Wilson, North Carolina-born singer-songwriter Samoht (pronounced suh-MOH) is expanding the dimensions of R&B through his soulful, gospel-inspired vocals and experimental trap sound. Both of his albums — 2018's Mxxn Wave and last year's Exit — have flaunted his distinct musical cadence as well as showcased lyrics inspired by his hometown, love’s ebbs and flows, God, and the virtues of extolling one's blackness.
The independent artist recently embarked on his third tour, which will take him to Fort Lauderdale for a performance at C&I Studios this Saturday, January 11. The Force Tour is set to stop in nine cities and will bring the "MySpace" singer face-to-face with fans for a series of intimate performances.
Samoht — which is his first name, Thomas, spelled backward — cites his mother and grandmother as his gateways to gospel music. His mom is a pastor, gospel comedian, and multi-instrumentalist, while his grandmother was a choir director whose spiritual fervor reminded him of the “Queen of Gospel,” Mahalia Jackson. Also influenced by the hip-hop and R&B tunes his cousins introduced him to, the now-31-year-old Brooklyn-based artist's interest in music was piqued by his environment from a very young age.
“When most people hear me sing, they automatically think gospel, but I also lived in the projects," he says. "With my family being close-knit and being important people in the community and music, I was influenced and inspired by the things that surrounded me."
Although he sang gospel music at local churches in North Carolina, Samoht put a pause on singing to study design at the Art Institute of New York City in 2012. After he got kicked out of school and worked a succession of odd jobs to pay the bills, it took until 2017, which saw the release of the single "39 Weeks," for his musical career to gain traction.
“It was alternative, and that’s how I wanted it to come out. Thinking about the usual R&B artist ways, I didn’t want it to come out supersexual,” he says. Rejecting the seductive overtones that have come to be associated with R&B, Samoht says he didn’t want to evolve into the next “dark-skin sensation.”
“Being sexy all the time would be a job," he says. "I just want to make sure to keep it real. I just want to be well rounded.”
He followed his debut with the 2018 EP Omen, which boasted a template similar to ethereal melodies dipped in a familiar Southern comfort. Samoht believes his choice to ground intimacy through inner turmoil and other struggles has helped listeners connect with his music. His passionate and vocal online fan base — which calls itself the Force — maintains a number of Instagram pages and group chats dedicated to documenting the singer's latest releases and performances.
Samoht’s familial following echoes the communal traditions of his rural Southern upbringing.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to have been raised in the South regardless of the adversities," he says, noting that his roots inform his identity as a musician. "I will forever be that guy representing that."
In an industry where being from a dilapidated town isn’t sexy, Samoht’s country origins are so deeply embedded in his music that he transports listeners to a realm of cultural nostalgia. His lyrics evoke the raw emotions inherent to the supernal hymns of black churches and scorching summer days at family reunions, and many of his scenes and songs are bolstered by sound bites from his late uncle.
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Samoht's heartfelt style is influenced by the likes of Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Kim Burrell, J. Moss, Kid Cudi, Björk, and Imogen Heap. Toeing the line between traditional and progressive R&B, he has carved a lane for himself by staying true to his history while leaning into his more experimental inclinations.
Samoht says he plans to follow up the Force Tour by upping the ante on his creative presentation and releasing an in-the-works EP later this year. He's intent on incorporating his arts education into his musicianship and has already made headway through the cowboy hats and shining grills that have become his signatures. As he has done thus far, he's looking to keep things "forward but down-home" in the year ahead.
“This year, [fans] can expect good, quality music from me," he says. “It’ll be grounded but still in another dimension.”