Texas country star Sam Riggs finds video director who won't blow 'Smoke' — his wife

Posted by Chip Chandler on
Texas country star Sam Riggs will perform Thursday.
Photo by Natalie Rhea

"Second Hand Smoke," Sam Riggs

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

On earlier video projects, Texas country singer Sam Riggs tended to get his way, but his most recent director wasn't interested in acceding to all of his whims. Good thing he's married to her.

"It was different, you know," Riggs said of working with wife Natalie Rhea on the video for "Second Hand Smoke." "We're both very passionate ... and had a couple of times where we bumped heads.

"It was a lot different than working with another producer. They're like, 'Yeah, that sounds great' (when Riggs made suggestions). Natalie was a lot more adamant about staying true to the plan."

The resulting video finds unexpected new themes to explore in Riggs' song, which he'll perform in Amarillo on his latest stop in town at 9 p.m. Thursday at Midnight Rodeo, 4400 S. Georgia St.

"Second Hand Smoke" — the latest single off his 2016 album Breathless — compares the singer's desire to rekindle an old flame to the ache a former smoker feels when he catches the whiff of a burning cigarette.

The video, though, follows a young couple on a scenic hike in the Davis Mountains in West Texas. It's not clear until a final twist at the end why they're hiking or what that has to do with the song, but the final image is a heartbreaker.

The concept was Rhea's, Riggs said.

"She had this idea for the song. I had said I wanted the song to be something that people weren't expecting," Riggs said. "I told Natalie that, and she took it back to her drawing board and wrote this story that was completely different. (It's) sort of abstract, but at the same time, really blended in with the heart of the song — the closure that you never really find."

The song's theme was open to different interpretations from its initial conception, which wasn't romantic at all. It was, instead, inspired by Riggs' memories of his late grandfather.

"My granddad was a preacher, and he and my grandma kind of raised me up," Riggs recounted. "He smoked Marlboro Reds, was a cowboy and just had this presence about him."

Rigg's grandfather died when the singer was 12, but an encounter with a stranger a few years ago had memories of his grandfather come rushing back.

"I was at a truck stop on the road — somewhere near Amarillo, maybe, or Abilene — and I was walking in front of an old Peterbilt (truck), and I never would have seen (the truck driver) unless he lit his cigarette," Riggs said. "He used a wooden match, and the smell brought back all of these memories. ... They say smell is the strongest form of memory."

He turned that flash into the basis for "Second Hand Smoke."

"A love that is going to stay with you for the rest of your life — that's what the song is about. That one person you're just never going to forget, ever."

Sam Riggs will return to Amarillo for a Thursday show at Midnight Rodeo, 4400 S. Georgia St.

The success of "Second Hand Smoke" and Breathless has helped propel the Florida native's career not only in his adopted state of Texas, but also around the country.

"It took us to a whole new level and opened up a lot of doors for me that I never through would open," Riggs said. "It put me in the position to make my next record on a larger scale than I ever thought possible and more in control than ever. I thought when I made my first major record, it would be on someone else's terms, not mine."

Yes, that means Riggs is shopping his as-yet-uncompleted new album to a bigger label than his own independent label. Eitehr way, he expects a much broader release.

"That's a mindset I've had all along," Riggs said. "When I moved to Texas, I fell in love with Texas music, but I felt a deep urge to take my music and Texas music to a national audience.

"Some peple have tried and failed. Cody Johnson has done a great job, and so has Aaron (Watson). That's very much the way we're going to go about it," Riggs said. "What we're all trying to do is take our music to a national audience, and that requires ... a very different approach on the marketing end, a very different approach on the touring side of things.

"But the writing doesn't really change, what you feel like you can sing on stage every night," Riggs said. "If you buy it, believe it, your fans believe it. That's just honesty coming through."

Cover is $12 in advance, $15 day of show for ages 21 and older, or $17 for ages 18 to 20. Cover is two admissions for $20 including a Friday show by Amarillo native Kevin Fowler. Call 806-358-7083.



Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.

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