Between continuing his Western tour or spending Halloween with his kids, Quebec rocker Sam Roberts knows where his priorities lie.
Although the six-time Juno Award winner will be travelling across Western Canada next week (his band performs on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre), he still plans to fly home to take his three preschool kids trick or treating around their Montreal neighbourhood on Oct. 31.
“That’s one night when I’ll be coming home from tour,” said Roberts, who added “Halloween is almost as big as Christmas” for his family, which now includes two daughters and a seven-month-old son.
Last year, Roberts put on a wizard’s hat at the behest of his oldest daughter, Miriam, four. He laughingly insists, “It wasn’t my idea.”
While Roberts isn’t sure yet what costume he will don this year, he’s already planning to stock up on plastic grave markers and giant spiders because Miriam has “decoration envy” of the extravagantly ghoulish display next door.
“We obviously have to step it up a few notches.”
Life has changed a lot for Roberts since the songwriter of such hits Brother Down, Don’t Walk Away Eileen, Hard Road and Where Have All the Good People Gone last performed in Red Deer in 2009. At that time, Miriam was an only child. These days, Roberts admits life with his expanded family is more hectic — but still fulfilling.
“It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep will do for your outlook,” he said, with a chuckle.
A continuing influence on his outlook, judging by songs on his latest album, Collider, is the question of what kind of world his children will grow up in.
While Collider doesn’t contain overt references to his wife or kids, the songwriter said, “You can’t not be influenced, when your songwriting is so closely linked to your life.”
Several songs deal with conflict — which Roberts said is, sadly, “a pretty reliable state for human kind. It’s not a positive one, but it is constant . . . it’s not a topic you can avoid.”
I Feel You likens love to war, while the lyrics for Without a Map talk about the land of liberty, stating “don’t point that gun at me.” Roberts maintained the latter tune doesn’t take a specific shot at the U.S., despite the “liberty” reference. It suggests that global conflict can lead to a clash of ideas and, to some degree, affect us all.
“We’re subject to the same limitations of our freedom — sometimes by our own choices, when we take a stand on moral, religious or social issues.”
The song Sang Froid is about an actual soldier, and is based on the military people Roberts has known among his friends and family members. “I’m impressed by all of them,” he said, referring to the sacrifices soldiers make and the rigours they go through in far-flung places.
Roberts’s fourth studio album features several guest musicians from bands such as Land of Talk, Califone and Antibalas.
While there are some African or world beat echoes in the rhythmic songs, some music critics expressed disappointment that Roberts didn’t go further to reinvent his sound.
The musician appears unperturbed by this, saying it’s only a matter of opinion and “you can’t really take it to heart.”
Anyway, it’s hard for him to write with a specific result in mind, he said, when “the music tends to force its way out of you, without necessarily choosing a direction. The songs are often driven by the rhythmic element but, like a painting or a poem, “they just come out the way they’re going to come out.”
Roberts acknowledged that he’s never satisfied with any of his albums — particularly when he has to play the songs again and again in concert, reinventing them, in part, every evening.
Sometimes, after all the reinvention, he will hear the original recorded version of a song and be able to appreciate it on a more objective level. “I’ll think, that’s pretty good. Why don’t we play it that way again?”
Right now, Roberts’ mind is already drifting towards his next album — but don’t ask him what it will be like.
“I haven’t written any songs for it yet. . . . It’s a blob of nothingness in my mind.”
Who: Montreal rock group the Sam Roberts Band
When: 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 26
Where: Memorial Centre, Red Deer
Tickets: $39.50 from Ticket Central
— copyright Red Deer Advocate