One of this year’s hottest contenders on TV talent-scouting show The Voice says the challenges of growing up on estates pushed him to make something of himself.
Roger Samuels, 43, has lit up the stage with his gospel singing and judge Tom Jones has taken a strong liking to him.
Roger grew up in Croydon and Brixton and says the experiences in both places have helped him through his singing career. Roger said: “As a youth growing up in Brixton, there was a big sound system culture where artists would toast, MC or sing, so this had a lot of influence on me and my friends.
“My mum and dad were pastors so the music influence was strong; we never had a keyboardist at church so I taught myself how to play piano and then drums. Most of my friends never knew I could sing except for my really close friends. In the last 10 years so many influential and successful artists have come from Croydon, such as Stormzy, Krept and Konan Raye all who have had mainstream chart success, this has allowed me to see it is possible to realise your dreams.
“Most people from Croydon and Brixton have been through similar challenges. Growing up on council estates you have to push to make something of yourself and in the area I was from in Brixton, Roots Manuver would record in the local studio – that made me believe that I too can be great.
“Growing up I would listen to songs and see if I could sing like the singer, then a few of my friends and I would meet up and sing on the estates to R’n’B songs from groups like Jodeci and H Town.”
Roger has been singing professionally for 13 years and has performed at festivals, weddings, funerals, concerts and community events.
He has also sung with Gospel legends in the UK and worldwide such as Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, Andrae Crouch, Alvin Slaughter, LCGC, Fred Hammond and Marvin Sapp.
A life-changing moment in Roger’s career came when his father died and he felt the grief was too strong for him to pursue music. Roger said: “My father was my biggest inspiration growing up, a pastor and a great dad, he was everything and more, so when he passed it was a very difficult time. I was in an empty space. I didn’t know how to process the grief. I was listening to my dad’s voice on recordings I had of him and it would cause me even more grief.
“I realised that the grief was affecting my relationship with my wife and children. I went to get help with my grief and depression with pastoral counselling and prayer, after which I began singing in churches again for their Sunday services and concerts. The more I sang, the better I felt, and with the support of my wife and family I was able to speak and sing about my experiences.”
Roger got his singing back on track and applied for a spot on The Voice this year, which has seen him produce some impressive displays – including a rendition of Leona Lewis’
Footprints in the Sand – to form part of Jennifer Hudson’s team. Roger said: “The voice has been absolutely amazing. The mentoring from Tom Jones has been priceless having been a artist with decades of experience, he has passed on so much wisdom in how to perform, how to conduct ourselves on and off the stage and most importantly how to engage with your audience. The process is making me a better artist with a deeper understanding of the music industry. The messages of support and inspiration from those who have been viewing The Voice have been amazing. Across the board I have heard from people of all ages and backgrounds, I thought I would only appeal to the older generation but to see how many youths I am inspiring it is amazing.”