rob lamothe

words | music | community

Photo: Taysha Fuller Photography

words + music​

I was born in La Jolla, California in 1958. Our house was full of music. I was singing in ​Latin as a soloist in church choirs by the time I was 12-years-old. I’ve never stopped ​singing.

I’ve always liked this quote from The Toronto Star: “Rob Lamothe is a mercurial artist ​who slides effortlessly from rustic roots music to full-blown rock". I grew up listening to ​Mahalia Jackson, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and The Beatles. I saw Zeppelin in ​concert three times in my mid-teens. So, yeah, I’m mercurial.

I’ve released 8 full-length CD’s, including ‘And The River Reveals Herself’, which I wrote ​and recorded with my sons Josh and Zander and my youngest daughter, Rose. I’ve ​shared stages with everyone from Guns 'n' Roses to members of the Toronto ​Symphony Orchestra and I’ve toured throughout Europe close to 30 times now.

I spent 15 years on the faculty at Interprovincial Music Camp, north of Toronto, where ​I built and ran a Songwriting Camp for kids aged 12 to 18. I’ve worked with a bunch of ​young artists over the years who have gone on to score record deals and tours ​around the globe. A couple of the teens I coached a decade-and-a-half ago just ​toured the UK, opening for Incubus… and another former student just finished a tour ​opening for Canadian arena-rockers, Arkells.

My mantra is ‘Create without Fear, Edit without Mercy’.

My ‘Solo’ Albums:

Gravity (1996)

Being Human (1998)

Project HUM E.P. (1998)

I Am Here Now (1999)

Brave Enough E.P (2001)

Steering With My Knee (Live - 2001)

Wishing Well Motel (2001)

Above the Wing is Heaven (2002)

Long Lazy Curve (2006)

And The River Reveals Herself (with DollarStore Hacksaw - 2018)

Photo: Sharon Harper


I’ve been ‘Volunteer of the Year’ in my home county on the Grand River in ​Ontario, I’ve helped develop award-winning citizen-based initiatives like ​skateparks, PRIDE Events, Arts Festivals and not-for-profits… and I’ve been ​arrested for playing guitar at Unity Jams and for making sure that Indigenous ​Land Defenders get fed.

I’ve served as President of a Board of Directors for an organization that supports ​youth and their families with programs for youth justice, student nutrition and a ​youth shelter… and I’ve been named in a $200-million dollar lawsuit filed by ​developers who want to build million-dollar homes on land stolen from ​Indigenous communities that have been stewards of that land for thousands of ​years. I refuse to ease into my ‘golden’ years. I have obligations. Sue me.

I’m the Project Manager for an Indigenous-owned Production Company making ​documentaries like ‘The Water Walker’, which debuted at Toronto International ​Film Festival in late 2020 and had its U.S. debut at DOC/NYC in 2021. ‘The ​Water Walker’ has played all over the planet at this point and has taken on a life ​of its own at Universities and Museums and in Grade Schools. We will finish our ​second project in early 2023, a feature-length documentary about the lack of ​access to clean water on Indigenous ‘reserves’ here in so-called Canada and ​America.

Over the last decade or so, I’ve had the honour of working with some of North ​America’s pre-eminent Indigenous artists. I just finished co-producing and play​ing guitar on Logan Staats’ upcoming ‘Light in the Attic’ album (due to be released​ in March, 2023). I was part of the music production team nominated for a D​ora Moore Award for ‘Outstanding Sound Design and Composition’, for Kaha​:wi Dance Theatre’s “TransMigration” event at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre an​d I also produced the ‘Two Suns’ CD for the Six Nations rock band The Ollivande​rs, which won a Native American Music Award for ‘Best Rock Recordin​g​’.

Early 2023 brings the release of 2 albums I co-produced, played and sang ​on… and I’m really looking forward to continuing to collaborate w​ith Activist/Musician/Film Maker/Change Artist Layla Staa​ts.

other projects

Over the past couple years, I wrote and ​recorded Cross Country Driver's "The New ​Truth" with James Harper and Zander ​Lamothe. It’s an old-school-rock ​rollercoaster of an album, a generation-​and-continent-spanning musical adventure. ​The album features inspired performances ​by our friends like dUg Pinnick from Kings X, ​Rhonda Smith from Jeff Beck’s band and ​Jimmy Wallace from The Wallflowers.

“The New Truth” was mixed by Grammy ​winner Nick Brophy.

My friend Vivian Campbell from Def ​Leppard joined in on guitar and vocals on ​a track and I think he said it best, “Lush, ​rich, deep and spirited. No one make ​records like this anymore. Bravo!”

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My Los Angeles-based rock band Riverdogs ​nailed down some serious cult status over 3 ​decades ago with our debut album on Epic ​Records. We made a couple albums for a ​label in Hamburg, Germany and the band ​members scattered across North America. ​Twenty-two years later, we found a new ​generation of listeners after signing with ​Frontiers Music (Milan, Italy) and releasing ​“California”.

Riverdogs Albums:

Debut (1990)

Absolutely Live (1993)

Bone (1993)

World Gone Mad (2011)

California (2017)

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In 2018, Mohawk singer-songwriter Logan ​Staats won a vocal competition TV show ​thing, sweeping him straight into a ​contract with Big Machine Label Group ​(Nashville). His single, “The Lucky Ones”, ​won an Indigenous Music Award for Best ​Radio Single.

A couple of hectic years later, Logan has ​come home to Six Nations of the Grand ​River Territory… and reclaimed his sound ​and his voice. His ‘Light in the Attic’ album ​will be released in Spring of 2023 on Red ​Music Rising Records.

Logan is an incredible singer. I’ve played ​guitar in his band for the past 6 years and I ​co-produced ‘Light in the Attic’.

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To any musician lamenting that ‘the music industry isn’t what it used to be’ or that they ‘should be making a lot more money and playing for bigger, ​more appreciative audiences’ or that ‘young people listen to shitty music’ or that ‘there is no good new music being created anymore'...

I had a bit of a personal crisis throughout 2001/2002. At some point, I started having panic attacks while performing. I was working to get my alcohol ​intake ‘under control’ at that time and I soon saw that without my alcohol ‘base’ in me, I was terrified to be on stage. I was a year into 2 steady years of ​counseling (geared-to-income. Thank you, Catholic Family Services), told my counsellor what was happening and she asked, ‘Why do you perform in ​public?’ 2 decades into a busy music career… and I didn’t know the answer! I knew why I wrote songs, for sure. I knew why I sang my songs, for sure. ​But, I didn’t know exactly why I got up on stage to perform my songs in public. I realized that being impaired ‘allowed’ me to get up and perform in ​public. So, I cancelled a bunch of lovely gigs and took a break from performing, with no idea whether the break might last a month or forever. I had no ​clue what career I might venture off into, if my ‘break’ from performing music in public turned out to be permanent… and I also knew that if I was ​going to start performing in public at some point in the future, I needed a reason to do it. I was fortunate that I had just released 2 CD’s (studio and ​live), so there was some momentum there. I was fortunate for several behind-the-scenes studio projects that came along. A little income from ​publishing, a little income from CD sales, a little income from playing guitar and singing on other artists studio projects… we got by.

The break from performing lasted almost a year and then one of the bands I worked in the studio with asked me to do a little tour with them in The ​Netherlands. My youngest son was becoming a killer drummer in his early teens and I thought, ‘There’s a nice reason to perform in public! I’ll bring ​Zander to Europe to meet my beautiful friends over there. We’ll play some shows for loyal music fans and Zander will join us on stage for a few songs… ​perfect!’. And, damn, it was. People attending the shows brought their kids and every night felt like a celebration! Although I play in public less than in ​the ‘olden days’, I haven’t stopped altogether… very much due to that inspiring tour with my lovely friends and my younger son.

In 2009 I quit making music full-time. I was offered a position as ‘Assistant to the Program Manager’ at a youth centre I was volunteering at (music and ​martial arts). Soon after I started that job, though, the Program Manager needed to leave his position and I became ‘Acting Program Manager’. All of ​the sudden I had a full-time job that involved at-risk youth (they are all ‘at-risk’, by the way), parents, guardians, grandparents, school staff, mental ​health support workers, police, probation, etc. I was on-the-job at least 60 hours a week and I carried a cell phone for emergencies that could come up ​at any time. I had no clue what I was doing! I hung on for dear life, got trained in Non-Violent Crisis Intervention, First Aid, Suicide Intervention, ​Understanding and Managing Aggressive Behaviour, Mental Health First Aid and more. A million miles from anything I had ever done.. and I loved it. ​And I was really good at it. I didn’t even know I liked other peoples’ kids!! I loved ‘em! What the hell?

Very little time for music, of course. Almost none, in fact… but I kept teaching at music camp and I kept writing. 2 years in, a member of the youth ​centre’s board of directors suggested I apply to run the Emergency Housing Program for Haldimand and Norfolk Counties. The position required ​education I didn’t have, but I applied anyway… and I got the frickin' job. This is where things really got interesting. I learned in my first week that, in ​small rural communities, you are going to be supporting victims and perpetrators of the same crimes. You are going to hear intimate details of hard, ​dangerous, chaotic lives. I was witness to incredible acts of love and desperation, generosity and sadness. The people I worked with know the value of ​humour and they know price of pain. So, one moment you’re standing in a dingy motel room (there are no shelters for men in the 2 counties, so you ​make do) with 2 guys, one who has a knife, the other who has a machete, and these guys are slicing apples and gesturing wildly with the knife and the ​machete and are so high they could barely see… and 30 minutes later you are bringing diapers and formula to a family whose house burned to the ​ground the night before. I was a front line crisis worker and, again, I loved it. And I was really good at it. My 2 most valuable skills? Empathy and ​creativity. Songwriting and singing prepared me for this insane beautiful job! Not much room for music during this time-frame, though. A couple short ​trips to Europe and 2 weeks at music camp each Summer…

I ran the Emergency Housing Program for 5 years. Never had a serious ‘issue’ with a client. Not once, in those 5 years of front-line crisis situations, ​with people who were sometimes in the middle of the worst day of their lives. Now, lots of serious stuff happened. People went to jail, people lost every ​possession they had, people came out of prison after 10 years or were finally discharged after living in a hospital waiting room for weeks… with ​nowhere to go. Families split up or were reunited. Serious stuff. Sometimes, people died. But my clients, a couple hundred of ‘em over the 5 years, were ​mostly calm and kind… and trusting. We built relationships based on that trust… and friendships that have carried on until today. I knew what to do ​when ‘shit got real’, I knew how to de-escalate situations that were heading south. I knew what to do when someone grabbed a tire iron or when ​Buddy’s eyes rolled back in his head and he overdosed from a standing position right then and there. Boom. Uh, Houston? We’ve got a little bit of a ​crisis on our hands. I knew who to call to help out when a motel room needed to be cleaned up after someone died in it. I could get a truck and clear a ​mattress and bedding out within an hour or two. Jesus, those motel owners were forgiving. And they’d stopped by my office to sneak me a bottle of gin ​or wine at Christmas… and a note to say ‘Thank you for the business. Looking forward to serving you in the coming year!’ What? People are frickin' ​amazing.

Turned out I had a ‘feel’ for crisis work. I had seen so much on low-budget rock and roll tours through towns long-past their glory days… I had learned ​how to get paid by the coked-up, pissed-off rock club manager who doesn’t want to pay the band after a smelly, sweaty poorly-attended gig in a suburb ​way (way) outside of Detroit. The band’s gotta eat. Pay us, we’ll put some gas in our shitty van and we’ll head off to the next smelly, sweaty gig. I ​learned when to stand still and say nothing… and when to move very quickly. I learned how to bullshit my way into and out of all kinds of trouble. ​Rock and roll is good for that. Most of all, though, I learned to trust my instincts. When the beautiful, bruised ‘old lady’ of the president of, um, a ​‘motorcycle enthusiast club’ made up of guys who ‘don’t like to follow rules’ falls ‘in love’ with you and shows up at your hotel room door to give you ​jewelry? Nope! Hey, um, which crappy little road leads out to the airport from here? Uh, um… See ‘ya!

I lived and played in rock bands in Los Angeles in the 1980’s and if you don’t know what that means, man. I would need to write a bloody book to even ​begin to describe it. My band-mates and I were absolutely definitely going to make it in the music biz. No doubt. Big time. Every bloody band I was in!! ​And we mostly failed in spectacular fashion. What a blessing! We were hungry and we stole shit and we worked our asses off and we got so close… and ​we failed again. And then, one of my bands ‘made it’! Of course, it turned out that that we thought was ‘making it’ was literally just barely getting in ​the door and being close enough to see the real game being played. But sometimes we were in the right place to saunter up to the plate and take a turn ​at bat. We actually got there… on the crazy side of the door that hardly anyone ever gets through! Woo! How can I put a value on those experiences? ​People pay a lot of money to learn about how human life developed and evolved and about the processes that influence human behaviour… and I was ​the singer-songwriter in a rock band! I lived it and I wrote it all down. It’s in the songs and I can’t begin to calculate what those are worth. I could ​spend all day adding up what those songs have purchased for me. An incredible life! My kids know the songs and they love me… and if all I had to show ​for my life was that and the shiny partnership with my amazing wife?

I’m more-than-content with that.

Rob Lamothe