As serpentwithfeet, New York City's Josiah Wise unites R&B, gospel, classical, and electronic music into passionate songs that honor his roots and express the fullness of his sexuality as an African-American gay man. On albums such as 2018's soil, Wise's voice -- the product of classical training as well as singing in church since childhood -- flows over music that mixes the sensual with the divine and touches on inspirations as diverse as Brandy, Björk, Antonin Dvorak, and Toni Morrison.
Wise grew up in a religious family in Baltimore: his dad owned a Christian bookstore, while his mom was a choir director. He joined the church choir at age six, and gospel and classical music dominated his early musical taste. After graduating high school, he moved to Philadelphia to study classical vocal training at the city's University of the Arts. Determined to make it as a classical singer, Wise had to rethink his path when he was rejected by the graduate-level conservatories to which he applied. After some time in Paris and a few years in Philly's neo-soul scene, he moved to New York City in 2013, where he made ends meet while working on his music.
He experienced a creative breakthrough in 2014 with "Curiosity of Other Men," a song about a crush that combined his passionate vocals with a Tchaikovsky sample. It served as the blueprint for his future music, which caught the ear of Tri Angle's Robin Carolan in 2015. Carolan became Wise's manager, and Tri Angle released serpentwithfeet's 2016 debut EP, Blisters. Featuring production by the Haxan Cloak, Blisters made fans of Ty Dolla $ign and Björk. In 2017, Wise recorded his debut album, enlisting a diverse array of co-producers including Clams Casino, Katie Gately, and Adele collaborator Paul Epworth. Inspired by a breakup as well as the power of Wise's voice, Soil arrived in June 2018. The contemplative 2019 single "Receipts" appeared in June 2019 and featured Ty Dolla $ign. ~ Heather Phares