Sam Roberts. Singer, songwriter, guitarist, pianist, violinist, b Montreal, 2 Oct 1974; BA (English) (McGill) 1998. Sam Roberts' parents hailed from South Africa and immigrated to Montreal before the eldest of their four sons, Sam, was born. At his request, Roberts began violin lessons at age four, and continued them until his early twenties. At 12, his father gave him a Spanish guitar. It was at age 13, when Roberts first encountered the electric guitar, that he began performing in bands, including Happy Death Men in junior high and Screwtape and Grover at Loyola High School. Roberts later enrolled at McGill University, all the while performing in bands, most notably William, alongside future Sam Roberts Band collaborators Eric Fares and James Hall. Formed in 1993, the band released a three-song single entitled The Piranha in 1996, only to change their name a year later to Northstar. After failing to promote their five-track EP in Los Angeles, Northstar disbanded. Roberts returned to Canada in 1999 to write, produce, accompany, and record the twelve-song demo Brother Down.
The Sam Roberts Band
In 2001, Roberts revisited six tracks from Brother Down with percussionist Jordon Zadorozny (Blinker the Star). Roberts once again provided vocals and instrumentals, while Zadorozny produced, engineered, and played percussion. The resulting EP was entitled The Inhuman Condition. The album was quickly picked up by Universal Music (Canada) after representative Linda Bush caught the band's successful debut at Toronto's Canadian Music Week. Although Roberts was promoted as a solo act, he called on longtime bandmates James Hall (bass, guitar) and Eric Fares (keyboards, guitar, back-up vocals), Dave Nugent (guitar, back-up vocals) and Corey Zadorozny (drums and percussion) to create his on-stage, and soon-to-be-touring, band.
Sam Roberts was signed by Universal Records in January 2002. The re-mastered EP, Brother Down, had its commercial debut in July 2002 under the Canadian indie music label MapleMusic. The singles "Brother Down" and "Don't Walk Away Eileen" became smash hits across the country. His follow-up album, We Were Born in a Flame (2004), was co-produced by Brenndan McGuire (producer for Sloan and The Dears) and sold 150 000 copies in Canada. The album earned the rocker three Juno awards, for album of the year, rock album of the year, and artist of the year. Roberts spent 2004 with his band in a cross-Canada tour opening for the Tragically Hip.
Since their breakout in 2004, the Sam Roberts Band has earned a stellar reputation as a live band. They have experienced immense success in the US, touring extensively, performing on late night talk shows, and receiving glowing critical reviews. They also performed a successful European tour in 2008, promoting the album Love at the End of the World (2008). In 2005, their drummer Corey Zadorozny was replaced by Josh Trager. In 2010, the Sam Roberts Band began a Winter Olympic Canadian National Tour, consisting of free outdoor shows, a performance at Hockey House in Vancouver, and a free indoor show in St. John's, NL.
Writing Style and Musical Influences
As a songwriter, Sam Roberts has been compared to Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, and has also drawn inspiration from artists such as the Beatles, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin. Described as "power-pop," his music pairs catchy hooks and pounding guitar rhythms with meaningful messages.
Themes explored by Roberts include politics, love and human relationships. His songs present a collection of clever observations about the world around him. It has remained Sam Roberts' priority to use his celebrity as an opportunity to share his ideas and opinions regardless of the demands of his record label and mainstream audience. His aversion to the commercial pop music market, despite his success within it, has earned him a reputation as an artist who chooses musical integrity above commercial success.
In addition to his success at the 2004 Junos, Roberts was also nominated in 2003 for artist of the year and single of the year for "Brother Down." In the same year, he was named CHART magazine's artist of the year. Roberts has also been recognized by the MuchMusic Video Awards, winning three awards for "Hard Road" in 2004 and receiving nominations for people's choice: favourite Canadian artist in 2003 and 2006. In 2007 he earned a Juno for video of the year for "Bridge to Nowhere" and a nomination for rock album of the year for Chemical City. 2009 brought Roberts two more Junos, for artist of the year and rock album of the year (Love at the End of the World).
The Inhuman Condition. 2002. MapleMusic MRCD 6404
We Were Born in a Flame. 2003. Universal Records B0000121-02
Chemical City. 2006. Universal Records 0249852006
Love at the End of the World. 2008. Universal Records 0251762973