Sam Roberts Band: Music is in our DNA
As I mentioned in my first post, I love music and attend concerts regularly. This week is was the Sam Roberts Band. My goal is to inspire you today with a story of how a musician named Sam Roberts set a plan in motion. With great Canadian determination, he’s made a lasting music career in rock & roll.
Have you ever connected with a song? Cried, laughed and just listen to it over and over? When the spirit of music is wrapped up in a story, the message can be both heard and felt deep in your soul. Sam Roberts tells a story with memorable melodies lasting forever in the hearts of Canadians.
I love lyrics represented with a story, and I’m drawn to artists who excel in verse. It’s hard to resist a Canadian rock & roll staple like the Sam Roberts Band. They are magicians, out of Montreal, Quebec who weave lyrical melody and put on a kick-ass rock show.
Quoted via Exclaim Sam Roberts:
“Music isn’t just a passing fantasy for me. It’s in your DNA revealed in the same way your skin and eyeballs are”.
The Sam Roberts Band: Determination
The man, Sam Roberts, and his band have been on an evolving journey through our music universe. A touring band mainly focused in Canada and the US. They have connected with me in a big way. Spreading inspiration, love and National pride with folk, rock and electronic infused albums for the last 15 years.
Bursting onto Canadian radio in 2002 with his lyrical tales and now recognizable guitar riffs. Sam Roberts made a commitment to his art in 2001. He said, “Alright, now I am really going to live for music.”
The result: Six songs and the Best Independent selling album in Canadian history.
The success of this EP solidified Sam Roberts dreams of being a rock star. He was given a chance after years of determination, showing up and keeping to his Canadian hard stance and vision of what he wanted his music to be.
“Someone else telling you what you’re living for
Been knocking you down, now you’re looking for more
The only sound you hear is a closing door”
– “Brother Down” – Sam Roberts
How did Sam Roberts succeed?
Sam Roberts‘ success started to take off when he took his music career seriously, and he wrote an album forever linked with the people of Canada.
The fighting spirit represented in Montreal’s way of doing things on their own terms. Influenced the driving force of the band. Sam Roberts stated in the Montreal Gazette “Rock & Roll offers salvation.”
Sam Roberts‘ journey shows when we commit to our creativity and our art, magic can happen. By setting intention into the universe, in return, good things can happen tenfold.
Together since high school, the Sam Roberts Band consists of Dave Nugent on Guitar, Eric Fares on Keyboard/Guitar, James Hall on Bass, Josh Trager on Drums and the addition of Chet Doxas playing woodwinds.
The Sam Roberts Band performs at 2-3 University Frosh (student orientation) weeks every year. He’s said these shows could be the first concert some kids have ever seen. They recognize the importance of connecting with the audience and fans.
Do you remember your first rock concert? All these students can become life-long fans. Just like I am. I buy albums, concert tickets, t-shirts and promote the artists I love. Whenever they release a new experience, I support them.
The Sam Roberts Band: My Experiences
Sam Roberts – Copps Collesium December 2002:
New Year’s Eve, 14 years ago in 2002, I had the privilege of witnessing Sam Roberts perform as the opening band for The Tragically Hip. It was my first rock concert in a big city after moving from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Hamilton, Ontario. (I had seen the Hip previously in 1996 at the Memorial Stadium.)
Sam Roberts had just released the hit EP The Inhuman Condition, with melodies forming a mystic and now recognizable folk and rock sound with guitar riffs hooking you from the beginning. We had the opportunity to hear a future piece of Canadiana have his start and ring in the New Year.
“Don’t Walk Away Eileen”
When I saw the stadium audience was having the same reaction as I was to the music. The addictive melodies of songs like “Don’t Walk Away Eileen,” “Where Have All The Good People Gone” and “Brother Down.” I knew these guys would last in our music repertoire.
I don’t have a picture from 2002 because I didn’t have a smartphone with a camera back then. Derek, my partner in crime and site photographer, remembers we have film in a box somewhere. If we ever find it, I will update this post.
The Sam Roberts Band Massey Hall June 2011:
I was fortunate enough to see them live again at Massey Hall in Toronto in June 2011. They were on tour for the album “Collider,” the first under the new Band name.
It was a very engaging show, the crowd was drawn in with the new perspective of this album. You could tell the Band was growing, it wasn’t just the same repetitive sound. It wasn’t just Sam Roberts anymore. There had become a band, and they were experimenting with a more produced and rich sound.
It was a beautiful concert and Collider is one of my favorite albums. I remember singing along to all their hits and falling in love with the new songs and sound.
There was such a rock show vibe with the rug on stage, their clothing, and the lighting. It was neat to see the wind instruments on stage for the first time.
The Sam Roberts Band REBEL Toronto January 2017:
On Friday night, I was able to see them again at the Sound Academy – REBEL promoting their 6th album “Terraform.”
My thoughts on the Sam Roberts Band at REBEL:
VENUE for the Sam Roberts Band:
The concert was held at REBEL formerly The Sound Academy, and I was last there in 2005 when I saw SUM 41.
Parking $20 across the street, convenient.
Doors opened to a long lineup, SOLD OUT SHOW!
The renovation has now made the sound fantastic in the venue.
OPENING BAND for the Sam Roberts Band:
Hollerado is on tour promoting their new song “Born Yesterday.” They played fan favorites like “Americanarama” “Juliette,” “Fake Drugs” and “So it Goes.” A band from Ottawa Ontario, they had a great energy and were really engaging with the crowd.
SYNOPSIS for the Sam Roberts Band:
Sam Roberts Band started the show off with a new song called “Rogue Empire,” and from the first note, the sound was perfect, in sync and as if I was listening to the album but only better! If you have ever seen Sam play before you can tell he is meant to be on stage with a guitar and a mic. Although he is a no bull shit rock star, he has a positive spirit and love for the sound they have created for us to enjoy. It is infectious and brings the crowd together. One big super aura of happy, positive vibes.
SET LIST for the Sam Roberts Band at REBEL:
The set list of songs with related Album:
- Rogue Empire – Terraform
- Shapeshifters – Lo-Fantasy
- Human Heart – Lo-Fantasy
- Tourist Trap – Terraform
- Let It In – Collider
- Detroit ’67 – Love At The End Of The World
- Metal Skin – Lo-Fantasy
- Where Have All The Good People Gone – We Were Born In A Flame
Here a quick snippet of the young Sam Roberts the video for “Where have all the Good People Gone”:
- Lake Effect – Terraform
- Bridge To Nowhere – Chemical City
- Spring Fever – Terraform
- Roll With The Spirits – Terraform
- Fixed To Ruin – Love At The End Of The World
- If You Want It – Terraform
- Chasing the Light – Lo-Fantasy
- FIEND – Terraform
- We’re All In This Together – Lo-Fantasy
- Hard Road – We Were Born In A Flame
- Uprising Downunder – Chemical City
- Brother Down – We Were Born In A Flame
Here is another video of Sam Roberts in the video for “Brother Down”:
My overall impression of the Sam Roberts Band at REBEL:
The show was fabulous. The Sam Roberts Band get better and better every time you see them. I have a hard time separating myself as a writer sometimes. To take a step back and take it all in. It’s hard because I dance and sing the whole time. The intensity and groove of the live music project the band’s love of dance being infused into their music. I can’t help myself.
Sam did make a speech regarding our southern neighbors and the politics of the day. His message encouraging us to show them how we are together and to spread our love just before they played “Where have all the good people gone?”.
Sam did give Matt Mays a “shout out” just before starting “Uprising Downunder” no luck this time and had to sing it solo.
He closed with”Brother Down” and brought the house down.
“Merci Mes Amis!”
Final thoughts on the Sam Roberts Band at REBEL:
My only disappointment is they couldn’t play every song in their catalog.
How cool must it be to sit down and say ok what songs can we include on tour? They now have enough of a backlist to have the choice between many hits. The only thing is you may disappoint a fan because there is not sufficient time to please every favorite. Rockstar problems.
I know everyone doesn’t have the opportunity to attend live shows like I do. I hope to use my life experiences to showcase the talent available. Here is a rundown on the Sam Roberts Band, their new Album, a brief history and snippets of all their work for your enjoyment.
Sam Roberts Band: “Terraform.”
The introspective “Terraform” was recorded in Bath, Ontario at the Bathhouse recording studio owned by Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip. It became a spiritual assembly of songs later produced by Graham Walsh of Holy F$%k to bring out the essence.
Written and recorded in under 5 months, Sam considers this record to be a lightning fast process compared to his other albums. He revealed in Aux.tv it was as if “this batch of songs wanted to come out.”
Sam Roberts told the Montreal Gazette, every record he makes “brings him to the brink and back, how far he can push himself and find a way back to the light.”
The unifying theme during the performance of the Sam Roberts Band on CBC in October 2016, is “there are parts of life which can feel broken at times and the realization there is a chance to renew…to begin again.” It is a time of rebirth and renewal for the Band, a new opportunity to rewrite the rules.
“There goes the heartache
There go your mistakes
They’re gonna fade away”
– “Terraform” – Sam Roberts Band
My Experience of “Terraform”:
This idea of rebirth, renewal, and reinvention struck a cord with me because I have been on my own journey of self-discovery. Escaping the past by gaining perspective and learning to thrive again.
I have always listened to albums, not just songs. There have been gems over the years, and I always listen to an album at least thirty times before I form an opinion.
“30 times?!?” you say! It’s the sweet spot to where you start humming the songs not played on the radio. (I listen all day at work – for the time question, 🙂 )
I love the theme and story of “Terraform.” Rising from the dark and reaching for the light. The importance of having a family. Picking ourselves up and setting out with a positive look to the future. The Spring bringing the rebirth of love and hope.
Dancing is also of importance to the album, and it makes me ecstatic because I am from a time before kids didn’t know how to dance to rock & roll! 🙂 Sam has been gradually infusing a groove dance beat into his albums and including his folk riffs throughout, Black Spark is an excellent example.
Sam Roberts Band “Terraform” Song Breakdown:
The album begins with “Terraform.” It outlines the theme and story of the album. Escape from the dying earth, rising from the ashes to start again. It’s a chance to discover a new beginning.
If you are a fan of Sam Roberts, you know there will be love involved. The song FIEND doesn’t leave you disappointed showing us love is the constant binding us all together. Both beautiful and ugly, yet destructive and healing.
FIEND is the story of two people trying to get through the thick and thin in life together. He has been with his wife for 25 years, it is their journey of being through a lot. “It takes a lifetime to know who we are!”
IF YOU WANT IT:
The video below is inspiring as it shows the behind the scenes creativity involved in music & video production.
“If you want it” is about an about a trip to hell and hopefully back again.
A great inspiration to young musicians to just sound it out and keep working.
Love can also sometimes spin a mysterious and shadowy web in both your heart and mind in the barroom stomp “Black Spark” with the guitar style recognizable of Sam Roberts. I would call this a very sexy song.
ROLL WITH THE SPIRITS:
“Roll with the spirits” is a perfect example of fear and the resistance I mentioned in my first post!
“You got magic on your mind, don’t you fear it?
When they tell you the sky’s the limit
It’s your piece of the pie, so live it” – “Roll with the Spirits.”
A story in each verse reflecting our history and the importance of dance even in the face of disaster. It brings us together, gives us hope and something to hold on when times get tough. Ritual Dance will have you moving and stomping your feet.
TOURIST TRAP & ROGUE EMPIRE:
Tourist Trap and Roque Empire brings us back to the groovy, bluesy sound of Collider and the hope of a future with love.
Lake Effect is the salute to Canada and the Great Lakes. It takes us through the seasons. It is such a great song which builds us into a dance frenzy.
THE HOUSE INSIDE:
You can hear the influences of 80’s world music influences on the Band with The House Inside.
The album Terraform closes out with my favorite song Spring Fever. This song is about life bubbling back to the surface after the changing seasons. If it doesn’t get you moving, you must have cement in your shoes when it kicks in! “We’re on our way!”
I’m going along for the ride and the evolution of the Sam Roberts Band. Won’t you come along?
The Story of Sam Roberts:
A singer-songwriter, he was born to South Africa parents who moved to Westmount Quebec in the ‘70s. He grew up primarily in Point-Claire, Quebec. Sam still takes violin lessons from the same teacher he did when he was 4 years old. The same one who now also teaches his children. Sam Roberts revealed to Point 59, he forces his children to learn music as his parents did to him. He knows they will thank him and believes everyone should learn instruments. It’s his perspective as a dad.
Growing up Sam didn’t notice the difference in his upbringing from other kids until his parents bought him a Boston Bruins Jersey. Growing up outside Montreal, he never lived it down. His parents being from South Africa didn’t know any better!
He attended McGill and formed other bands with the same guys before going it on his own with his first release. Even went as far as Los Angelas in the late 90’s to give it a chance. With doors closing in his face, he returned to give it one more go.
The success was unexpected, and he didn’t use his best judgment when he first landed on the Canadian charts. Ill-informed and clinging to the mindset of selling out, he has lamented in an Exclaim interview. He should have marketed and taken advantage of all the possibilities offered at the time and wishes he wasn’t so stubborn. There were many opportunities, like licensing for TV shows, he turned down.
In the vein of Terraform, the Sam Roberts Band looks to renewal to regain those opportunities! They are well on their way!
You can find them here:
The Backlist Music of the Sam Roberts Band:
The Inhuman Condition – 2002 EP:
In 2002 his first EP The Inhuman Condition was released.
Sam plays many instruments and is somewhat of a savant. He played all the instruments himself on this first EP, and 2003’s We were Born on a Flame.
He recorded a song a day to produce the breakout EP, a secret weapon used by his management at Maple Records. It wasn’t how he intended his first release to be made, but he couldn’t turn down the chance.
He didn’t expect it to blow up on Canadian Radio.
Veterans of the Montreal music scene in a time before The Arcade Fire. It was only when Gord Downie urged Sam Roberts out of his self-imposed bubble did Sam realize he should grow his reach. He needed to relate and connect to the entire country and the regions surrounding it, not just Montreal.
Sam admitted he would only venture as far as Halifax for the music scene during Sloan’s era, takes me back :). Sam decided to pack up and asked his high school band to go on tour with the Hip. Earning them a front row seat to witness another type of magic from established mentors.
We Were Born In a Flame – 2003:
Released by Universal in 2003, his debut album “We were Born in a Flame” won Juno’s for Artist, Rock Album, and Album of the year.
Sam Roberts was on his way.
Chemical City – 2006:
Sam when on to release “Chemical City” in 2006.
“Bridge to Nowhere” winning video of the year in 2007:
Love At The End of World – 2008:
In 2008’s “Love at the End of the World” was the last album to be released under Sam Roberts.
He has said it was a process in the making, he likes having the guys around. Every time he toured they would get together and become a band again.
One year they went to South Africa, and they started to create music together in the studio instead of Sam Roberts doing it all himself. The album won 2009 Juno’s for Album and Rock Album of the year.
“Them Kids” Video:
Collider – 2011:
Now acting as a whole and taking their mission very seriously as a Band. “Collider” is their first album under the new Sam Roberts Band name. It was recorded in Chicago away from their homes in Montreal and has a bluesy vibe. Sam wrote the album in his basement. He says it is an “honest reflection of how life can shift from one place to another.”
The cover of the album is a particle collision, and Sam compares it to the band’s relationship to music. “I write a song, and then we come together like a smashing together of ideas to create something new, and it doesn’t always turn out as I thought or intended the songs to be. We discovered a way to make accidents look cool, to be open and to just let it happen.”
The first song they recorded was “Streets of Heaven, ” and it was their biggest departure from their previous work. He replaced the folk riff with a groove oriented dance beat. He built the entire record around that one song, one idea based on rhythm. It has a strong rhythmic identity, with songs about different things.
The album was nominated for a Juno for Rock Album of the year in 2012.
I love the song “I feel you,” how can you resist anything concerning the late great Leonard Cohen, bless his soul.
“Last night I dreamt that Leonard Cohen
Handed me a bag of money
See my Achille’s Heel was showing
But I didn’t find it funny
He said, “Beware of those who might steal from you.”
But I feel you
Yeah I feel you”
– “I Feel You”, Sam Roberts Band
Lo-Fantasy – 2014:
2013 brought a change for the Sam Roberts Band. By hiring a new producer for their next album genre-bending “Lo-Fantasy.” Martin Glover (YOUTH) of Killing Joke and is the bassist of The Firemen with Paul McCartney.
Opening themselves up to new experiences with YOUTH. They also choose Dave Bascombe to mix the album and has worked with Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears and Santigold.
The process of handing over the reins and letting someone else have control of the outcome of the album became a challenge and growth experience.
Sam felt he didn’t have to explain concepts to YOUTH, he had worked with many of the bands, the inspiration came from.
The only issue, YOUTH did not like anything they had planned before beginning recording. The Sam Roberts Band went in the doors of a local Montreal studio and came out each day in a daze as to what their album was going to become. The album was recorded in 12 days, but it took a year and a half to write.
The idea of what they had planned being hijacked by the producer, drew out their spontaneity and creativity in the studio. They strive to learn from every album and consistently draw upon experiences to push themselves. It can become a trial and error process at times.
The result, 2014’s Lo-Fantasy, is a different sound for the band. You can hear the influences in the mixing and production. There is an electronic feel to many of the songs.
It turned into a dynamic record. The anthem “We’re all in this together” has become a staple played at Canadian hockey games and on television during Hockey Night in Canada.
“We’re All In this Together.”
Sam Roberts says he “believes the key to the band’s longevity is their steadfast enthusiasm to stick to their artistic guns and consistently work to make their music better while still delivering it with a sense of urgency and spontaneity. Each record loosens the grips of others expectations and their own.”
Counting the Days – 2014 EP
In 2014 the Sam Roberts Band released the EP Counting The Days. The song “Broken Teeth” became a montage for the Canadian team at the Olympics.
The music of the Sam Roberts Band has been evolving over their last few albums, Sam has been influenced by artists all over the charts. From Paul Simon, Bruce Springfield, Beck, and Elvis Costello, to Men at Work, his favorite.
CLOSING THOUGHTS on the Sam Roberts Band:
Sam Roberts likes the way it feels every time they release a new album. It’s as they are always starting over. Not everyone knows them, and they are always hunting for new faces in the crowd.
They intentionally look forward and not backward to what was or may have been. This forward goal oriented thinking carries over into who they work with, where they work and what kinds of songs they write.
Being innovative and the importance of discussing as a unit; ambitions and goals benefitting the band.
What have the Sam Roberts Band Learned?
Sam Roberts says they still have YOUTH on their shoulders and will carry on the serious groove they have developed in their music. The future is bright, and they won’t limit themselves to one type of music. They’ve earned the scope and breadth of the variety in their music.
The band has a deep connection, and they look forward to playing a lifetime together. The telepathic moments of Terraform will continue for many years to come. They will keep evolving I imagine, it’s what makes them real artists, you can’t stay in one place with creativity.
As the Sam Roberts Band are now heading on their western leg of the Terraform tour via Detroit, Michigan. The city is featured in one of my favorite songs “Detroit ’67.” Here’s a look at the video with its lyrical mastery.
Detroit ’67 Lyrics:
“I went walking at street level
Feeling strange and disheveled
Past the abattoir and the glory holes
Like a film noir, in the starring role
To the side streets, kept my nose clean
Tasted beautiful, tasted obscene
Singing, “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh oh oh oh
Oh-oh-oh oh oh oh oh.”
This is Detroit, see the skyline
A commotion on the assembly line
Raise a glass to the Ambassador
As she’s moving you to the dance floor
Does anyone here tonight remember those times?
Can anyone here tonight just tell me what they felt like?
So many years, so many lives
These are the streets where they collide
From Jimmy Hoffa to Cadillac
Some lookahead, I’m going back
‘Cause I’m just looking for some sounds
To ease the vice that squeezes us every day
This was Motown, this was New France
Where the Chippewa did the fire dance
That was long ago, this is here and now
But the memory still remains somehow
Singing, “Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh.”
I can’t tell you how this old story ends
I can’t touch you now like they did back then
Past the child’s play with the jump rope
Hear the gun play, it’s a tightrope
Does anyone here tonight remember those times?
Can anyone here tonight just tell me what they felt like?
Does anyone here tonight remember those times?
Somebody call the riot police, there’s trouble down on 12th Street”
– “Detroit’67” – Sam Roberts
How we can learn from Sam Roberts?
What I have learned from Sam Roberts in my research?
Be daring and confident in overcoming insecurities. Use them to your advantage. Sam said in Aux.Tv “Even after all 16 years, I am not immune to the critical opinion of others…Insecurity is a vital ingredient in the creative process. Mix it with a sense of adventure.”
Set deadlines and goals. Sam Roberts has 3 kids, he is a rock star who says he now creates during the hours of 9:30 to 3:30 pm. It is his time to shine, not 3 am like the old days.
“For a long time I bought into you shouldn’t write music unless the conditions are right. Not anymore….I’ve been playing music my whole life and honestly there is nothing like having a deadline to work towards. It is far better than waiting for the spark. Not to make the songwriting process less romantic. There is still history and wonder, just more on a regime.”
What I learned from Sam Roberts’ regarding creativity?
Let creativity happen. You have to be open to failing and things not always going right. If you stick to your vision and mission, even if you follow in the wrong direction, you can gain from this experience, and sometimes it can lead to things you never expected.
Change it up. Fill your creative juices with experiences, people, and places. Sam never does an album at the same location. He is always looking forward to learning and drawing on inspiration everywhere.
Try different things to keep the creative need fulfilled. Sam Roberts told The Varsity “It’s hard to get anything done when you feel like there is this big part of you that feels unfulfilled” in referring to University when all he wanted to was make music. Laughing each day when he thinks about how lucky it is to be able to do what he loves with his friends.
Keep creating to make room for new inspiration. But also to gain more creative intellectual property assets. Taking an example from Sam’s regrets in not taking the opportunities offered to him more seriously during his debut success, learn from his mistakes. He is now continuing to build creative intellectual property rights with his music with new albums and videos, adding to his legacy. His children will benefit from his music for many years to come.
The more opportunities and streams of income created through licensing and contracted rights the more profits can be earned. Keep your sights forward and on the long term gain, not the short term satisfaction. Even if it is hard work, it is worth the effort, in the end, to benefit from your work in many ways over a quick fix.
What did I learn from Sam Roberts regarding inspiration?
Aspire for more. Not necessarily fame and fortune. But something else, something more. Sam Roberts says as the Band gets better, “they get hungrier, and they want something different.” To me it is as if they release the songs from their souls, leaving room for something new to be created. 1 album or 1 book is not going to cut it. Keep creating to add to your body of work.
Keep learning. We can be inspired by the least expected things. Keep striving to improve and learn from others and from different avenues.
Sam Roberts’ advice on using our platforms?
Use your voice. If you have a platform and your voice can impact people’s lives, use it. Sam brings awareness of our history, our pride, and current issues in Canada and the world. Just like Gord Downie of The Hip and Gordon Lightfoot before him. He also brings a message of spreading love and kindness.
The Sam Roberts Band: The story in his own words:
Sam Roberts via The Varsity: “When we were kids growing up it was ‘Yeah, I want to be in a band. I want everyone to know who I am. That’s what’s important. And then it didn’t happen for a long time. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I was like I don’t care if I play for 50 people I just want to play music. So just give me the chance. Then it became desperate, and it’s like ‘Just gives me the chance to play and I’ll show you that I can do something worthwhile.’
Finally, we get an opportunity, and we get a song on the radio and tour with the biggest band in Canadian history. ‘What are you going to make of this?’ Okay, it’s going to be hard. Just because you have the chance it doesn’t mean it’s going to work. And we’ve spent 10 years figuring out how to hold onto it, but still, thrive, be creative, and still grow as people and musicians. That’s why we are so engaged, always ‘What’s the next record? And how can it be better than the last one.’
Expect the unexpected and don’t take anything for granted kids! 😉
Don’t give up, persistence is key.
Keep learning and strive to be consistent with your work.
Aspire to grow and keep perfecting your craft.
Most of all, be kind to others and spread the love!💜
Keep creating everyone and reach for your dreams! Next week: USS
Author: Adele Walsh
Adele Walsh is the Founder and owner of Adele Walsh Blog. She spends most of her time attending live rock concerts, blogging about music and writing her Fantasy series. Her goal is to help other creative entrepreneurs pursue their dreams and live a life of their own design. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.