With Jason E. Abrams and Lauren Clarke-Bennett
Samantha Cole has never waited for success to find her. Even as a preteen growing up on the East End of Long Island in the Hamptons, she carved out opportunities to perform where there were none. The first time she sang in public was during a family vacation at a dude ranch when she was just 12 years old. She marched right up to the live band that was performing and begged to sing on stage with them. “I don’t know what they were thinking, but they let me on, and that was it. I knew I wanted to sing, no matter what it took,” Samantha recalls.
She did not take the road alone. Samantha had full support of her family. When she was a freshman in college, her parents willingly drove her into Manhattan to perform weekly on Monday evenings at Tatou music hall. It was there that she forged a path that allowed her voice to be heard. As she entered junior high, Samantha was constantly singing, and music industry decision makers were listening.
Samantha was signed by Universal Records, her first label, at 17 years old. She was going through the music industry cycle when she learned very quickly that promises, even in contractual form, aren’t always kept. Upon signing the initial contract, they pulled out all the stops. The label enlisted David Foster to write and produce a few songs, as well as Richard Marx, Diane Warren, Nile Rogers and others. “It was crazy and wonderful and such an incredible opportunity to be exposed to such skilled and passionate icons. And, it paid off. My first single, “Happy With You,” shot to the Top 40, and was played on Casey Kasem’s countdown,” Samantha proudly exclaims. She quickly learned that the contract would only be fully honored if they wanted to honor it. They were supposed to produce at least one video and they never did. “When I questioned the label reps about it, the response I got from the president was, ‘What are you going to do… sue us?’” Young, vulnerable and simply excited to have a seat at the table, Samantha did not push her luck. While not having a video for a Top 40 pop single hindered her success in the U.S. markets, international Universal representatives helped her to promote in parts of the South Pacific and Asia, where she made major appearances at the malls, on radio and on television. During this period, three music videos were then produced, but it was too late to garner the success that Samantha and her album deserved.
Samantha had three subsequent record label deals at Warner Brothers Records, EMI Records and a European boutique label after Universal Records folded. These efforts failed due to the devastation of September 11th, a drop in the stock market and several other unimaginable reasons. Three out of four albums never saw the light of day, but she kept finding ways to get through it and evolve. “The world has grown up. Everything is different than it was even a few years ago. You never used to see strollers in the Hamptons nor all over Manhattan. Now there are signs posted instructing people where to park them. It’s unbelievable,” Cole says. Both places have become more accustomed to family life, and she has too.
Her laugh is confident and easy. This is a woman comfortable in her own skin. It has been a long journey to this quieter life. You name it, her face has been featured there: MTV, alllll the tabloids (in print and televised) and magazines worldwide. Single in the Hamptons, an early reality style program on the WE Network, followed her during the summer for a couple of seasons. “Luv Me, Luv Me,” the international pop-reggae star Shaggy’s song featuring Samantha, hit number five on the UK single’s charts. Clay Aiken and Kimberly Locke–American Idol alumnae–covered one of her original songs, “Without You,” which also remains a fan favorite in many parts of Asia and the South Pacific. She even co-hosted a few episodes of The Maury Show with Maury Povich. There were also a few dance music releases, which were well-played in the night club circuit, including a cover of the 80’s Animotion hit “Obsession.” A slew of club performances followed. Then, just as suddenly as she appeared, she went quiet. “I had to walk away for my own sanity,” Samantha tearfully reflects.
Samantha took stock of her life and decided to follow a more traditional path for a while. She got married, moved outside of Manhattan and had three children. Ever the philanthropist, she used her celebrity recognition to busy herself with several fundraising golf, bowling and poker tournaments and runway events. She used her expertise and music industry connections to train aspiring singers and help them navigate the murky waters of the music business with the launching of her own company, Celebrity Voice Coach. Inner strength, music and resolve have helped her through tough times… past and present… personally and professionally. “When I recently became single again, it was devastating. I had to find a way to climb back up and conquer the mountain. I have fallen to the bottom so many times before. Life has a way of bruising your heart over and over… and over again, but ‘fall down seven times, stand up eight.’ You are never going to get up without effort,” Samantha proclaims. “When I looked for music to help me get through some of these things, I didn’t find anything that dealt with all these difficult, but common relatable experiences. I knew I had to do something. I am putting myself back out there and letting people know that if I can get through it, they can too.”
With the songs from this album, you will not hear tired themes of a beta female trying to please or keep a man. You discover a woman who–like the rest of us–has been in the trenches, but Samantha has found a way out. Through her music, she is extending a hand to those of us who have not. She has recently released “(Fall in Love Again) This Christmas,” a non-traditional and melancholy tribute to a well-worn relationship. It is a complete departure from her previous sound and relates to anyone that has ever been in a relationship where the dust has settled. “It is devastating to look across the room and realize the spark is gone, but it takes work and commitment. Both people need to fully commit to being present. You can’t get jaded. I hope this song will help couples communicate that they still want to be excited by each other. It is not easy to put into words. No one wants to acknowledge it,” explains Samantha. Other recent singles released by Samantha include “Hitchhiker,” “Midnight Confession,” “Human” and a highly streamed dance music side project, entitled “Weekend Love.”
The themes are indeed deeply personal. The EP is called Human because it focuses on experiences everyone faces across all classifications. The manufactured sound of the music industry has been stripped away and her songs are now raw, full of emotion, bare. Her producers have deftly used a very light touch. “I walked away from the music industry, but my intention was never to walk away from music. After my son was born, I felt so isolated and alone. During that time, my marriage was on the rocks, I didn’t live near any of my close friends or family, because we moved out to suburbs. I was alone, discouraged and had no hope, so I had to find a way to conjure some courage up. I felt like my knowledge of the industry, experiences of being part of the industry machine and my contacts were all being wasted. I wanted to help other people, and in doing so, help myself heal. One day I just put an ad in the local newspaper, which followed the heading: ‘Celebrity Voice Coach, Samantha Cole.’ The calls started coming. I was terrified.” Samantha wondered, “What if I discover I do not truly feel anything for music anymore?” To her surprise, after the first lesson she realized she was back where she belongs and should not be worried. “I can credit those early students’ passion for music and performance with helping me realize how much I missed and needed music in my own life. It took a long time to regain my confidence because I had dealt with verbal abuse for a long time, and it eats at you until there is not much left. I slowly started performing again on my own and my confidence began to return. I felt like myself again for the first time in many years. Just me singing. No label, no enormous budget, no huge industry team. I started all over again because my bruised soul needed it. Luckily, my approach to survival has also helped aspiring singers by generating special opportunities that I had to find for myself. Because of my contacts, I am sometimes able to help arrange private auditions for network shows like, The Voice, Songland, and others.”
Samantha wanted to burst back into the music scene with a vastly different approach because she could. And she has. Her most recent singles cover everything from being ghosted and shrugging it off, a desire to convert a long-term friendship into a romantic partnership but knowing it will never happen and redefining oneself after overcoming an abusive relationship. When asked about her personal experience with abuse, she takes a deep breath, looks up at the ceiling and says: “It is not necessarily a romantic partner who becomes abusive. Artists are also chewed up and destroyed by executives, critics or sometimes even former fans. I have felt the sting of cruel words many times over from such a variety of people. I have seen supervisors verbally harass employees and parents mentally abuse their children. I hope that my song ‘Words’ may help people understand that it is possible to experience this kind of cruelty and that they are not alone, no matter who the source of their abuse might be. Or to the contrary, maybe someone will recognize their own behavior and understand that words count and can be used to build people up or to tear them down.”
As we sit amongst her children during the interview, Samantha reaches over to her daughter and touches her hair. She smiles at her son and sighs. People can be so unkind and the thought of her children having to defend themselves against a brutal world with callous disregard is enough to make her pause before continuing. “Women have come so far in the past decade, and our voice is finally being heard… but as a woman, I don’t want anyone left behind. Loneliness, abuse, finding the strength to find yourself and your direction again, redefining ‘home’–these are not your typical industry packaged and produced love songs, but rather they are life anthems. Beauty and strength are in the confidence of someone who has reclaimed themselves and stood back up after they have fallen… that is real life… the courage it takes to keep picking yourself up, to make small adjustments and get better every day. I am ready to start talking and singing about what is real. In order to do so, I need to independently produce my music outside of the system by writing, producing, releasing and even marketing my own songs. There is an excitement in that! I can say anything I want to without someone telling me what my words should be. I hope to use my voice to help make disenfranchisement a thing of the past for everyone. We are lucky enough to witness it starting to happen around the world. This EP is not about trying to reclaim my past, it is about introducing myself for the first time.” Her face lights up and a prodigious smile spreads across her face. Ever the joker, she says with a wink: “After all, I am only human. See what I did there? The name of my EP? Human!”
Samantha throws her head back and laughs unreservedly at her joke. Her laughter is contagious, and I can’t help but join in. It is beautiful to see such joy radiating from someone who has struggled so much. She is also excited about an upcoming meeting she has with a foundation that works with victims of mental and verbal abuse, and their mission is to try to educate both children and adults about healthy relationships, healthy friendships… what a positive relationship looks like and what to protect oneself against. “It is not always the Boogeyman who can hurt you or chip away at self-esteem; it can be someone that promises to love you or someone who looks very much like a friend at first glance. I am so excited to link up with this organization. I hope to get these songs heard by the very people who need to be reached.”
Samantha’s songs can be purchased or streamed on all major music platforms, including iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, Google Play, Deezer and Spotify. She also has her own YouTube Channel where you may view her music videos and exclusive videos of live performances and behind-the-scenes moments. If you would like to catch her or her students in action, she organizes performance showcases at The Bitter End in New York City and a number of other locations in the Tri-state Area or find her on Facebook at “Celebrity Voice Coach” for private lessons.
SAMANTHA COLE ONLINE:
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