Sammy Rae & The Friends are appropriately named: the group’s recordings, performances, and online presence are all about friendship, not just among the band members but also among their fans and followers.
Their latest single, “Whatever We Feel,” is an anthem for self-expression, encouraging listeners to do, say, and wear what they like. The hook was actually written by another band member, Myra Moon, and Rae developed the song after hearing Moon singing it in the green room before a show.
“I thought about all of the members of the band and the different things they like to do that make them distinctly them, and how we walk to the beat of our own drummers as individuals,” she explains.
In the true spirit of America’s ongoing self-isolation, Rae describes wearing hoops and brightly colored socks around the house: “I been putting a show on for me babe, I’m the only one who knows it,” she sings. Her jazz background is evident in the instrumentals, as well as the scatting and melodies in the vocals, but she also describes this as one of her more accessible, pop-oriented singles.
As part of the LGBTQ community, this message of individuality is important throughout Rae’s work. “A lot of our audience is queer, and a lot of our audience is 16-19,” she says. “At that age, I was struggling to find a positive environment for me to stand authentically in who I was, and also positive role models in the queer community who weren’t outwardly waving flags in a way that might make my parents or even me uncomfortable. So, I think it’s important to me because it hits close to home, and I want to be the role model I wish I had when I was younger.”
Rae takes her position as a role model seriously. She gets around 100 direct messages a day, and she responds to all of them. She remembers fans’ names and faces, reaches out to people she sees repeatedly, and shares livestreams of her life to help followers feel connected to her.
Rae also addresses issues related to gender in songs like “The Box,” where she sings, “If you put a woman in a box / And a man right there beside her / Tell ‘em both to play the leader / Who you think would take the lead? / Which of them will get their point across / And which of them would just have to ‘yes, indeed?'”
“Before we play it live, I say, ‘It’s a song about how we love each other and love ourselves,'” she explains. “It comes from an experience of looking at an intimate relationship that was close to me with someone else and just saying, ‘How can I be the best woman for you, and also, how can I reach out to you and some of the things you need as a man, and how do I break down that boundary and understand you and let you understand me in a way that is very much not gendered at all? How do we take care of each other in a way that lets us break down these barriers and end up close to each other?'”
Rae plans to release and record a few more singles over the summer. In the meantime, she’s focused on not only spreading positivity on social media but also feeding off the positivity coming from her own followers. “The friends we have online, these numerous personal relationships with all of them, have created a space where I feel their positivity as well, as it does feel like we’re all good friends,” she says. “I feel lucky to have that sort of fan base.”
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