Samantha Rise (they/them), one of March’s Artist To Watch, is a black, gender-expansive performer, teaching artist, activist and human-amplifier based in Lenapehoking, known widely as Philadelphia. Samantha’s passion for music and community building are the heart of their work, feeding spaces that are inquiry-driven, participant led, and abundant in joy!

A graduate of Temple University’s Jazz program and a dedicated student of their city’s musical history, Samantha’s musical education is inextricably bound to legacies of radical black feminist leadership, and liberatory imagination. Their songwriting is a trans-genre practice, drawing on a wide root system of traditional Black American music– jazz, folk, country and avant-garde– drawn up through their experiences between urban and high desert wilderness. Rise’s debut musical release, Brighter Days, landed in four installments over the solstice and equinox of 2019.

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An extension of the WXPN Artist To Watch program, Black Opry Residency is a six-week artist development program that aims to help Black Americana artists build sustainable careers and broaden their audiences. Black Opry Residency has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Learn more about the Black Opry Residency, the residents, and more!
Black Opry Residency
Learn more about the Black Opry Residency, the residents, and more!
Meet all the Residents

Get to know Samantha:

Who are your favorite artists right now?

I feel so surrounded by such magical music and in an era of incredible music making! QT songwriters and psychdelic soul/cosmic country creators have my heart! Joy Oladokun, Amethyst Kiah, Brittany Howard, Moses Sumney, Little Dragon, S.G. Goodman…honestly it’s so hard to choose!

Where do you draw inspiration for your lyrics?

My lyrics are reflections on all the stories playing out around me- in my own experience, the experiences people share with me, and the things I observe happening in the wider world. I’ve fallen head over heels in love with small spells stories we offer toward big change…so a lot of my songs lately are meant to be things people can sing to themselves to get through, and help us try on new paths in our minds, so they’re familiar when the world calls us to act.

What was the best live music experience you’ve ever had?

I’ve had so many-some of the best moments of my life have been live music experiences…I’d say one of my all-time greatest experiences was rock the bells in New York in 2007- seeing Rage Against the Machine with Wu-Tang Clan, The Roots, MF Doom, Cypress Hill and so many others, it just set my head and heart on fire. I felt so connected to the music on so many levels- I couldn’t have had a more stacked lineup of incredible emcees- as a lyricist it was mind blowing. It was also one the early moments of recognizing how much genre bending and blending inspired me…the fact that so much hip hop could explore so many different sounds and themes sent me home buzzing about what I could create.

What was a major turning point in your decision to pursue music as your profession?

During the Uprisings of 2020, I was able to re-experience what happens when I step into my power, and use my music to organize people around what we feel and hope for! 2019 was a devastating year in my personal life. I had spent many years supporting and encouraging other people to turn up their volume, but struggled to offer that to myself. Watching the world navigate the unraveling and wild imagining reminded me that we’re not on earth to waste time, and we’ll need all of our music and art to get through. I recommitted to my music as the most powerful tool I can offer during the pandemic an the uprisings, and to being a good friend to myself in the process.

What was one stand out memory in your career thus far?

I recently had the amazing opportunity to write a new work commissioned by Hudson Jazz Festival and NY York council for the Arts, called Dreaming Home, with my dear friend Aaron Parks. A piece that we wrote to honor our grief for the world, and invite our hope into action, it featured JK Kim on drums, Milena Casado on Flugelhorn…and the great Meshell Ndegeocello on bass. Right up until our final rehearsal, I couldn’t believe I’d be performing my original music with such someone whose music has saved my life on more than one occasion…she was a dream artist to perform with, until we actually did it. I have always been so in awe of her music and brilliance. Playing with her on this project was like knowing you’re apart of the milky way while you’re marveling at it swirl from the earth.

Listen to the Samantha Rise below!