Riggs fights sophomore slump on ‘direct, unfiltered’ new album

Last Updated by Chip Chandler - Digital Content Producer on
photo by Natalie Rhea

by Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

At first, rising Texas country star Sam Riggs wasn’t sure how he’d surpass or even equal the success of his debut album, “Outrun the Sun.”

“I was sort of daunted by the success we’d seen,” said Riggs, who’ll return to Amarillo for a 9 p.m. Friday show at Midnight Rodeo, 4400 S. Georgia St. “I was kind of panicky about how I would out-write that record.”

Then, Riggs took a breath.

“Late one night, I was laying on my back patio, staring up at the sky and deciding I don’t have to one-up (‘Outrun the Sun’). I just have to do what I want to do and do something different,” Riggs said. “Once I gave myself permission to go off the beaten path and do something different and cool in its own right, I was able to step out of the shadow of that record.”

The result is “Breathless,” the Florida native’s sophomore album, which dropped Feb. 19.

“As humans, as people, we always want to put our best foot forward. That was ‘Outrun the Sun’ for me,” Riggs said. “It was a people-pleaser, a healthy mix of all kinds of stuff. With ‘Breathless,’ I gave myself permission to let more of my influences show.”

The album shows a wide range of influences, from mentor Ray Wylie Hubbard to ’90s country from Garth Brooks to rock ’n’ roll – even to Southern hip-hop artist Yelawolf, particularly on the hard-driving “Wake the Dead.”

The album debuted at No. 3 on iTunes’ country chart and No. 22 in all genres – as well as to solid reviews.

“Breathless” finds “Riggs emerging as one of the leading voices among the contemporary crop of Texas country artists following in the footsteps of popular acts such as Pat Green and Jack Ingram,” Peter Blackstock wrote for Austin 360. “(Its songs) suggest he’s ready for a broader breakthrough beyond the local and regional realms.”

The album is “a direct, unfiltered look at myself as a writer and as a person,” Riggs said. “That was cool. It’s a little scary, making myself vulnerable like that on a record that will be in time and space forever, but I figured what’s the point if I sit there and guard myself from everyone my whole life.

“If I’m not happy with it, (expletive), how can I expect other people to be happy with it?”

But Riggs didn’t totally go it alone: This time out, he worked with more co-writers than he ever has.

“It was a struggle for me at first, but it’s become one of the most fun things,” Riggs said. “When you bring someone else into the room, you bring in a whole other human heart, a whole other human brain, and a whole lifetime of experience.

“I guess I used to see co-writing as a weakness, but I’ve come to love it because it brings such a new voice to the song. It’s really refreshing.”

Tune in between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday to hear an interview with Riggs and some of his songs on FM90’s “Tex Tunes.”

Cover charge is $7 in advance, $10 day of show for ages 21 and older, and $12 day of show for ages 18 to 20.

For information, call 806-358-7083 or visit www.midnightrodeoamarillo.com or www.samriggsandthenightpeople.com