10Qs with Sam Anderson of Serious Rooms


Sam Anderson is a Portland-based singer/songwriter/guitarist who has been playing in local bands since the early 1980s. He’s currently a member of Serious Rooms, along with Chris Plumstead, Mark McDonough, and John Nunan. Their debut CD, “Random Universe,” will be released on August 20th on Cornmeal Records.

Where were you born?
I was born in Mercy Hospital in Portland, ME on a Friday the 13th, 1959. Because of this, I’ve always considered Friday the 13th to be a lucky day. I hope that my parents feel the same way.

What keeps you in Portland?
I love Portland. The city has a thriving music and arts scene, great restaurants, and a colorful history. It offers the benefits of city living, without the traffic jams. And when city life becomes a bit tedious, one is within easy driving distance of the ocean, various lakes, and several mountains. I have absolutely no desire to move elsewhere.

Of course, if you were to ask me again in February, I’d probably give you a different answer.

Do you have a day job, and if so, what is it?
I have worked for Headlight Audio Visual in Portland for over 28 years. It’s scary to contemplate that I’ve been employed there for most of my life. I have coworkers who were not yet born when I was first hired.

What was your most memorable gig?
When I was in the 6th grade, my younger brother and I, along with some friends, played an acoustic concert for our entire elementary school. It was my first experience playing on a proper stage. The gig had been arranged by a couple of supportive teachers who had witnessed our musical skills first-hand. You see, my brother and I would occasionally bring our guitars to school, so we could play a few tunes during our lunch period. These impromptu performances led to a Friday afternoon assembly in the gym. As I recall, we received an impressive ovation from the students and faculty. Afterward, we shamelessly stood near the exit door so we could collect compliments from everyone as they left.

What was your worst gig?
A couple of years ago, my band and I played a gig on a weekday morning; it was a local corporate event. Far from being a featured act, we were hired to be, essentially, “window dressing”. Our five-piece band was crowded onto a 10’ x 10’ stairwell landing overlooking a cavernous registration area. From our cramped perch, we played our set to the busy, oblivious crowd below.

We didn’t get paid, either.

What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
Although it sounds completely cliché, I’m forced to say that The Beatles have undoubtedly been my biggest influence. It was The Beatles who inspired me to start writing songs, and who first made me consider forming a band, all before the age of 12. Although, I’ve had other major influences along the way, including James Taylor, Brian Wilson, Ray Davies, Tom Petty, and Pete Townshend, The Beatles have always served as the ultimate yardstick. Hearing the White Album for the first time was a life-altering experience.

What’s the one piece of musical equipment you can’t live without?
That would have to be my Fender Telecaster, which I’ve nicknamed “Growler”. I purchased it used back in 2006. Originally made in Mexico, it has been upgraded over time to my chosen specifications. With its jumbo frets, Texas Special Pickups, and brass six-saddle bridge, it has a unique sound and plays like a dream.

album cover

Any advice for a musician starting out?
Play because you love to do so. There is no better reason.

What’s the origin behind your band name?
“Serious Rooms” was derived from a passage in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. I was re-reading the book about a year and a half ago, and I came upon the following passage in the first chapter, describing Dean Moriarty’s wife, Marylou:

“…She was in an evil gray New York pad that she’d heard about back West, and waiting like a longbodied emaciated Modigliani surrealist woman in a serious room.”

I was instantly taken by the expression, “serious room”. To me, it evoked visions of a dull, static environment, the last place where one would expect to hear music. I felt that it would make a wonderfully ironic band name.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
I’m a big fan of The Monkees. I know more about that band than any self-respecting person should. Their recording of Pleasant Valley Sunday is one of my all-time favorite records. If I’m driving, and a Monkees song comes on the radio, I feel compelled to sing along. Loudly.

Stephen Quirk
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