Sam Roberts Band Advice To Songwriting Is To Find Some Structure

Starting with their 2002 debut EP, The Inhuman Condition, the Sam Roberts Band has become one of the most successful acts in Canada, earning platinum and gold sales for their albums. The band have won six Juno awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy award), including winning the “Artist of the Year” category in both 2004 and 2009. On October 16, the alternative rock group released All of Us, their seventh full-length album. (He talked with us about overcoming writer’s block)

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Calling from his home in Montreal, Sam Roberts offers advice to aspiring songwriters who hope to follow his successful lead. “Step one: having a dedicated space to focus on nothing else besides writing music,” he says, adding that for him, that place is his basement. “I’ve always admired authors who have a structured, disciplined approach to writing. I found out a long time ago that you have to adopt a similar method for songwriting. It doesn’t always have to be by the light of the moon and candles and stars in proper alignment for it to happen!”

Roberts also finds that it helps to set deadlines and other parameters for himself. “I always set up these weird rules for myself before making a record,” he says. “I’ll give songs arbitrary time allotments, [or] it could be using certain instruments in a record. I find that by setting those types of guidelines up for myself, it’s almost like it becomes a game that can drive the process. So every record for me would be some form of that game.”

It can also help to get others’ opinions, Roberts says. When he wrote the song “Step Inside,” for example, “I felt that it was better than anything I’d written [so far] – but it was more the effect that it had on the people who I knew and trusted. I’d played everything else I’ve ever written for them to varying responses, but there was something about this song that seemed to catch other people. Their reaction to it echoed what I was feeling about it.”

But, Roberts says, beginning writers should also be patient with themselves as they master the craft. Again using “Step Inside” to illustrate his point, Roberts says he wrote that song in 1997 or 1998, which was “a full ten years after we started our band. That was the first one that I thought was good. It definitely takes time.”

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