Sam Riggs: A Journey to Texas Country
Like the hero in a country song, a teenaged Sam Riggs sold most of what he owned, packed the rest in his truck, and left his hometown of St. Cloud, Fla. for the music mecca of Austin, Tex., following his singer songwriter dream. Eight years, an EP, and one full-length release later, the talented 27-year-old seems well on his way to achieving it. “When The Lights Go Out” off Rigg’s EP Lighthouse took the #1 spot on CMT Pure 12-Pack, and “Collide” from his 2013 full-length release Outrun the Sun was featured on ABC’s hit drama Nashville. Earlier this year, Rolling Stone Country featured Riggs and his music in its “5 Minutes in Texas” series. Clearly, the Texas country music tradition is in good hands with this Florida transplant.
Although the drive from Florida to Texas took less than 24 hours, success in the music business, despite appearances, is never overnight. Riggs has driven heavy equipment, worked cattle, welded metal and even been on the back of a bull or two, all on a journey from wanderlust filled teen to full time musician.
“I needed something bigger in my life than what I was doing,” Riggs recalled of his original decision to head to the Lone Star State. “My thought was basically, ‘I’m just going to go out here and do it.’ I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I figured anything was better than where I was, which was getting into a lot of trouble. I just had a bad trajectory. I ran with a pretty rough crowd back home.”
Riggs worked a number of day jobs in Austin to make ends meet. “Eventually, I got laid off, but I could weld, and I had a pick up truck, so I said ‘It’s now or never,” and I started playing out three nights a week wherever I could and welding the rest of the time on different jobs. It was sort of how an airplane takes flight. You just pick up enough speed until you’re off the ground.”
A friendship with Texas music legend Ray Wylie Hubbard went a long way towards helping Riggs take flight. “He’s an incredible human being,” Riggs said. “I think he’s definitely taught me more about what not to do than what to do. He lets you figure out what your sound is on your own.”
According to Riggs, the move to Austin was the right choice. “Austin is an incubator for originality…I think Austin was the perfect place for me because I did meet people like Ray who said, ‘Hey, you know you’re kind of heading off in the wrong direction. Let me put you on the right track, but stick with what you love and what you like, and just write the best possible songs in that little realm of originality and creativity.’”
Riggs loves writing and recording, but it’s the live performances that he lives for. The audience is key. “To me, it’s what makes or breaks the show,” he commented. “You’ve got to come out and play the same show for five people as you do for 5000, and it’s not always easy. Folks are sometimes hesitant to get into a new artist, which I understand. You just got to go out there with your heart open and realize you might not get that back. But when you do get that back it’s the epitome of fulfillment for me in life, just point blank. That’s what my life is all about. The synergy between me and the crowd.”
Fans will be glad to know Riggs is back in the studio working on an album for a planned January 2016 release date. “I’m really excited about it,” he said. “I think with every record, every artists definitely grows, or strives to grow, but I’d say the difference between Outrun the Sun and this next record is pretty monumental. I’ve done a lot of growing as a writer and a performer. I’ve definitely gotten a lot edgier lyrically and musically, and I’m super excited to get this thing done and out into the world.”
- With permission from Red Dirt Nation