Mike Riddell described Sam RB’s music as, “stemming from a journey into the fragile dignity of humanity”
“She still sings with a street-eye view and empathy and speaks of the fragility of people’s souls but her poetic lyrics continue to deepen and widen, and when you hear something as beautiful as ‘It Rains Down’ you know she’s someone special” – Graham Reid
Sam RB was born in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) in 1971, although she has lived most of her life in Auckland. Early in life, Sam RB was drawn to songwriting in an attempt to make sense of the world. On leaving school she was forced to step back from her music. While she continued to write, songs came alive behind closed doors and were seldom shared. She studied mathematics at the universities of Otago and Auckland and taught mathematics in two Auckland high schools in the mid-to-late 90’s.
She left teaching when she became unwell, and soon after entered the public mental health system where she began the transition from being housebound to performing her music live hundreds of times a year. For ten years she worked on building a life worth living. During this time she attended Toi Ora Live Art Trust, which supported her to begin to express herself more creatively through music and writing.
In 2010, after more than 25 years of solitary song writing, Sam RB began living as a fulltime musician. She recorded her debut album with the help of a Nōku te Ao Like Minds Mental Health Media Grant and began busking on the streets of Auckland to pay for the rest of the production cost of the album. That year her song, ‘Life Has Just Begun,’ featured in the wonderful NZ film by Mike Riddell, The Insatiable Moon. In 2012 she won the Play It Strange Olympic Songwriting Competition with ‘Stand Tall’ – NZ’s Olympic Song for the London Olympics. This saw her performing at the Governor General’s dinner at Whitehall Palace.
On returning from the Olympics, Sam RB continued performing – from busking to corporate gigs – to fund two more albums that were released in 2013 and 2014.
Her second album ‘Queen Street Acoustics’ was developed busking on Queen Street (Auckland). It is an album of exploration and discovery. The diverse tracks encompass everything from love songs to social issues such as bullying and the rights of children. There are also reflections on psychosis and depression, and a tribute to NZ artist, the late Don Binney, co-written with Mike Chunn (Split Enz).
Sam RB’s third album ‘Finding Your Way Home’ (also produced and recorded by Andrew Buckton at Studio 203) was released in 2014, and was followed by a North Island Tour. Like many of her songs they were developed on Queen Street busking.
Music was all she imagined she would do until she began doodling in between gigs on tour. She posted some photos of her art on Facebook and received so much validation and encouragement that she decided to have an exhibition. While preparing for her debut exhibition in 2015 she recorded single ‘Myselves’, which was produced and recorded at Paquin Studios by Tom Healy. It explores multiplicity, something she believes we all experience to some degree.
She then swapped her plectrum for a paintbrush and it was the beginning of seven years of painting which included exhibitions for Artweek Auckland at Toi Ora Live Art Trust, Ponsonby Central, and group shows at Emma Jean Gallery and The Charlotte Trust Gallery.
She found herself unable to write music during those years painting and began working on a novel instead, called We Wear Our Capes On The Inside. It wasn’t until lockdown that she found she could not only write music again, but that she couldn’t stop writing music! And so she used lockdown to up-skill and begin to produce and record her fourth album –Who I Am.
Sam RB is releasing her latest album one single at a time to give her (and audio engineer Andrew Buckton who is mixing and mastering the tracks) the space to finish the songs. The first single ‘Posers’ is being released worldwide on May 23, with a new song releasing on the 23rd of each month for the next year. You can find her music here