Sam Westhoff | Colour (new album)
From the moment I heard "The Way That You Move", a recent single from Tulsa-based indie/soul singer-songwriter Sam Westhoff, I had a feeling that there would be a lot more incredible music on the way from this talented, emerging musician. Hot on the heels of follow-up single release "Everyday", Sam has just released his anticipated new album, Colour.
Beyond the remarkable songwriting on every one of the eight tracks of Colour, what stands out is Sam's unique, modern musical style that delivers soulful, indie gems with just the right amount of production. There's just the right amount of 'space' that truly allows his vocal delivery and the heart of each of these songs to brilliantly shine through. I'm reminded of the old adage of "less is more", and how I think that principle does each of these songs proper justice. Soulful, guitar-based melodies embellished with a lo-fi electronic production and subtle vocal distortion are the perfect formula for Colour.
"Wait Up" is great opening track that sets the tone for the album - upbeat and optimistic with yearning vocals, catchy chorus. Singles "Everyday" and "Easy" are both downtempo, speckled with samples, and perfectly finished with deep, vibrating, yet minimal electronic production. "Woke Up for You", "Not So Steady", and "Slow Burn" are all equally inspirational, reflective and touching with expressive, heartfelt vocals. My two favorite tracks include the upbeat "The Way That You Move", which builds from simple fingerstyle electric guitar and vocals to a danceable, finger-snapping indie gem, along with appropriately-named closing track, "Night Cap." I love the electronic treatment on this - great, soulful chorus and a perfect "night cap" to Colour.
SoundThread Music Blog had the opportunity to catch up with Sam Westhoff to talk about Colour, the songwriting process, and his musical influences.
[STMB]: Congratulations on the release of Colour! Is there a common musical or lyrical theme across the songs on the album. Musically, it sounds very cohesive – a natural-sounding transition from track to track.
[SW]: Musically, I took a lot of inspiration from 90’s Hip Hop and Contemporary R&B for the production of Colour. I’d say the record is tied together with elements of minimalism throughout. Even one of the more produced out songs, Night Cap, starts with just vocals and guitar, then breaks out into full band with some unique instrumentation and dynamic changes. The overall tonality on this record is rather different than my last record. Colour has a tighter groove with strategically placed elements of reverb and space, as opposed to An Ode To Someone was primarily all large open sounds in a big space. This primarily came from where I record and mixed everything. An Ode To Someone was mixed in a warehouse type space and Colour was mixed in a home turned into a studio.
[STMB]: Can you tell us about your musical background and influences?
[SW]: I started classical piano when I was 8 and was competitive until I was 16 years old. At that point, I started exploring a bit into Jazz, Blues and Soul. I learned how to play guitar, drums and bass as well so I could understand the majority of the instrumentation going on in the music I was listening to. I didn’t start singing, writing and producing until I was 18. I was wildly into Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Ray LaMontagne and B.B. King at the time of recording my first EP. My early music was pretty revealing of my influences, but as I’m maturing and developing my own sound, I am drawing inspiration from many styles and artists. For example, I love the vibe of old school Hip Hop rhythm sections. So, I often write to just a drum loop that I vibe with. My primary influences are currently artists like Kevin Garrett, The Fugees, James Blake and Bill Withers.
[STMB]: Your recent singles are impressive and have a great, cutting musical edge that complements your bluesy, soulful vocal style. Can you tell us a bit about the songwriting process and/or production behind the songs?
[SW]: Songwriting is a kind of an ongoing thing for me. I have friends that have specific moments where they go away for a week and write their record, or every Thursday is writing day, for example. But I usually find myself writing my best stuff when I’m simply just doing my day to day things and then the songs just start flowing. I use my voice memos on my phone to record any and every single idea I have then I sift through and pick which ones I feel hit me the best and start fleshing them out. Reality is, you won’t find your best song until you sift through you worst stuff. So I just write and write and write and keep everything to look over at some point. The production process is kind of intertwined with the writing process. I started dabbling in writing and production at the same time, so they are hard to separate in my mind. When I write a chorus, the first thought is something along the lines of, “What’s the drum tone/groove, vocal mic choice, instrumentation and vibe…” then that effects the chord choice and vocal tone I choose to sing with. So its a little hard to separate them in my mind, which I’m cool with.
SAM WESTHOFF "THE WAY THAT YOU MOVE" (Official Video)
[STMB]: "The Way That You Move" was the first single of yours that I heard. I was immediately taken after just one listen. Is there anything in particular that inspired the killer vibe or theme of this song?
[SW]: I often write with double meanings. If I have a feeling that I want to express, but feel like it may not be relatable enough, I will phrase it in a way to make it applicable to more people. “The Way That You Move” is actually about alcoholism and the temptation to drink the day away. One of my grandfathers was an alcoholic and he was the first alcoholic, that I know of, that I encountered. His favorite artist was Neil Diamond, so that's where the line, “Sweet Caroline, you’re not mine” comes from. I used that reference as a way to portray alcohol as a woman trying to pull me in, giving it the double meaning. Deeper than it comes across ha, but intentionally so.
Thanks to Sam for the insightful responses!
With that, we leave you with a stunning, acoustic performance of Sam's recent single, "Everyday".
SAM WESTHOFF "EVERYDAY" (Acoustic)