If you’re not familiar with singer/songwriter Sterling Simms, you’ve probably heard his voice before. Remember Jay Z’s 2006 song “Dig A Hole” off his album, Kingdom Come? Sterling, who was formerly signed to Def Jam, sang the hook. Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear more than 16 bars from the young artist as he prepares to release his second album, Once Again. As one of our artist picks for “30 Under 30,” Sterling took the time to speak with us about his rising career. His undeniable humility and persistence can only help him make it to the top.
Singersroom: I heard that you recorded your first song with your grandfather at the age of six, which is pretty amazing. Does that mean you always knew you wanted to be in the music business?
Sterling: Music has always been in my family. Of course, being six and recording a record wasn’t something that was on my mind, but it was just something that was always around. Of course, I wanted to just be a kid and play ball. I enjoyed doing it, but I think my passion for music really developed in my teenage years. That’s when I got an understanding of the business. My love and passion grew over time.
Singersroom: I know that you went through a lot of hurdles to make it in the business. What would your advice be to others that are trying to break into the industry?
Sterling: I don’t think any dream comes true without stumbling across a couple of nightmares. Like anything anyone wants to do, I put forth a lot of hard work and dedication. There were a lot of brick walls thrown up. I got my first production deal at 18, and that was a roller coaster. The tragedy of 9/11 had a huge effect on my situation at the time. The production company I was with was through Sony, and since we were a new company, we weren’t really generating any real money. When the economy crashed, there was a lot of downsizing and cutbacks, and our production company felt the repercussions of that. I had to go back to Philly and start over. I felt like I had made it to first and second base, and had to go back to bat.
Singersroom: And most people would’ve been discouraged if that happened.
Sterling: This was something I always wanted, and more than anything, I get my drive from my mom. My mom is a single mother of five, and watching her get up every morning to go to work and provide for her family inspires me. I knew I had to do this for myself, and my family. I face adversity, and welcome it.
Singersroom: Your first album, [Yours, Mine & The Truth] came out two years ago, and you have a new album coming out soon.
Sterling: Yup, I’m working on my new project. Right now, it’s titled ‘Once Again.’ There’s a lot of meaning behind it. My first album came out when I was still with Def Jam, but I didn’t feel like it got the promotion or push it needed. I thought it was a great project, but it slipped through the cracks. It was my first project, and I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in it. You only get one first album, and it’s the most important because it sets the tone for the rest of your career. So, ‘Once Again’ is my first album all over again, and I also started over once again since I’m no longer with Def Jam. We’re pushing it ourselves, and I’m getting good feedback and a lot of support within the industry. It’s coming out soon. So here I am, once again. [laughs]
Singersroom: When is the album scheduled to come out?
Sterling: I’m going to put out a record in the next month or so, and I’m looking to release the album in the beginning of 2011.
Singersroom: Which artists do you look up to that are currently in the industry?
Sterling: One that I absolutely respect is Trey Songz. I relate my situation to Trey Songz. It took him a couple of albums and projects to really get the notoriety he has now. It all came with hard work and diligence. Chris Brown has taken the right steps that’s necessary for him to get his spot back. He got a lot of flak for what happened last year, but everyone makes mistakes. I take my hat off to him for staying diligent and persistent. He’s slowly but surely gaining his respect again. People weren’t satisfied with Usher’s last project, but he came back with “OMG.” He let people know he was still here, and put out a great album. I respect all of them and they paved the way for artists like myself. Plus, they keep music alive and R&B going.
Singersroom: You were picked as one of our “30 Under 30” artists. How did you feel when you were selected?
Sterling: I’m completely honored. I was at a loss for words when I heard about it because it’s great to see your hard work is appreciated, and that people want to hear what I have next to come. I am humbled.
Singersroom: Humility is one of the best qualities a music artist can have.
Sterling: You have to be humble to make it in this business. That’s the only way to be. There are a few people I’ve met that aren’t. For everyone in this business, there comes a time when you’re checked and get a humbling experience. For those that haven’t been humbled yet, it’s coming.
Singersroom: What do you hope to accomplish before 30?
Sterling: I need a Top 10. I would say #1, but I’m going to start at Top 10. With the “Jump Off” record we released a few years ago, I cracked Top 40. I felt good abut it. It was great opening Billboard magazine and seeing my name and record on there, but I need a Top 10. With a Top 10 comes everything else. You get nominations, notoriety, and everyone starts noticing you.
Singersroom: Well I wish you the best of luck.
Sterling: Thanks. And I won’t stop until I get it.
Singersroom: Can’t stop, won’t stop.
Sterling: Can’t stop, won’t stop.
—— By: Interview By Crystal Tate