City”.
Oh, it’s like that? [laughs] That’s good to know. I got some more treats for you on the album.
[Laughs] Fantastic, I can’t wait. What makes this album so different than your previous?
Um, I would have to say the grit and the soul. ‘Yours, Mine & The Truth’ uh – I like that album, but I think with that record, it took so long and I worked with a lot of different producers on that project. So for me, if I had to change anything on that project, it would be that it didn’t have that cohesive sound. It was just a bunch of dope records that we did and we took it and put it on an album. It didn’t really have a whole cohesive sound. This album is very cohesive. You know, being that Pop and Oak did a bulk of the record, they pretty much set the tone sonically for other producers and for the record. You can listen from top to bottom and won’t miss a beat. It’s very cohesive, it’s very conceptual, it’s very personal, it’s soul, it’s gritty and you know every record is a missed call – hence the title ‘11 Missed Calls.’ I’m really going into detail about what happened with this story. You know, I think listening to this, they’ll appreciate it.
Well, since you say you know love, are you currently in love now?
Mmm. I’m in love with this album [laughs]. Nah, I mean I have someone that’s special to me, but I am still dating, but I do have someone that’s special to me. I do know love though. I knew love when I saw my son for the first time. I knew love when I heard this album for the first time. So, yeah, I know it. I know it when I see it, I know it when I feel it, I know it when I hear it – you know what I mean?
Ah, Gotcha. Not too many can say that [laughs]. So, with the process of this new album, what do you think was the most difficult part of trying to put it together and get it out on RCA?
The most difficult piece was just flushing out the ideas. Like I said, it’s very conceptual. There were certain things I wanted to talk about – actually, I was just having this conversation earlier – and there are records that I love, like absolutely LOVE, that couldn’t make the project because it didn’t go with the story. They just didn’t fit the storyline and it didn’t fit the concept. They were great records and I’d hate to see them go to anyone else. I think that might have been the hardest piece of it. Just letting go some of the records that I knew were special and that came from all of the same places, but they just didn’t fit that album. So, that may have been the hardest part. Really flushing out all the ideas and every message making sense to the message that I was trying to convey.
Right. So, with the leftover material, do you have plans of releasing another mixtape?
Um, I’m thinking about doing another EP. I don’t know if I’m gonna do another full mixtape just because I don’t think I can give away that much of myself again. I put out Mary & Molly last year and that had like twelve records. So, I may do an EP. You know like five songs and just do it real quick and shoot a video for it, put it out virally and see how people gravitate towards it. But you know, I really want people to concentrate on the single and the album as it comes, so it has to make sense. If we could figure out a way to where it would make sense and we can tie it into the album, I would definitely put it out and put it out sometime soon.
And when is the release date for the album?
Right now, it’s looking like September-ish, but I don’t wanna throw out a date yet because there’s nothing set in stone yet. Um, but it’ll definitely be out this year.
Fantastic! That gives me something to look forward to in the fall.
I know that you worked with Joe Budden and 2 Chainz on this album, correct?
Correct. 2 Chainz, I have Travis Porter, there’s Tyga, Pusha T. of course, Meek Mill, Kid Ink…you know, there’s a lot of relationships that I have in the business that I wanted to get on this record without it feeling like a mixtape. I think we were able to do that successfully.
What would you say would have to be your favorite collab?
My favorite collab? That’s hard. You’re putting me in a tough spot [laughs]. Um, no shade, but my favorite collab would have to be Joe Budden. Only because I’ve been a fan of his for so long. I think he’s very underrated and I’ve been wanting to work with him for a long time. I think “Jersey Shore” was a great record to put him on. He totally nailed it and did exactly what I knew he was gonna do on the record. So, that would have to be my favorite collab on the album.
So, would you go as far to say that it’s actually your favorite song off of the album? Or do you have another track in mind?
I love them all. Everything is something different. I have “Everybody Here Wants You” which is a Jeff Buckley cover, but we did something very different to it that I think people will love and appreciate. “Make You Somebody” could be my favorite one night if I’m just turnt up and uh, “Jersey Shore” could be my favorite because it’s reminiscent to a place that I was at one point in time. Then you have, “Love Hearing Your Song”, and “I Know Love” – it depends really on how I feel when I wake up in the morning. Like, I love my album – I’m IN LOVE with my album. So every day, I might like a different song on there.
You were Grammy-nominated for the work you did on Late Nights & Early Mornings. How was that experience working with Marsha Ambrosius?
Working with Marsha is always great. She’s the big sister I never had. There are few people that I can collaborate with, and me and her have a great writing chemistry. I know what she likes, I know what she doesn’t like. Me and her have a lot of honest conversations so I know what she wants to talk about that she may not be able to convey at that point. So working with her is just awesome. She makes it not work [laughs]. It’s just writing. I mean, she’s a beast in her own writing. She’s dope in her own. You know, working with her just isn’t fair sometimes because I get spoiled. Working with her I definitely get spoiled because when I work with someone else, it might not be the same. It’s awesome man. I feel very humbled and blessed to be able to work with her. She’s as cool as it gets. For me, I have three girls that are like my best friends and she’s like…uh, I don’t have any words [laughs]. She’s so cool and down to earth. She’s like family.
What is the worst missed call you’ve ever had?
The worst missed call I’ve ever had might have been – I don’t think I put that call on this album – it was pretty much a break-up call. Yeah, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like being broken up with over the phone, it was pretty whack [laughs]. I didn’t like it, I didn’t like it at all. You know what’s worse about it is when you try to call back and they don’t pick up. It was like they aired you out on your voicemail and then you can’t call back with a response and stuff, you just gotta sit with that and eat it. Like, I don’t like that. It’s like somebody closing the door on you and you banging on the door and they don’t answer. You can’t even get your point across – I don’t like it [laughs].
[Laughs] Was it bad because you couldn’t respond or was it just bad all-around?
I think it was bad all-around, but I think what made it worse is that I couldn’t respond. It’s like I got sucker punched and I didn’t get a chance to hit ’em back. That’s a punch to my emotions – I didn’t like that, I didn’t like that at all [laughs].
Yeah, that doesn’t sound pleasant at all [laughs]. Is there anything that you would want your listeners to take away from this album?
I just want them to take away that my music is always coming from an honest place. I’m inviting you into my life journey. You know so, get on this ride, get a drink with a n*gga and let’s just go for this ride together. Hopefully, we can help each other – you can help me get through it and I can help you get through whatever you’re going through.
Interview by Ni’Kesia Pannell