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:
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 playing 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 Dora Moore Award for ‘Outstanding Sound Design and Composition’, for Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s “TransMigration” event at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre and I also produced the ‘Two Suns’ CD for the Six Nations rock band The Ollivanders, which won a Native American Music Award for ‘Best Rock Recording’.
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 with Activist/Musician/Film Maker/Change Artist Layla Staats.
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!”
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”.
Absolutely Live (1993)
World Gone Mad (2011)
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’.
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.