Holiday 2023: Samara Joy
In celebration of the holiday season, Grammys Best New Artist Samara Joy debuts her new song, “Now and Then” exclusively on Theory.com. Here the singer steps into the spotlight in dazzling sequins, plush velvet, and more high-note-hitting styles.
Heralded for bringing jazz to Gen Z, the 23 year-old vocalist has a unique talent for modernizing time-honored standards with a voice that’s at once fresh and familiar. This commitment to classics reimagined and the ability to find nuance in simplicity are values highly aligned with the Theory ethos, making her the perfect partner for this special season.
This is the first song you’ve written yourself, correct?
“That’s right, the inspiration behind the new song “Now and Then” is the importance of honoring your mentors while they’re still here and even when they’ve passed on. The composition is written by a legendary musician and educator, the late Barry Harris with my lyrics and I dedicate the song to him. He was so passionate about teaching and education, about his love for music. That’s what kept him going and and that’s what fuels my passion for music.
I hope it is received by those who also feel the impact of mentorship and guidance in their own lives.”
And mentorship lead you to jazz?
“I was first introduced to jazz in high school by a teacher, but really leaned into it when auditioning for the jazz studies program in college. I was drawn toward the authenticity of my peers’ and teachers’ artistry, towards the way that they express themselves so freely, so individually. Jazz to some people might seem like it's a box and everybody plays the same or sounds the same, but I loved the originality of each artist that I listened to when I listened to jazz.”
You're channeling jazz icons of the past in the campaign. How did that come to life?
“I was nervous but everyone on set guided me through being able to channel that same kind of Billie Holiday glamour but with my own Samara style. Shooting with Tyler Mitchell was great!
Each look I wore made me feel so empowered. The quality, the style, the structure—everything was on point. We started with suiting that’s perhaps a bit more subdued, something I’d wear pre-show, and then took it up a notch with the sequins. I love sequins.”
It was photographed in an intimate jazz club where you also performed. How does an intimate setting like this compare to larger stages?
“It feels like home, honestly. I love intimate spaces. I feel like that's where this music comes to life and where I feel the most comfortable. Every nuance and every detail can be heard, so it just feels right.”
This is your first time partnering with a fashion brand. Why Theory?
“Theory is classic, elegant, and sophisticated. Those are all qualities I also try to embody, not only in the music but in my fashion, so it felt like the perfect partnership.”
The holiday season is full of occasions, big and small. What’s your approach to getting dressed this time of year?
“I’m definitely a cozy girl, New York weather is a doozy! But when the setting is right and I’m singing a festive gig, I love to bring out the glamour.”
And how do you like to dress when you’re recording versus performing?
“In the studio, I’m all about comfort. On stage and on the road, I have to bring pieces that are bright and stage worthy. Also, since there usually isn’t a lot of time to get ready. I like clothes that don’t require much ironing. It’s a challenge but, having been on tour for a few years now, I always look forward to any new pieces I come across.”
Speaking of touring, you come from a family of artists and are now performing with them on tour. What is that experience like?
“It’s so amazing! The last time they all sang together in this way, I was still a baby. Now that I’m getting the wonderful opportunity of sharing my family and their incredible gifts with the world, I’m excited for everyone to hear!”
To that end, what role does music play in your holiday traditions?
“Anytime my family gets together for the holidays, we always sing. Whether it’s songs of gratitude and thankfulness for the opportunity to gather as a family, or sharing music memories and songs with each other, music plays a big role in our holiday traditions.”
And there’s that inherent relationship between jazz and the holidays.
“There’s a clear connection between the two. I hear it all the time, people say my voice reminds them of Christmas. I always think of Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby around this season.”
What’s your gifting philosophy this year?
“I love giving gifts to people!! I make notes year round about the interests and qualities of the person I’m buying a gift for. I also can’t just buy one gift, I have to buy a bunch of mini trinkets that all have a special meaning. I want to surprise my parents with a big gift, that’s the first thing on my list.”