Sam Baardman’s music reflects a searching, inquisitive spirit. Coaxing surprising images out of common situations, Sam’s songs resonate with fans who appreciate his lyrical depth and superb, singable melodies. The music travels across a broad range of human experience, from small, intimate moments to big issues, infusing every situation with poetic urgency. It’s no surprise that the Winnipeg Free Press described him as “one of the city’s strongest and most literate songwriters.”
Sam’s songs travel across a broad range of human experience, from small, intimate moments—a phone call between friends—to global conflicts—environmental catastrophe or cultural equity—giving them equal weight, and infusing every situation with poetic urgency. His art is about finding details that many have missed and expressing something honest in every song. Backed by understated yet intricate guitar work, he offers up songs that speak to the heart.
A strong theme in Sam’s music has been environmentalism and the need to restore ecological balance in the world. He has penned songs about climate change, the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, the degradation of Lake Winnipeg, and other pressing issues, without being didactic or preachy. “I don’t write these songs to persuade or argue,” says Sam, “but to try to express something about our collective dilemma, to give voice to our sadness, outrage, or bewilderment at the situation we find ourselves in.”
Environmentalism has been a focus of Sam’s visual art as well. As a fine art photographer, he is a co-founder of the River on the Run Artist Collective, a group of visual artists and poets working together since 2006 to address the global water crisis. Working in collaboration with biologists and climate scientists, their art investigates the increasingly fragile relationship between humans and their habitats. Sam is currently preparing to work on a new project collaborating with a research scientist in the Global Water Futures Program. And he is preparing a new book of environmental photography to be published in 2023.
Belief in the power of music and art to move people and propel change has been at the core of Sam’s work for over 30 years as an artist. A veteran of the Canadian folk music scene, Sam was a familiar figure in folk venues and festivals across Canada since the release of two well-received albums in the 1990s. The first was Kicking the Stone Home, whose songs are like old friends from the first listen. From the beautiful “Hearts & Hands,” chronicling a generation reeling at the end of the twentieth century, to the intimacy of “Every Little Piece,” Sam proved himself to be a mature songwriter in the folk tradition. Sam’s second album, The Rookery, was hailed by music critic John Kendle as “a timeless Canadian Folk Record” and it was nominated for Outstanding Roots Recording at the 2000 Prairie Music Awards.
In the middle of a busy life of touring folk festivals, folk clubs and concert halls, Sam put his artistic life briefly on hold to take over as Executive Director of Manitoba Music, and in 2002 he was given the Prairie Music Award for Industry Builder of the Year. In the ensuing years, Sam served in national leadership roles across the Canadian music industry and provincial cultural community. During this time he continued performing and mounting exhibitions in both Canada and the US.
Then in 2020, a personal disaster struck. Sam suffered a stroke that left him barely able to walk, unable to work and, worst of all, completely unable to play the guitar or make music. He was devastated, but determined to find his way back. Over the following year, he slowly improved, doggedly picking up his guitar every day to eke out what music he could. And along the way, something remarkable happened. As he worked to overcome the neurological damage left by the stroke, new lyrics and melodies began to emerge. New songs started to flow, one after the other. Music and songwriting began to drive his recovery and healing. It turns out that music can, indeed, save your life. Sam’s recuperation eventually led him to devote himself full-time, once again, to music and art.
The new songs in Sam’s repertoire feature penetrating observations about coming to terms with our collective past, or facing an uncertain and harrowing ecological future. There are tender songs of love and longing, and revelatory songs about the passage of time. These are passionate, incandescent songs, with lyrical subtlety and piercing insights that showcase a seasoned songwriter at the top of his form. With enough new material for several albums, Sam has spent the better part of the past year distilling all of this into his first full length album of original material in years, Marsh Radio, which was released in 2022, and Athabasca, his fourth full-length recording, is out on April 22, Earth Day, 2023.