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Samantha Thomas sings with Nick Harris on guitar at Belcher's

 

From the outside of a dark, wood-laden building by the train tracks, came sounds you would never expect. Full, clean and soulful chords were ringing out through the rafters. So powerful, the small, yellow light above the door flickered, and went out. I opened the door anyway. Stepping inside I was only able to see the outlines of familiar people. 

The power had completely gone out on this side of town. But the room wasn’t totally dark. There were three generators keeping us warm, and shedding a small light on the stage and crowd. 

Patrons were running into each other like bumper cars, and laughing it off after. No one wanted to go home, or to let the lack of electricity ruin their Thursday night tradition. 

Without lights it was difficult to see who was playing at first, but after walking closer I found Samantha Thomas performing on stage. Her spotlight was a single phone using their flashlight app, unsteadily following her. 

A native to Longview, Texas, she was not used to the cold this time of year, especially in black-outs. She moved to Ontario in 2012 and then to Mansfield shortly after. This is where she found a space to create and perform with an attentive audience.

How could you not listen? Her voice rang out and was soothing and strong, powerful but still clear. Thomas is no stranger to the stage. She had played in other bands before. Most recently, the all-female ensemble “Gutter catz,” in which she played guitar and sometimes sang. Here at Belcher's, it’s just her and the guitar.

After asking her how she learned to play, she said, “I’m self taught, my dad bought me my first guitar at seven and gifted me an Eagles tablature book.”

That very same year she performed “Already gone” by the Eagles for the third grade talent show. Anyone familiar with the Eagles will understand how difficult of a task that would be at any age, let alone seven. Her artist inspirations do not end there, she cites soul singers as having a huge impact on her.

“I love Etta James, I love soul music, I love R&B and blues,” Thomas said. “That's what really got me into singing, like really singing.”

To hear her belt makes it clear why she has an affinity for powerhouse singers, she is one herself. The classic high chest voice, paired with her ability to not lose the sound of soul that is necessary when singing songs by Adele, Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, or Alicia Keys. 

Listening to Samantha do what she loves and is best at, is blissful.

 “All I’ve ever wanted to do in my life is play music. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, nothing else,” she said. 

Even mentioning how she may, eventually, go to school to become a choir director or a band teacher, to ensure she can still pursue her life’s passion as a career. Her version of “If i ain’t got you” ended on a great note, everyone cheered and felt their way back to the bar for another one.

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Nick Harris

Next up was Nick Harris. He wasted no time setting up, or adjusting his guitar. Almost immediately after stepping on the dark stage he began with his acoustic guitar. Somehow everyone instantly knew his songs and began singing along. It was reminiscent of nights spent by a campfire in summer, huddled around close friends, singing along to the radio. 

Playing without power is not typical for Belcher's. But to allow a show to continue regardless of setbacks, is beautiful to see. 

Harris, who stumbled upon learning how to play the guitar in eighth grade, explained just how he got interested in it.  

“I got grounded actually, my mom took my TV and Nintendo away. All I had in my room was my guitar. I learned how to play because I had nothing else,” Harris said with a smile on his face. 

Learning guitar at any age is a large feat. You get the feeling when watching him, he could play with his eyes closed. When asked who bought him his first guitar, he replied, “I bought it for myself, I would steal 20’s out of my dad’s  wallet, and I bought an Esteban guitar off the TV for 120 dollars."

It was that ornery decision he made as an eight year old that planted the seed for his yearning to be a singer-songwriter. 

“Usually I write about my diary, my own life, ” Harris said.

However he’s moving in a different direction for his upcoming album.

 “Now I’m gonna write an album that has nothing to do with me because I already did that so much,” Harris said.

His storytelling skills were sharp, on and off the mic. He used his voice like an instrument on stage. The songs were played in major keys to keep the mood steady. However, upon listening intently, they hit you as he belts melancholy lyrics. He brings together the web weaving of Bob Dylan and has a similar tone as Eddie Vedder. It all comes together perfectly to showcase another true talent of Mansfield. 

Visit Belcher’s House of Rock every Thursday, from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. to hear great local live music.

 

"Newsroom After Hours" note: Have a local band or show coming up that we should cover? Email: zac@richlandsource.com 

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