Multi-talented UK artist Samm Henshaw - that's Iniabasi Samuel Henshaw in full - debuts a voice you won't forget on his beguiling, soulful EP: The Sound Experiment.
The first thing any listener will notice about Henshaw is his voice, full of emotion that ripples far beyond his years. Henshaw honed his vocal talents in the church, and last year caught the attention of a wider audience with a show-stopping slot at Boxpark’s Acoustic Afternoon.
The Sound Experiment displays Henshaw’s curiosity to create freely, and his ability to manipulate and develop a variety of sounds at this early stage in his career. The diversity of each track defines The Sound Experiment as a platform for the artist to showcase his ranging musical talent. He wanted the project to build a bridge between his fans and himself, giving them the chance to decide which direction Henshaw’s music should go in the future.
Alongside the gospel greats Helen Baylor, Fred Hammond and Alvin Slaughter, he spent his childhood devouring mainstream pop music, from Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to Usher and N*Sync. These days, he pinpoints his biggest vocal inspirations as D’Angelo, Paolo Nutini and Lauryn Hill - influences that come through in his raspy falsetto - and writes lyrics that resonate with the poetry of Frank Ocean.
His seven-track debut release The Sound Experiment began at University, where Henshaw is currently in his third year of studying Popular Music Performance. Late nights jamming with his housemates formed the foundation of a free-flowing EP: one that snakes through old school hip-hop, blues and neo-soul.
Displaying the depths of his musical abilities, Henshaw turns his hand to both singing and rapping while also playing guitar, keys, drums and a smattering of bass. It was quite literally an experiment: “At the time I didn’t know what I wanted to be as a musician. I just wanted to [try] loads of different sounds on and see what we came out with,” explains Henshaw. “But as we’ve developed with the whole process of The Sound Experiment, things have become a lot clearer.”
At the heart of the EP is a yearning for creative and political freedom, culminating in the stomping triumph that is lead single ‘Autonomy’. After all, in Henshaw’s words, “Art’s about freedom and doing your own thing.” While much of the EP deals with love and loneliness, ‘Autonomy’ is an anthem for
mould-breaking independence, demanding “These laws are my own, no foreign guidance to direct me.” Elsewhere, on ‘Everything’ he calls out “power- hungry politicians”, and on the insistently percussive ‘Begging’ he makes an impassioned plea for forgiveness.
Alongside these rallying cries are more introspective moments. On ‘Temptation’, Henshaw raps about forbidden fantasies; on ‘Better’, written over the course of two consecutive sleepless nights, he shows off a heartbreaking falsetto over fingerclicks and low-riding bass. There’s also a clear influence from his church roots - which he says are “everything” to him - with gentle EP closer ‘Good To Me’ drenched in gospel spirit. With just seven tracks, this is an artist who runs across a vast spectrum of soul and style; and through it all shines one unmistakable rebel voice.