Sam Weber's storied exodus from his homeland of Canada to find new footing and opportunity in America resonates like a classic story of pain, loss, and rebirth. That narrative thread is woven throughout his new record, Get Free, offering a warm, intimate, and multidimensional portrait of the 28-year-old singer-songwriter. With this new collection of material, Weber reaches fresh emotional depths, commanding more expressive personal moments than ever before — at times within the margins of a single verse.
Sam Weber has already logged more miles as a gigging musician than most of his peers will in a lifetime, earning enviable accolades along the way (he was featured in Guitar Player a decade ago, by some accounts the youngest artist ever to grace those pages). He first picked up the guitar at age 12 to form a rock ’n’ roll band with his father and brother in the living room of their family home.
Sixteen years later, having collaborated with Grammy winners and with extensive international tours under his belt, the Canadian-born Los Angeleno goes forth with the same intention and mantra as when he began: “Music is an emotional conduit between people and allows us the opportunity to share moments of truth and unity. In an age where the ritual of music-making can be a solitary exercise, I want to live my life to remind everyone that playing music as a communal and spontaneous practice can be healing and powerful.”
In October 2019, Weber released what he now describes as his only real studio album, Everything Comes True. Though he had released a handful of compelling albums and EPs in the preceding decade, this one distinguished itself because the record was cut live-off-the-floor in the iconic B room at Hollywood’s Ocean Way Studios. From the circular shuffle of "It’s All Happening" to the soaring ramble of "Queen On The Money", Everything Comes True’s expansive range of grooves and emotions stands tall above Weber’s previous offerings. Featuring hallmark musicianship and personnel from the near and far reaches of popular music and the singer-songwriter's imagination, the sometimes nine-piece electric-roots orchestra conjure a brassy and joyful feast of sounds.
“I was making that record to eulogize my father,” Weber reveals. “He was going through cancer treatment for a long time, and I knew in my heart that [the treatment] would end with a goodbye. More than just the lyrics or the songs, the approach of [Everything Comes True] and the entire process of bringing that record into existence was a celebration of playing together in honour of his memory and legacy as an artist. In some ways, I think [the recording process] helped me grieve him even before he was gone.” Sam’s father, renowned Canadian architect Bill Weber, passed in June 2019 after a long battle with cancer.
After recording Everything Comes True, things began to move steady for Sam. More frequent visits to Los Angeles had allowed him to make a name for himself, and he began to form friendships in the music community. He was tapped to contribute to a compilation album alongside Andrew Bird, Blake Mills, Jim James, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, Tim Heidecker, Tony Bennett, Kurt Vile, Jackson Browne, and Matt Berninger of The National.
“Initially, it was the music scene here that drew me in,” Sam notes. “So many of the albums that meant so much to me growing up came from this place, but when I finally set my feet in town, I was spellbound by everything I saw — especially the architecture. There’s an incredible variety of style and materials. The passage of time is so evident here and it can feel like a ruin. It’s not an old place as far as cities go, but the energy of the people who’ve passed through is enchanting.”
Charmed by the city of angels, Weber began the process of formally moving to Los Angeles and writing what would become Get Free. When COVID-19 rendered touring prospects inert and much of his initial recording plans impossible, he sought a new approach.
“I wrote most of this music before the lockdown happened,” he says. “We wanted to go into another beautiful L.A. studio with another super band to record these new songs, but when all the plugs got pulled, we were sort of left holding nothing but the material. My partner Mallory Hauser was keen to rally and share production duties with me to make the most of what we had, which was liberating somehow: to have this logistical ceiling on how we could record or approach these songs in our living room. We were forced to be as creative as possible with what we had. I think it was the best thing that could have happened to us.” Mallory Hauser is a solo artist in her own right, performing and releasing music under the name Mal. The two met in Los Angeles in 2018.
Coming face-to-face with the realities of record making in the pandemic age, Sam and Mal called upon their friend Danny Austin-Manning to join their pod and the trio began meeting up weekly for recording sessions in their Hollywood apartment. “Danny would come over and the three of us would turn on the microphones and give these wild, unchained performances of the material,” Weber recalls. “The songs became as much about the experience and ritual of spending time together as the content in the lyrics. I called the record Get Free because each performance of each song was a moment of transcendence and an escape for us from an otherwise odd, restrictive time.”
And restrictions be damned, the trio emerged more than 14 recordings richer, and Sam and Mal set to curating and completing the 10-song collection, calling on friends near and far to contribute remotely through the power of technology. “I have a really tough time connecting to a performance or performing when I’m not in the room with the other musicians,” Weber admits. “But I think since we laid such a human foundation — me, Mal, and Dan — it gave each song a strong identity, and it became really clear what needed to happen and who we should ask to be involved remotely.”
“[Opening track] "Truth Or Lie" was the first thing we did that put the wind in our sails. We couldn’t sleep one night, so we drove to Tyler Chester’s studio and recorded the foundational acoustic guitar tracks as a duo at four in the morning. That was the moment we sort of looked at each other and realized there’s no reason we can’t just be at our house and make a special record… This time round I became uniquely aware that fancy gear and guitars and all that don’t really matter in the end.” The final set of songs were written on the road or in Chester’s garage. While the foundational music is maybe some of his simplest to date, the lyrics run an eclectic gamut of Weber’s musings: from the raucous drums and guitars of "Already Know", a Paul Simon diss-track, to "Nowhere Bound", an impressionistic ode to the acceptance of life’s listless ways — set in the living room of Weber’s family home.
Weber and Hauser tapped Grammy-nominated engineer Robbie Lackritz (Feist, Bahamas) to mix the album, having collaborated with him on the Juno-nominated Bahamas album Sad Hunk. “I really love [Get Free], don’t get me wrong… but it sort of sounds janky…in a good way! Because our only option was to make it in our house, it gave us permission to let it be what was going to be and not get wrapped up in the details, and in turn I think that allowed the veil between the performances and the hearts of each song to be very thin. Robbie [Lackritz] sort of saved the record fidelity-wise; we gave him some questionable rough mixes with the room mics cranked up so loud. What we got back sounded way rad.”
A particular sense of grandness is felt in certain songs across Weber’s recorded catalogue. Moments that feel lofty, yet devoid of pretentiousness. With more of these moments present and tangible on Get Free than any other of his releases, the listener can effectively observe Sam’s emancipation. With this record, he assumes a creative identity unique to himself.
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