New Jersey native Sam Houston is definitely on our list of Artists to Watch in 2019! His talent for artfully fusing genres into a new, distinct style has him set up for success. The music is sensual, haunting and deftly merges jazz, soul, R&B, and cool psychedelia made more provocative by BLK ODYSSY band member Alejandro Rios’ skilled, yet searing raw guitar sound.
The band has been hard at work in the studio recording a new album with Grammy Award-winning producers Brian Kennedy and Troy Noka, set to be released on January 18th. You can catch their pre-release show at Empire Control Room on Dec. 14! Get details here.
Read our exclusive interview with Sam below.
First of all, congratulations on being selected as the AMF Artist of the Month! How did you first become involved with AMF, and what does being the Artist of the Month mean to you?
Thanks! So, the Austin Music Foundation was one of the first things that people recommended I pursue when I expressed interest in growing in the Austin music scene. I wanted to become a larger part of the community. I didn’t want to just be another musician in a city full of musicians, but rather an artist who contributes to the scene, or for lack of a better term, an artist like Gary Clark Jr. who “puts the city on the map.” AMF has contributed some vital attributes that have helped us along the way, mostly surrounding council. That was super important for a new artist like myself. I really needed help understanding the ins and outs of the Austin music scene in order to become known here. AMF told me what and who I needed to know.
How has your experience been in the Austin music scene? How does it differ from the scene in New Jersey?
My experience in the Austin music scene has been crazy good! We’ve gotten so much love here and that’s what we went looking for when we left New Jersey. Jersey was such a tough market because no one really cares. You have an over saturated market of hip-hop artists, then you have a small indie/alternative rock scene closer to the shore, but the two never merge. So, for us to even get our own friends to come out to shows was difficult; much less people you’ve never met. So, to go from only your mom, dad, aunts and close friends being at your shows, to a room full of people you have never met was scary but also exhilarating. In Austin, if your band is tight and you offer something people like, then you’ll see people come out. The difference in Austin is that people want to see the next big thing BEFORE they are the next big thing. Whereas, in New Jersey, you typically won’t get attention until you are big.
What would you say has been the coolest show to perform or opportunity that you’ve had since you’ve become a musician?
Opening for Bilal was super cool. He was in a crew of artists that I have watched since I was young, The Soulquarians. They were a group of black artists in the 90’s who did some groundbreaking and innovative work at Jimi Hendrix Electric Lady Studios. D’Angelo, Questlove & The Roots, Common, Erykah Badu, and Bilal are all like soul gods! So, to play a show and to hang with him was dope. Opportunity wise, being on the ABC network and being profiled by them as one of the cities fastest growing artists was very cool.
What has been one of the most difficult challenges that you’ve had to overcome as a musician?
Honestly, as a musician my most difficult challenge has been finding my sound. In your head you hear things and you love them. The hardest part, however, is translating your thoughts to sound. It’s also difficult to get people to understand your sound and help you translate it to the crowd. I’ve been blessed with a team that really understands and contributes to our sound. Especially our lead guitar player, Alejandro Rios. Not too sure where exactly I’d be without him.
What do you think your biggest musical accomplishment is as of today?
My biggest musical accomplishment isn’t any placements or recognition. For me, and I’m sure my band will agree, it’s the amount of people we’ve connected with through music. We get messages from people in London, Canada, Brazil, Australia, and all over the U.S thanking us for our music. It is truly humbling and a huge blessing for us. As an artist of substance, our goal is to make music that makes a difference when it vibrates through your headphones or car speakers. So, it’s a huge accomplishment, for us, to have started to do that with our music.
How has your music evolved since you first began writing and recording?
My music has evolved a lot. My early inspirations were pretty narrow and all the same; Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Erykah Badu, a bunch of soul artists. So naturally, soul is what I did. Then I moved out of that and into a city where blues and rock was more prevalent. I knew that in order to be successful here, in Austin, I was going to need to bring that into the mix. I ended up loving it, too. Luckily I had Alejandro, our lead guitar player, who knew all about it and could teach me about rock. He taught me rock, while I taught him about soul. Then we began to fuse our different influences, which is what most people know us for today. It’s not just rock, it’s not just soul; it’s somewhere in the middle which is fulfilling to both audiences.
You’re releasing a new EP in January, can you tell us a little more about it, and your creative process?
Our EP “S K I N” is geared to release mid-January. We narrowed the track list down to four songs and an intro. However, we wrote like 20 songs in the process. “S K I N” represents honesty, rawness and candid emotion. When you have on clothes you can hide your scars, you can hide whatever you don’t want people to see. When it’s just you and your skin, you have to face the thoughts you’re uncomfortable thinking. For us, as musicians, it’s important to do those things in music. We collaborated with Grammy award winning producer, Brian Kennedy on a song, and writer, Angelique Cinelu. Brian has worked with Rihanna, Chris Brown, Kelly Clarkson, The Internet, Cold Heart, Celo Green, etc., so that was really cool to work with him. For this EP, we worked hard on bringing something fresh and true to ourselves. On some songs like “Scream My Name,” we really highlight our fusion between rock and contemporary soul.
We’re looking forward to your pre-release show at Empire on December 14. How excited are you to celebrate the accomplishment of your latest EP?
We are so excited! We hope the turn out is great. We’ve been working on making our live shows a very cool experience for those who are watching. We also will be releasing our new merch line BLK ODYSSY, named after the band I play with.
Where are you hoping to see yourself and the band in the next five years?
In the next five years, we really just hope to reach more people. I’d like to see us playing bigger shows, making better music and doing what we are on a larger scale. It just takes consistency, resilience, great attitude, and being a little bit crazy. Everyone on my team has those traits. So I think in five years we will be exactly where we want.