The Sound of Philadelphia won’t stop with legendary hit makers Gamble & Huff…not if Sterling Simms has anything to do with it. The 28-year-old Philly native is just one in a long line of R&B/soul artists from Philadelphia, a jurisdiction which seems to spawn great soul singers. Patty LaBelle, Jill Scott, Boyz II Men, the Stylistics, Teddy Pendergrass, and Musiq Soulchild, are just a few R&B icons who once called the City of Brotherly Love their stomping grounds, and Simms is one of the leaders of the new school when it comes to carrying the torch of Philly soul.
With club bangers on his resume, Simms is now prepping a new album, 11 Missed Calls, where he switches it up, taking a piece of the Philly grit for himself. Check out the first single “I Know Love” ft. Pusha T and listen for yourself; the theme of anguish, love, heartbreak is prevalent throughout the track.
Recently, Sterling came through to talk with Singersroom about everything, from his gritty sound on the forthcoming 11 Missed Calls, his skills on the grill, his first Grammy nomination, a fashion sock line, and everything in between.
Singersroom: You’re from Philly. How has the City of Brotherly Love's rich musical history shaped your musical aspirations?
Sterling Simms: I would say it shaped it a whole lot. Philly is definitely in my veins, it’s in my soul, so it speak in my music, especially with this album. I purposefully recorded the bulk of this album in Philly because I wanted to capture that same gritty, soulful sound that Philadelphia is known for. So it definitely inspires my music and it inspires me as a whole. I carry that Philadelphia flag everywhere I go, ya dig?
Singersroom: How much of this project did you actually write?
Simms: We collaborated on pretty much the whole project together. I wrote with Pop, and also another writer by the name of Sam Dew who's actually featured on Wale’s new record “LoveHate Thing.” He’s a phenomenal writer. He was able to hear what we already had, and he was able to jump right in there and contribute. So the creative process was fun, man, we really had a good time making this album.
Singersroom: Since you mentioned Wale’s “LoveHate,” which has that 70's Marvin Gaye type sound, and then your new single “I Know Love” has that gritty sound, I can see where the direction is going.
Simms: And that was definitely a big reason why I chose this record to come out first. Just cause I wanted to do something a little different than what they’re used to hearing from me. A bulk of the records I put out before were always for the club or to turn up, for a lack of better word. But I wanted to showcase a different element, a different side. I wanted to show my emotional side but still something that was radio friendly, something good for the streets and dope for radio. This definitely sets the tone so people can get a general idea of what’s to come on the album.
Singersroom: So what's the story surrounding the title of the upcoming album, 11 Missed Calls?
Simms: 11 Missed Calls is pretty much my love journey. It’s pretty much my struggle between two women that I was dealing with, me dealing with the vices in my life. Every record represents a missed call, hence the title 11 Missed Calls, there’s 11 songs on the album. So from start to finish, it’s my movie, it’s my little mini movie, if you will. Get your seats ready, get your headphones ready, get you a drink, and come on this journey with me.
Singersroom: So you would probably say you do know love, hence the title of the first single?
Simms: I think I do know it when I see it, I know it when I feel it, I know it when I hear it. Love is something that evokes an emotion out of you that you never felt before, when you care about something that much, when you wake up thinking about it, when you go to sleep thinking about it, when you live it, when you grieve it. Like I did this project, I know this project, I know love when I hear it, I love this project to death. So I think people can definitely relate to this record, they can relate to the title in itself.
Singersroom: You earned your first Grammy Nom a few years ago for work on Marsha's debut, how did that feel and how did you celebrate?
Simms: I love the fact that I was nominated, my first Grammy nom, I hated that we lost, but we celebrated anyway. We had dinner and we drank, we celebrated the whole weekend pretty much. But It was a great time, hopefully I can get another one next year, that’s what we’re working for now. I made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t go again unless I was performing, presenting, or at least nominated for at least a couple of them. So I got some work ahead if me. I set the bar really high for myself, which is why I put all my efforts into this project. And I think it could definitely earn one.
Singersroom: It’s definitely a possibility, if it’s anything that you’re putting out now! What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
Simms: There are a lot of things that I enjoy doing. I come from theater, did a lot of theater when I was younger. Who knows? You know, I’m currently working on a sock line right now, make my own socks and hats, so maybe fashion could have been a lane. There’s a lot of different things that I love to do that inspires me every day, but of course music is my first love.
Singersroom: What are something's you would do for a woman on a first date?
Simms: Depends on really how I feel about that person. I’ve had some really dope first dates. One of my first dates, I took a young lady out on a boat ride out in Long Beach, which was really dope. It’s this canal where they serve you wine and cheese, and you go on this little love canal and you go around the water, see a little bit of the ocean and the dude, he plays music. You go under this bridge where you’re supposed to have your first kiss. It was actually pretty dope, it was my first time, too. But I like to do different things on first dates, something out of the box, like, I don’t wanna just go to the movies, you can do that any day. I might cook for you, I like to cook.
Singersroom: Yeah, on your Twitter, you post a lot of pictures of yourself working out, and food.
Simms: (laughs) Yeah, I love to cook, I have caterers on both sides of my family. I could of been a chef, I could of been a cook, could of been something else. It’s definitely a stress reliever sometimes, you know, I like to cook for my family when I have the time to do. I used to throw these cook outs every so often in L.A., people love my food, I’m kind of a master chef on the grill; I get it in.
Singersroom: You've been at this music thing for a minute now, what keeps you motivated?
Simms: I think the one thing that keeps me motivated is my son. I want him to have the life I didn’t have growing up, I don’t want him to want for anything , so he’s my sole motivation for what I do every day now, and it’s great to have that fire up under me. He doesn’t know anything else, so I wanna show him and give him the world. I work hard and he’s my drive.
Singersroom: On that note, Happy Belated Father’s Day!
Simms: Thank you very much!