Rich Chambers on Santa’s Rockin’ Band and other musings

Tell us about yourself and your music

Like so many musicians, music is such a part of my life. It really constitutes the framework or foundation of who I am. I am a very passionate person who feels things intensely, so in many ways, me becoming a musician was a natural fit. But, along the way in this journey we call life, I gained a huge respect for education and am proud to hold both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. I also discovered the importance of physical fitness. In fact, I actually wrote my Christmas song, Santa’s Rockin’ Band, during a 10km run … in the middle of July of all things! So, I have always made a point of expanding my borders beyond music, which I am very thankful for. Not only has it expanded my viewpoints, perspectives, and experiences, but it has also helped fuel music that I believe to be very sincere, down to earth, and easy to relate to. I write songs about real situations that resonate with real people. My style is mostly rock, but I skirt the borders of the country, retro rock, and blues so much that sometimes people can’t quite define where I sit. I am okay with that as I actually see that as a good thing. But, above all, my songs are almost all guitar-driven, which wouldn’t surprise anyone given that the guitar is my primary instrument. In the end though, I seek to touch people with my songs. If I can make even just one person smile, self-reflect, lighten their heart, or simply tap their toe I feel like I have done something pretty special!

Talk to us more about your latest release

My latest release, Santa’s Rockin’ Band (Oct 30, 2020) has its origins approximately 25 years ago. I was fresh out of university and recorded and released my first ever CD. It was a Christmas one consisting of 10 tracks. Well, over the years, those tracks began fading into obscurity, all except one that is. My version of the Snow Miser vs. the Heat Miser seemed to somehow not only survive, but it flourished. It started to grow in popularity. In the late 2000s, on a whim, I put it up on iTunes, and lo and behold, that Christmas it was downloaded almost 1,500 times. I was stunned as I hadn’t done any marketing or any promotion for the song. The next few Christmases the numbers were similar, and then along came the streaming services where it also found popularity. So, after 17,000 downloads and well over 300,000 streams, I decided to resurrect my Christmas album ambitions. Alongside my 1994 Heat Miser vs. Snow Miser, I rerecorded eight of the other nine tracks from my original Christmas album, which included two originals, and added two more Christmas originals to make up the full 11 tracks on Santa’s Rockin’ Band.

What inspired you to write this release?

Santa’s Rockin’ Band is all about fun! It is also kind of gritty and a little raw. I was getting so tired of all the pitch-perfect auto-tuned generic Christmas albums that seem to be coming out every year that I really sought out to make an album that celebrated being a little “rough around the edges.” I achieved this through lots of driven rock guitar, drums, and vocals that aren’t always what one would say are “in tune.” But the music drives and it breathes. It has its own life and own energy. I also really wanted to tackle songs that meant something to me as a kid, such as Snow Miser vs. Heat Miser and Snoopy’s Christmas. And lastly, my simple love for Christmas and the fact that I was starting to write more and more Christmas songs helped me to commit to recording and releasing Santa’s Rockin’ Band. Christmas rocks and I want to share that with everyone through this album!

Describe the writing and recording process

For me, writing stems almost always from a musical idea first and almost never from a lyric. Although, the song Santa’s Rockin’ Band was a rare exception. It began with the title and then me imagining who might be in Santa’s band. Rudolph was instantly the drummer and Frosty had to be the bassman. This all came into my head at the start of my second kilometer on a 10km run. The next 8km I worked out a melody in my head and also constructed the melody and words for the verses. When I got home from the run, I was still sweaty and went straight to the guitar to write a bridge and finalize the whole thing. It was one of the most unique and coolest writing experiences I have ever had! But mostly, the majority of my songs start with a musical idea that I nurture and play with for quite sometime before adding in lyrics that fit the mood of the music.

Any plans to release a video?

As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?

I know a publicist would probably shoot me for this, but I don’t put a lot of emphasis on this. I used to when I was younger, but I had such a hard time finding a way to brand myself in a way that I stood out. I discovered that in many ways I don’t stand out, which oddly enough, I believe is my brand. I am that guy you work with, the dad who brings out his kid to the baseball game, the guy who sits at the local pub with his buddies and watches a game, the big brother who gives a speech/toast at his younger brother’s wedding, or that friendly person you see in the supermarket line that says hi to you. I am pretty much a bit of an “every person,” and this is the foundation and inherent strength of my music. My music relates to everyone. People make sense of it and connect to it. The themes and moods I write about are their life themes and moods because I have been in the day-to-day trenches with them. So, I stand out because I don’t stand out. How about that for the ultimate paradox, eh? :-)

Who have you been listening to lately?

Oh my, who don’t I listen to is probably a better question! But yes, we all have phases when one artist seems to dominate our music lists more than others for a while. I have been hooked into Green Day lately. Before them, I was going through a heavy phase with Chicago and solo John Lennon. But through all of that, I will throw on all kinds of different stuff to keep me humming. I just pulled out an old Chuck Mangione CD the other day and sat and listened to it. Very cool stuff! I also have my guitar player phases where I will listen to some blues greats like BB King, Roy Buchanan, and Freddie King.

Who are your biggest influences?

This is a multi-layered question actually as influences come in so many different forms. I cannot help but mention the great Canadian Terry Fox. He did a marathon a day on one leg back in 1980 as he ran across Canada to raise money for cancer research. Influences don’t get much bigger than that! Musically though, I have always been huge an Elvis and Buddy Holly fan. They were the first great rockers in my opinion. And of course the first time I heard the Beatles I was blown away, and still am today. Bruce Springsteen introduced me to the storytelling side of rock music, while Elvis Costello showed me how intricate you can get with lyrical and musical themes within a song. I also owe so much of my guitar playing to greats like Chuck Berry, BB King, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. And then there is my countryside that always looks toward Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Dwight Yoakam. I also have a soft spot for big band music where Harry Connick Jr. and Dean Martin stand out for me. I also can’t forget Beethoven since I wrote my master’s thesis on him. And my, this only scratches the surface.  There are so many great musicians and so much great music.

Tell us about your passions

I would definitely consider myself a passionate person! I am probably most passionate about those who I love, my family, and my friends. Is there anything more important in life than the people around us? I am also of course, obviously, passionate about music. But more specifically, I am passionate about the creation of music and songwriting. The passion I have for all things in my life manifest themselves in my songs. That is not to say that all my songs are serious introspective studies into the human condition, not at all. Some might qualify as such, but others are simply mindless ear nuggets that do nothing but make you hum a bit and smile. Beyond music I am passionate about hockey. I started playing when I was about six and it has become a lifelong pursuit and passion. And following up that is running and general fitness and health. I started running when I was 19 and it became a way of life in no time. Oh yes, and I mustn’t forget my passion for writing fiction. It comes and goes, as I totally write in spurts, but I have written one novel called “18” and am currently working on a second.

What else is happening next in your world?

My next project is going to be a remastering of an album I did a couple of years ago with my old band Half-Hour Late. It is called, All I Want is Hope. We have some great tracks that are just waiting for a little smoothing out and updating. I will be releasing that in early 2021.

Thanks for an awesome interview, Rich Chambers

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