From Indie Folk to Neo-Soul: Get to Know Sam Westhoff, the Name Behind the Evolution [Artists to Watch]

Sometimes all you need to realize the true greatness of something is to take a second look. I met Sam Westhoff some five years ago, as we were both freshmen at the university we attended. I’ve always known Westhoff as a musician, and I remember that first EP he released back in 2014, Hello, my name is. Not long after I downloaded it though (I believe on NoiseTrade), I sort of lost track of his music, admittedly for far too long. I heard his next single the following year, “Since I’ve Said Hello,” but for whatever reason wasn’t immediately impressed with what I heard and, with the oversaturation of other quality music, seemed to have forgotten about his music entirely.

Retrospectively speaking, hearing the evolution of Westhoff’s sound over time is remarkable. The Tulsa transplant started on his first couple of releases—those already mentioned—sounding like a more gospel-leaning Noah Gundersen. On his next pair of releases, including the 2016 EP, Slow Down, and debut LP, 2017’s An Ode to Someone, his sound personifies what might result if Gundersen and Ray LaMontagne got into a bar fight, with the LP also showing flashes of both The Black Keys and Kaleo.

With his latest material, however, Westhoff has fully crossed into R&B and neo-soul. Take his first single of 2018, for instance—the slow, atmospheric stomper “Easy” was released at the beginning of May. With haunting vocal effects and a very trip-hop beat, “Easy” is less LaMontagne and much more Son Lux. His newest single, “The Way That You Move,” which also released last month, follows in a similar vein with a thundering bassline and a tight drum groove underneath Westhoff’s gruff, smoky croons. Both tracks are layered effortlessly and feel markedly more neo-soul than anything he’s ever released before. My only gripe with these two new tunes is that they’re over far too soon—with “Easy” at a runtime of 3:01 and “The Way That You Move” at 2:23. It feels like just as you’re really getting into the song, it’s over. This is really the only tangible flaw in either track though.

The process never stops for this one-time Hoosier native, who often teases the new material he’s working on via his Instagram page. In addition to his own music, Westhoff produces and even collaborates with other Oklahoma-based artists. With a single of his own slated to release at the beginning of each month for the next year, one thing not to worry about is a shortage of fresh, fantastic tunes. In fact, don’t be surprised if all twelve tracks have been packaged into two separate EPs and the name Sam Westhoff is circulating on some of the internet’s premier music websites by this time 2019.

Stay up to date with Westhoff on his Facebook page, and utilize this playlist to help get yourself acquainted with his work.

[Photo by Parker Slack.]

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