MUSICAL SOUL MATE: Fantasia Barrino
SINCE FANTASIA Barrino won American Idol in 2004 the singer has been shrouded in controversy - much has been said about her illiteracy, relationship with an already married man and attempted suicide.
But it has not only been her personal life that has come under scrutiny, despite being a successful recording artist Fantasia’s reputation often precedes her, so when music producer Harmony ‘H-Money’ Samuels was asked to work with the singer he was apprehensive, to say the least.
The man behind such hits as Chipmunk’s Champion and Keyshia Cole’s Enough of No Love, had heard the rumours about Fantasia, but upon meeting the star, he realised that she was not what he expected.
“When she came to the studio I was nervous,” the 32-year-old told L&S. “I had heard so many stories, that she was crazy, and that she did crazy stuff and I didn’t know if I could deal with that. But when she came to the studio, you would think that we were born from the same father and mother.”
In what can only be described as a match made in musical heaven, Samuels and Fantasia hit it off and, as a result, the pair started producing the singer’s 4th studio album.
“I just finished Fantasia’s album, every track on there is mine - she understands my music so much and I understand her so well. It took us two weeks to do the album, some people take years to do an album, but with her it felt God ordained.”
The Lord is a big part of the producer’s life. In fact, Samuel often speaks in plural; when he says ‘we’ he actually means himself and God. Growing up in the church, it is easy to see why the musician has so much faith. From the age of four he taught himself to play the piano, bass guitar and drums and by 12 he became the choir’s musical director. Music was his calling.
But it was not the easiest career path for Samuels. Despite having an abundance of talent, the Tottenham-born artist found that he could not get work in the UK.
“Being a black kid from Tottenham, I was pigeonholed by the industry. The pop market is small and UK R&B market was even smaller, it was horrific at that time, even though I interned for some of the greatest producers, like Chris Mill, trying to break into my own career was impossible,” the talented music producer said.
“The labels weren’t interested in my music and I was only ever allowed to work with black artists. It is very cliquey, it was very difficult to make an income; I would spend hours and hours in the studio and have meetings with different companies but there was never a chance to go anywhere.”
The ground breaking moment in Samuels’ career came in 2004, when he entered and won a producer battle contest, 'The Jump Off'.
“I had never heard of anything like it before, where producers would go on stage and in front of a crowd of 600 create a track. I thought it was incredible and I knew I was going to win because I am a musician,” Samuels explained.
MAN BEHIND THE STARS: Harmony ‘H-Money’ Samuels
Win he did, seven times in a row to be precise.
“I started making connections, and I thought, forget the boring pop industry, I’m going to go to the hood. I started working with people in the underground, our records were played on radio without the help of the major players, and we could see that they would get frustrated, and I would get calls, they wouldn’t give me any jobs but they would be like, ‘can you do a remix?’”
By 2008 Samuels had remixed the vast majority of artists in the business, but the prospects of secure and consistent work were few and far between as he realised that he had hit the infamous glass ceiling.
“I was really frustrated and I came to the point where I was like, ‘I’m done’. I had remixed everybody, and the industry had changed so much, it was N-Dubz and Chipmunk now but their management weren’t letting them work with us. When JLS’s first came out Sony wouldn’t let us in the building with them,” he said.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place the producer had to decide whether to leave England to pursue a career in the US or abandon music altogether, and as fate would have it, Samuels was offered a job in New York.
“The US is not the easiest place to go to, but I went over to work on a mixtape that was going to pay me a good amount of money to produce and then I was going to retire, recalled Samuels.
“But I got a phone call from my friend, who lived in LA, and said Rodney Jerkings from Interscope wanted to meet me. I had been in the industry for 15 years and Rodney gave me my first deal, with EMI, and my life changed. I went over to America, got a couple of hits under my belt and then was sought out to work with JLS.”
Amused by the serendipity of his circumstances, Samuels advice to anyone wanting to build a successful music career is to leave the UK.
“I’ve learnt this in such a short space of time, the world in general is more open than the UK, we get stuck in London behind a ceiling. America is not the only place where there is opportunity; it’s for us black people in the UK to leave where we are and take the chances. The only reason I am doing what I am doing now is because I moved over to America.”
For more information on Harmony ‘H-Money’ Samuels visit www.boeglobal.com