GoBe Weekly's "Rising Stars Niagara" Series
Sometimes it takes a journey into the heart of the beast to find ways to conquer it. For soulful pop songstress Sammi Morelli, that meant taking a four-year hiatus from her music-making passion to explore the often dark and sinister workings of the music industry, operating from the inside as an on-air personality at various “all-hit” radio stations. The education she received from the experience taught her the valuable lessons she is now vigorously applying to her rejuvenated dream of become a superstar pop vocalist.
“I took some time off after my last production deal and got into radio and it really gave me a first-hand master class on what works and what doesn’t,” said Sammi, a British Columbia native who’s executing her plan for world conquest from the supportive and friendly environment she’s discovered since moving to St. Catharines. “It was pretty time consuming and I thought I could do both but I couldn’t. I needed to be doing music fulltime. So I quit and re-dedicated myself to my music. It definitely relit the fire in me and I feel like I’m ready this time. It feels right.”
The formal “re-education” that Sammi’s radio experience provided was necessary despite a vast musical resume that began at a very young age. By the time she was 13, she had co-penned and recorded her first five-song EP, and by 16 was lending her versatile and powerful voice to popular B.C. band “The New Colours.” Further high profile exposure on MTV Live and CBC’s The X, an opening slot for The Black Eyed Peas and song placements in the PlayStation game “In The Groove” and the TV series “Smallville” quickly sent her hopes for long-term career success soaring. However, witnessing the methods and machinery responsible for churning out FM radio’s homogenized playlists has given her a new perspective on the business and a laser-focused approach to song-writing.
“I’ve been able to sit in music meetings where (songs) are left on the cutting room floor, and they’re fantastic songs but they just don’t fit on the radio station’s format,” said Sammi, whose infectious personality can be enjoyed locally on Niagara’s top AC station, 105.7 EZ ROCK. “I think the greatest lesson that taught me is that the song has to be a great song to get played. You can’t think about genre or trying to fit some kind of formula. You just have to write what you feel and if it speaks to people and has a place on a radio station that’s great.”
What she’s feeling these days is the inspiration of some of her greatest pop influences, writing songs that deliver the rhythmic appeal of artists like Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson while reflecting the dance-hall sensibilities of Donna Summer, Britney Spears and Motown legend Diana Ross. It’s a crowded space for a female vocalist making music she hopes will land her on the pop charts, but Sammi says she’s not making the mistake of straying from her artistic vision and musical passions. It’s an approach that reflects the maturity she’s gained from the various ups and downs experienced in her career.
“I can’t ever imagine not having music in my life, but there was a time I let people guide me into places I thought I should go. It ended up not being the greatest thing for me or my music. It never really clicked ever. Now I feel like no matter what the songs are, the authenticity shines through. There’s definitely a lot of noise in what I’m doing in pop music, but as long as you’re true to yourself and you’ve got a great product to put out into the universe, that’s what makes someone stand out. Definitely the music I’m making with the new EP has a more disco flair, with more contemporary stuff.”
With a catalogue of recently written new songs under her belt, including hook-laden nuggets like “Mine” and the 80s-influenced “Everything You Are,” Sammi has tentatively set a fall release date for her new EP. The realities of being a self-financed indie artist looking for hired guns to record with, however, don’t always align with the strategic plan of releasing new music. That’s part of the inherent career frustration many of Niagara’s up-and-coming young artists experience along their path to success, but it’s certainly not deterring Sammi from keeping a positive attitude. She’s been down the road of trading writing credits for performance fees, and this time she’s determined not to barter away any rights to her new songs.
“It’s hard to find enough funds to get stuff done,” said Sammi, who often performs locally with guitarist Jeff Craig. “That’s the biggest challenge for me. Before when I was (recording), it was mostly on song writing credits or percentage of the masters. So (musicians) would work on commission. But then I wasn’t really able to own my songs. This time around I want to be in the driver’s seat. I want to make sure I can steer the direction of my project the way I want it. And it doesn’t come cheap.”
To that end, she’s putting in the hard work required to make a go of a career in music while searching for a live band who can perform her music. There’s the endless gigging – with three shows scheduled in the Niagara area in the last two weeks of August – plus all the other details of managing her career. In the end, Sammi Morelli knows the effort will pay off.
“I’m doing as much of the work as I can on my own. I’m trying to gather stuff up and make it work. I do all my own booking; I do my own pictures and graphics. It’s a one-stop Sammi shop, even a lot of the pre-production too. I’m not letting anything get in my way.”
You can catch Sammi Morelli performing August 20th at the Holiday Inn Lounge 6 Sky Bar in St. Catharines from 5:30 – 9:00, and again August 27th at Taps on Queen in Niagara Falls. For more information and to sample her music, visit https://www.sonicbids.com/band/sammimorelli/.
By David DeRocco