The year was 1990. I didn’t know it yet but the grunge movement was getting ready to take over the world. I went to my local record store (now long gone) to pick up an album I’d read about featuring guitarist Vivian Campbell. I specifically remember being hooked within seconds as the opening bass gave way to guitar harmonics and the vocals kicked in. That album was the eponymously titled “Riverdogs”.
While there is no shortage of incredible guitar work, the songs were the real standout. This didn’t sound like a debut record, but rather the songwriting of mature seasoned professionals. The lyrics dealt with real world issues of everyday people, not the typical fare for many rock bands.
Riverdogs would sporadically release more albums, including “Bone” and “World Gone Mad”, and just last year reconvened to give us the masterpiece “California”. You owe it to yourself to listen to this band.
The driving force behind the band is singer/guitarist Rob Lamothe. Rob was kind enough to sit down and answer in detail our queries in this edition of “10 Questions with…”. So without further ado, The Peter Principle is proud to present Mr. Rob Lamothe.
Before he joined the band, how did you first meet Vivian?
Rob: I first met Viv when he produced the original Riverdogs demo’s… We already had a guitar player at that time, but Viv would pick up a guitar at rehearsal to play a part as we prepared for recording… and sometimes he would join in on a vocal harmony. Viv was a great producer, but eventually we felt he was more like a member of the band… and then he asked to join us!
A hallmark of your songs is that they are often based on a good, solid chord progression. They would hold up even if someone were to just strum an acoustic by a campfire. Were you ever concerned making the debut that a virtuoso player like Campbell may overwhelm your compositions with riffs and fills?
Rob: Almost all Riverdogs songs (up until the ‘California’ album songs) were written on acoustic guitar, so you are correct about the campfire! Viv respected the songs… and I’m pretty sure that he never thought they required any instrumental virtuosity! He is the last guitar player who is looking for the spot in the song to ‘wail’ on guitar. Viv is all about the song, which is why he immediately fit in so well with the rest of us!
You have been teaching for many years, do you find mentoring young musicians helps you personally grow as an artist?
Rob: Mentoring young artists, writers and performers inspires me every day… and definitely helps me grow as a person.
A random question, how in the world was “Baby Blue” NOT a single off the debut album? It had all the ingredients of a hit.
Rob: Hmmm. That song wasn’t even considered by the record label (Epic) as a potential single, as far as I know. I just went along for the ride!
How do you feel your song writing has changed from your solo album “Gravity” till now?
Rob: I think my own writing has simplified quite a bit over the years, musically. My lyrics can be simplistic on the surface, but there is always some deeper story if the listener digs down a little… and another one a little deeper down in the soil.
Did your son Josh gravitate towards music on his own, or did you mentor him? He has his own voice, but I can definitely hear “you” in there.
Rob: Josh was surrounded by music in our house, just like his brother Zander and his sister Rosemary. If I’m your dad, you are going to hear music every day and night. Music is my work and my meditation. Music has taken my family traveling, since my now-grown kids were little babies sleeping on stages… Music is our community.
Was Nick Brophy comfortable stepping into the lead guitar role for “Bone”? Nick is a great player but he had admittedly big shoes to fill!
Rob: If Nick wasn’t comfortable learning Viv’s parts from the debut album and stepping in to fill Viv’s shoes starting with ‘Bone’ and ‘Absolutely Live’, he never showed it. Nick works harder than any musician I’ve ever known. He will do whatever it takes to get the song recorded and performed. 100% committed to the music and to the band. Always.
Did you have much of your new album “California” fleshed out when you all got back together, or did it form more organically once you were in the same room?
Rob: We brought in maybe 3 ideas to start off the writing sessions. Only 2 of those were nearly-completed songs, though: ‘American Dream’ and ‘The Revolution Starts Tonight’.
Your acoustics have an earthy quality to them, even when they are “bright” sounding. Are you a fresh set of strings guy, or a replace the string that’s broken type?
Rob: I leave strings on waaaay too long!!! But, that works for me. I’m not looking for clarity when I’m writing, recording or performing. I like to leave space for the listeners imagination. A little murkiness allows the listener or the reader to keep discovering new ideas or emotions in the song or the performance… every time they hear it. That’s how I look at it, anyway!
What new projects can we expect from you on the horizon?
Rob: Whew. Lots! I’m playing bass this Summer with an incredible singer-songwriter named Logan Staats. He just signed to Big Machine Label Group in Nashville. My younger son Zander plays drums in the band. I’m currently finishing up final mixes for the CD I’ve made with my sons and daughter called ‘And The River Reveals Herself’. I’m also finishing up recording projects with three amazing artists: Lauren Margaux (5 songs), Michael Wolf (6 songs) and Bonnie Hamilton (4 songs).I’ll head up to the Songwriting Camp I run at the end of every Summer in late August-early September. We are planning some shows in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands for October. Gonna have a special guest or two for those shows! I’m touring throughout Southern Ontario in February 2019, with a group of mostly Indigenous musicians, playing music inspired by the award-winning film, ‘RUMBLE- The Indians Who Rocked The World’. I’m one of the few fortunate non-Indigenous musicians to be invited to be part of that tour. That will be a lifetime highlight for me, in a lifetime of highlights!!
Sounds fantastic! We are looking forward to all of it, especially the CD with you and your kids!I want to thank Rob again for sharing his thoughts with us and providing a glimpse of the man behind the music. To find out more, check out his site http://www.roblamothe.com/