Image courtesy of Lenny Villegas (@villegasmedia)
If J Dilla’s “So Far To Go“, featuring Common and D’Angelo, somehow took on the flesh of an unassuming twenty-something living in San Diego, California, the song would undoubtedly bear uncanny resemblance to Sam Gouthro. The humility and laid-back nature of the SD native might make an allusion to Dilla, Com’ Sense, and D’Angelo seem a bit hyperbolic, but no more than a few songs into his catalogue and I am convinced that Sam will win you over. Gouthro is truly the trifecta, able to spit, produce, and sing at a high level, no easy feat. Sam was one of many whose music I giddily discovered in the process of creating the SDLHH January 2018 Playlist, and Sam was a standout among a deep roster of amazing artists who inhabit our city/county. Sam Gouthro is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, whose spirit animal is an emcee and he finds his home in a nest of jazzy rhythms atop boom bap patterns, interwoven with soulful melodies, from which he raps and sings tales of love lost, love worth fighting for, and love that could be. As always, I am beside myself that I get to share Sam Gouthro’s story, or at least bits and pieces of it, with SDLHH’s readers, with you. Read. Listen. Enjoy. Share.
SDLHH: Who is Sam Gouthro?
SDLHH: How has hip hop changed your life?
Sam Gouthro: Hip Hop changed my life the day I discovered J. Dilla. Instantly, I became addicted to his percussive boom bap rhythms and groovy bass lines. Dilla was a mastermind at integrating jazz elements into his instrumentals; that’s definitely something I try to emulate in my production.
SDLHH: That’s dope. Rest in peace Dilla. He has impacted the culture so deeply. I was pleasantly surprised to get an email from a San Diego artist I had never heard of in my inbox for this month’s playlist. Thank you so much for reaching out! Out of curiosity, how did you hear of SDLovesHipHop?
Sam Gouthro: It was kind of spontaneous. I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and noticed DJ Root (@dj_root) reposted information about your Spotify playlist. I liked that it was exclusive to San Diego artists. I thought it might be a good way for me to get my name circulating throughout the community.
SDLHH: Man, it’s encouraging to see the community building organically. The first 30 seconds of “Down For This” and I was a fan. Once an artist grabs my attention like that, I can’t help but want to share his/her music, and more importantly his/her story. Thank you for being down for this interview. Since this track, a track where you flex your singing, was my window into your catalogue, can you share a bit about your journey into singing? I really want to know about the moment when you, or those around you, first said, “dang, this kid can sing and needs to take it seriously.”
Sam Gouthro: Honestly, It was never my intention to be a recording artist. I’ve always worried too much about what other people thought, and I’ve always had a constant fear of being inadequate. When I turned 18, my dad bought me a couple essential pieces of recording equipment. He told me that I no longer had any excuses. He has always pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and if it weren’t for his constant support and encouragement, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
SDLHH: In that last question, I may have been presumptuous – did you start as a rapper or as a singer? And who were some singers and rappers that inspired you coming up?
Sam Gouthro: Most people don’t know this but I actually started as a rapper. When I was younger I had a hard time finding features, especially ones with the same values [as me], so I decided to do it myself. In 2016, I released my first EP, “Romantic Raps, Vol. 1”
Inspirational Rappers: A Tribe Called Quest, Common, Slug [of Atmosphere], Blu, & J. Cole.
Inspirational Singers: D’Angelo, Marvin Gaye, John Mayer, & Allen Stone.
SDLHH: That’s a fun list. Okay, so it’s always a bit scary making comparisons, but I have to say, my response to first listening to a little chunk of your music was, “This dude is like SD’s Russ.” You familiar? If so, how does such a comparison make you feel?
Sam Gouthro: I’m not too familiar with his music, but after listening to a couple of his songs I can see why people would think that. His vocals are very melodic, especially for being a rap artist, so I think that’s where most people would pinpoint our similarity.
SDLHH: That segues nicely into my next question since Russ not only raps and sings, but also produces his own music; how did you get into production? What instruments/software do you use to create?
Sam Gouthro: I started producing when I was 16. I attended a performing arts high school which offered an elective called Electronic Music 150. In that class we learned about Audio Technology & Music Production.
My recording equipment consist of my Macbook Pro, Reason 7, Focusrite Scarlett 18i8, Ibanez Soundgear Bass, 1996 American Fender Stratocaster, Questlove Breakbeat Drum Kit, Yamaha MOXF6, Korg S-Microkorg, and a Neumann TLM 103 Condenser Microphone.
SDLHH: Alright, let’s dive into your content. It is impossible to ignore the fact that romantic love, thematically, is woven throughout most, if not all, of your music. It begs the question, is there a muse? Is there the one that got away? Is there a Lucy to your inner Slug?
Sam Gouthro: All of my songs are intended to be interpreted by the listener. People are constantly asking me…“was this song about ____?”. Almost every song I’ve written is based on a real life event, but sometimes I’ll take bits and pieces from different situations and fabricate the reality for creative purposes. I enjoy hearing people’s opinions because it lets me know that they’re actually paying attention to the lyrical content. I do my best to write about topics that everyone can relate to. There’s nothing more special than an artist being able to create a relationship with their listener.
SDLHH: Speaking of relationships, let’s touch on your relationship to San Diego? You a native? What area did you come up in? Where’d you go to high school? What area do you spend most of your time in now?
Sam Gouthro: Yes, I was born and raised in San Diego. I grew up in La Mesa but moved to Coronado when I was 12. I graduated from Coronado High School in 2011. Now I spend most of my time recording at my music studio in Chula Vista. When I’m not recording, you can find me hanging out with friends in North Park & Ocean Beach.
SDLHH: How has the city/scene helped to shape your sound?
Sam Gouthro: I feel like San Diego has a very laid back and relaxed demeanor. Most of my songs range from 75-95 beats per minute and I think that’s due to the environment that I’m in. In February, I will be releasing a west coast-styled instrumental album via Ninetofive Records titled, “Lately”. This entire album is inspired by Southern California.
SDLHH: Your releases are super polished and you sound like seasoned vet; do you play shows around town much? If so, what is your favorite venue to rock? When/where can we catch you live in the near future?
Sam Gouthro: I’ve never performed before but it’s something that I’ve been wanting to get into. I’m not really sure how I would set up for a live event, but I imagine I would have to run everything through a looping station. I’ve also considered putting together a small band. I received offers to play with Sofar Sounds & Public Square Coffee House, so you may be able to find me at either of those spots in the near future.
SDLHH: As we begin winding down, what’s something you’d like to share with San Diego’s hip hop scene?
Sam Gouthro: I’m constantly trying to provide something that’s fresh and unique. I don’t think anyone else in San Diego is emitting a similar style of hip hop, so it’s nice to bring something original to the scene.
SDLHH: One emphasis of SDLHH is to see a heightened level of unity in the San Diego hip hop community. Can you point to some other artists (singers/emcees/producers) who you see as comrades and who you also see as helping to progress the scene?
SDLHH: Finally, where should readers go to connect with you?
Sam Gouthro: Feel free to send me a message on any of these platforms below. I’ll try my best to respond to everyone as soon as possible.
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/sgouthro.music
Peace, Love & Hip Hop,
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