Texas Music Circuit Mainstay Sam Riggs' Journey Up The Mountain
SAN ANGELO, TX-- Texas Music star Sam Riggs takes the stage tonight in an area he knows well: San Angelo.
In the spring of 2017, the singer/songwriter was flying a single-engine plane to San Angelo from Austin for a show. He had “catastrophic engine failure” at 6,500 feet, according to the biography on the artist’s website.
Riggs admitted to fear in that moment of eerie silence.
The St. Cloud, Fla., native was able to safely land the plane in a cattle ranch with the help of Air Traffic Control.
That averted tragedy is seen as a metaphor for Riggs’ life. Growing up in Central Florida, just a stone’s throw from Disneyland and beautiful beaches, Riggs has had to fight to get where he is today as a mainstay on the Texas/Red Dirt music circuit.
Those luxuries of joyous amusement parks and prime saltwater enjoyment were not part of Riggs life.
Riggs admits to a “tumultuous” childhood from his mother’s stress after his parents split when he was 2-years-old.
He undoubtedly touched on this with one of his most recent singles “The Lucky Ones.”
In the song, Riggs alludes to his life in high school and being “raised up to be fighters and swinging at everything we could see through hungry eyes.”
Since climbing up to the heights he has reached, Riggs continues to find new ways to get that adrenaline rush, whether it’s climbing mountains in Montana, lighting an instrument on fire at the annual Larry Joe Taylor Music Festival or what have you. Riggs loves to enjoy life.
That’s why the engine failure didn’t throw Riggs into a frenzy.
“Life is full of mountains,” Riggs maintains, embracing the challenge. “I have to have something to climb. As soon as I climb one mountain peak, I’m looking for the next one, and that’s sort of what music has been for me all along.”
Riggs got some relief and his introduction to music when his mom, author K.J. Radebaugh, played songs for her son’s at night.
The boys would each get three songs to request before going to bed. Songs like “Me and Bobby McGee,” Willie Nelson’s “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls” and Irish folk songs helped shape Riggs’ early sound.
While both brothers picked up the guitar, Sam elected to broaden his horizon by learning the trumpet, drums, which he loves to do solos on at concerts. Because of his love for percussion instruments, Sam would sometimes go to watch his instructor at downtown Orlando clubs.
But Florida didn’t have the vibrant music scene for Riggs to grow like he envisioned. He had to leave the town for either Nashville or Austin and the former welder chose the latter.
Riggs’ choice, however, took time to develop as a success. The Florida transplant began taking classes at Austin Community College and funded himself through a welding gig he picked up.
While at ACC, Riggs stopped going to all but one class, his songwriting class.
“I stopped going to all my other classes,” Riggs said. “At the end of class one day, [my professor] said, ‘Riggs, see me after.’ I went down and he said, ‘I need you to drop out. You’re not going to college, you’re just coming to my class.’”
The professor who told Riggs to drop out did not mean that in a negative way. In fact, he encouraged Riggs to go out and do what drove him to college.
“You’re supposed to be out there doing it,” Riggs recalls being told.
While manning odd jobs with his personal welding equipment and playing gigs with his band, the economy crashed in the late 2000s. That’s when Riggs bet on himself and sold his welding equipment. That money was turned toward his 2012 EP “Lighthouse”.
The gamble paid off and the rest, as they say, is history.
But Riggs continues to challenge himself.
“I need to push it to the edge,” he says. “I don’t know how to be any other way.”
In his 2016 album “Breathless,” he opened up to his audience more and is hoping to do the same with his upcoming release. Riggs’ camp says he has intentionally slowed down the recording process so that it can live up to the hype it has received already.
Riggs takes the stage tonight at Whiskey River Saloon. You can buy your tickets here for the 10:00 p.m. show.
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