Since making the move from Omaha, Nebraska, to Los Angeles, Sammy Wilk has felt the pressures of the music industry pulling at him in all directions. In the beginning of his career, people wanted him to sound a certain way, others wanted to manage him, and he was simply unhappy.
“Everybody was trying to grab at me and get a piece of me, and I just didn’t know anyone’s intentions,” Wilk tells Billboard. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then I woke up one day and felt, ‘Once I release this project, I feel like I’ll be ready for war.'”
Now, Wilk is about to embark on his headlining U.S. tour and share with his fans the tracks from his first LP, Ready for War, released Friday (April 22). The project, as Wilk calls it, comes after months in the studio and taking a break in Jamaica, where the island feel matches up perfectly with Wilk’s reggae-pop and rap sound.
It’s easy to say he’s come a long way from making Vine videos with his high school friends Jack & Jack.
After finishing up performing at DigiTour with other young musicians like him, Wilk said he walked away with new skills, such as performing with a live band and figuring out which songs work with a crowd — and, more importantly, the ones that don’t. In order to hold his fans over between DigiTour and the release of Ready for War, Wilk has slowly shared singles that will be on his latest project. On Wednesday (April 20), Wilk released “Light Up,” in honor of the marijuana-centered holiday. The song features Ky-Mani Marley, the son of reggae legend Bob Marley.
“Just to have Marley blood on one of your tracks is out of this world. It’s one of my favorite songs on the whole project,” Wilk says. “I hope the smokers of 4/20 enjoyed the song.”
Wilk describes Ready for War as a project that is full of “good vibes” and “mood music.” It contains songs that Wilk says are full of dance, hip-hop and reggae.
One song in particular, “Throw Signs,” features his good friends Jack & Jack — the rapper duo who became famous from funny videos on Vine and then hit No. 3 on Billboard‘s Rap Albums chart with their debut EP last year. The three guys are constantly in the studio together, either to collaborate on tracks or just hang out. “Throw Signs” was created in a quick studio session where each artist wrote their own verse and then it came together pretty seamlessly, Wilk says.
Now that Ready for War is out, Wilk is preparing for his upcoming headlining U.S. tour and performing at the Grammy Park Social Stages event in Brooklyn next month alongside friends Kenny Holland, Russ and more. The Grammy Park Social Stages event features today’s top young performers, and Wilk says it’s an honor to even be recognized in that group.
“It’s kind of mind-blowing. I’m excited to see what the whole Grammy thing is about,” Wilk says. “I just want to share my music with people. Now that my project’s about to drop, I’m ready to share it live and travel the world. It’s crazy.”
Listen to “Throw Signs” now: