615 Spotlight: Sam Riggs Ready to Bust Out of the Lone Star State

Sam Riggs

Natalie Rhea

Sam Riggs has a lot to be excited about as 2014 begins. His new album, "Outrun The Sun," recorded with his band The Night People, has been garnering some very strong reviews of late and the video for "When The Lights Go Out" rose to No. 1 on the CMT's "Pure 12-Pack Countdown." 

"This record turned out better than I ever could have imagined," he told Billboard. "I wanted to make a record that would really define me as an artist. We've been a Texas based band for awhile, and I love playing Texas, but I really want to see what else is out there. It was one of those things where you put a lot of time and effort into the writing and the production, and to work with a great producer like Erik Herbst, I think it came out like a diamond."

Though Riggs has made a name for himself at clubs throughout the Lone Star state, he says he wants to spread his music throughout the U.S. "I want to sell out shows and have my music heard not only in Texas, but North Carolina, Washington state, and everywhere as easily as anywhere else."

Riggs has some definite heavy musical hitters in his corner, such as the legendary Ray Wylie Hubbard, who said of him "Sam Riggs wears a legacy of honest country, makes good rock, writes lyrics that matter and straps on a stage presence second to none." Hearing what his mentor had to say about him means a lot. "I'm glad he puts up with me. Ray is an incredible writer, and has been such an influence on me – personally and professionally. He came along at a point in my life where I was at a crossroads and somewhat of a moral thicket when it came to songwriting. I was writing some songs that were  good, but some weren't that great, and Ray and his wife Judy took me under their wing and he showed me what it meant to be a real songwriter – not just somebody who turns out songs. It's a lifestyle and a mindset. He taught me about reading. He told me ‘You write what you take in, so if you take in good words, you'll write good words. He showed me the path I was headed down and where that would get me, but he also opened my eyes to another realm of songwriting that I thought was unattainable. I've still got a lot to learn, but they are kind of my musical parents, you could say."

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One composition on the album that Riggs is particularly proud of is "Change," which he says anyone can relate to. "That's my favorite song on the record. To me, it's a song that you need to be listening to it late at night by yourself, maybe driving down the road for it to take full effect. I feel like everyone needs to hear that song. It feels more like I channeled it than I wrote it. I touches on substance abuse, mistakes you've made, and we look back at things you've done or said that just make you cringe. A lot of times, we tend to torture ourselves with the memories of our own mistakes and our own path. It's about letting go, and forgiving yourself. At the end of the day, when you stop changing, you start dying. You stop growing. It's never too late to change."

Riggs went for a darker feel on "Angola's Lament," which he says is a definite story song. "It's got this violent dark history of murder and violence. I sat down to write it with my drummer, and it was originally about eight minutes long. It's actually about a prison guard who murdered his wife, and never gets caught. The song threads the needle of utter heartbreak and rage, sewing it all up with this murder scene that leaves things undone yet tied up all at the same time." 

Riggs' calendar is filling up quickly for 2014. He says he wouldn't have it any other way. "I'm lucky to be doing what I'm doing. I'm addicted to the highway."