Dot singer-songwriter explores his working-class, Iranian roots

Nima Samimi, a Dorchester-based Iranian-American songwriter who goes by the stage name Muhammad Seven, describes his musical persona as a “Middle Eastern everyman.” Photo credit Daniel Schissler

Muhammad Seven is the stage name of Nima Samimi, a 41-year-old Codman Square resident in the process of fulfilling his destiny as an Americana songwriter. The son of an Iranian immigrant father and a white American mother, Samimi says his identity has always been at the center of his musical journey, serving as both a source of inspiration and an obstacle.

While he was growing up with a single mother in the Greater Boston area, he says, elements of racism and classism made it hard for him to believe in himself as an artist.

“I really could not wrap my mind around how to exist as an Iranian songwriter and performer,” Samimi told the Reporter. “Who would want to hear what I had to say? What context was there?”

This combination of internal and external factors led to what he calls a “delay” in his artistic growth. But at the age of 30, he got a big break, joining “Montana’s Rappin’ Cowboy” Chris Sand on a tour across the western United States. On the road with Sand, Samimi’s songwriting evolved and his identity changed: Nima became Muhammad.

Sand noted that “he was having a harder time booking shows than he had ever had,” explained Samimi. “It became clear over the course of the tour the role that racism had played in our reception as a pair on the bill. So in the truck one day, we started thinking about reinventing my stage identity, but instead of assimilating my identity, doubling down.”

He chose Muhammad, his grandfather’s name, and Seven, a universally significant number, to form his new stage persona, which he describes as “a Middle Eastern everyman.”

Muhammad Seven recorded his first album a year ago on his phone, singing into earbuds and crafting tunes on a Garageband application. For his debut studio album, which was released this week, the songwriter joined forces with the bassist Pat Mussari and the vocalist Kelly Jo Reed to form Muhammad Seven and the Spring, a folk trio bolstered by a platoon of guest artists who contributed drums, strings, keys, banjo, mandolin, and lap steel, among other instrumentation.

The result, a lush, polished Americana album, is Muhammad’s proudest musical accomplishment. “This is the first thing I’ve done musically that I truly love,” he said.

The songwriting on the album bounces between what Muhammad calls “big ‘T’ truth and little ‘t’ truth,” weaving semi-autobiographical stories about immigrants and working class characters. As such, he expects his music will resonate naturally in Dorchester.

“I love that Dorchester is such a vibrant, working-class community,” said Muhammad. He says his family thrives in the close neighborhood feel of the community, surrounded by working families with children the same age as his own.

“Nobody looks down on me for wearing dirty clothes and steel-toed boots,” he said, a reference to his job as a gardener at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain.

Muhammad Seven and the Spring will host their album release show at home.stead bakery in Fields Corner on April 13 at 6:30 p.m. Boston’s most diverse neighborhood, home to a panoply of immigrant communities, seems to them an appropriate setting for the concert; after all, that’s who Muhammad made the album for.

“I made it for working people and for immigrants. I hope they enjoy.”

You can listen to the new album and purchase show tickets at www.muhammadseven.com.