Brother was down, but now he's back. That would be likeable rocker Sam Roberts.
The 33-year-old broke big -- in Canada, anyway -- in 2002 with his danceable, Brit-pop influenced rock tune Brother Down and subsequent harder-rocking hit, Don't Walk Away Eileen. The next year his major-label debut CD We Were Born in a Flame spawned other chart-toppers, such as Where Have All the Good People Gone and Hard Road.
He won three Junos in 2004, including album of the year, and his star was rising.
Unfortunately, Roberts failed to capitalize. He travelled halfway around the globe to Australia to record 2006's more far-out and psychedelic CD Chemical City, which did produce a No. 1 rock song (The Gate) but went nowhere after the second single, Bridge to Nowhere.
Last week his third CD -- Love at the End of the World -- hit stores. It's a return to the more melodic classic rock that won him so many fans earlier this decade.
Like many rock musicians before him, Roberts had to contemplate artistic integrity versus commercial appeal. But not too much.
"Yeah, selling less records means certain things," Roberts said.
"There's the side of it that I can't really ever focus on, because that will mean tampering with where the music comes from, and the fact that it needs to come out spontaneously and from a deeper, unconscious place -- whereas I think if I thought about how many albums we've sold all the time, I'd be trying to tap into that formula for whatever made it possible in the first place.
"I think it's nice again to just be focused on playing music and not just worrying about whether your career is going to vanish before your eyes at any moment. That always felt like a possibility, and I guess it still is. It just feels very tenuous."
WATCH OUT KIDS
The good news is that Roberts is poised to regain ground again, thanks to his not-so-subtle dig at the younger generation in his new single Them Kids, the first off Love at the End of the World.
"I said the kids don't know how to dance to rock and roll/ They're always on the phone and they always gotta have control," Roberts sings on the tune about the proliferation of cell phones and technology.
A much younger person than the teens of today served as prime motivation for other songs on the new CD. Roberts and his wife Jen welcomed their first child, daughter Miriam, into the world about a year and a half ago.
"It's the best thing that's ever happened to me," Roberts said. "I think (Miriam's) inspiration is a bit more subtle throughout the whole thing, in terms of where I was at in my life (when) I wrote the songs. It obviously has a huge impact on everything, and songwriting is no exception."
For example, the song Lions of the Kalahari (or Calamari as Roberts and his bandmates have jokingly renamed it) refers to Miriam in the lines: "I had never heard a sweeter sound/ Till the day that I heard my baby cry/ These things I shall carry until I die/ Oh, she's never far away from me."
Roberts said his daughter's presence meant staying home to record Love at the End of the World, and it proved to be a great experience.
"We just had a baby and had been touring a lot the year before, and I really didn't want to go anywhere," Roberts said. "And it was nice to see Montreal from that perspective again, to write music there again, to draw on the things that (inspire) you, and it is a very inspiring city. So anytime you get to re-evaluate your hometown and your relationship with your hometown, and incorporate it into the making of music, I think it ends up playing an important role in the outcome.
"It was a bit odd compared to Australia, where you'd wake up and go to the beach in the morning and chase the chickens out of the kitchen, or the frogs off the toilet, and then try to concentrate on making music."
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MTS Centre, Winnipeg - May 26, 2008