|JE Magazine: Shalom Sam. Thanks for taking a minute while you’re on the East Coast. The opening quote on your website calls you “the hardest working man in Jewish music.” How did you get that title?
Sam Glaser: Since 1992 I have been on tour to an average of fifty cities a year. Almost 19 years now. It makes me tired just thinking about it! I tend to be out of town every other weekend. When I’m not on the road I have a great day job: I run a recording studio where I produce albums for clients. I also try putting out one of my own a year.
JE Magazine: How do your wife and kids handle that?
SG: I’m a full time musician and I have to put food on the table! I individually take each of my three kids with me when I am on the road…it’s a wonderful bonding time for us. I try to have quality time with them everyday I’m home. My wife and I are good about looking out for each other. We have “date night” every Wednesday. That seems to maintain Shalom Bayit (peace in the home) better than anything.
JE Magazine: I’ve spoken to some of your fans…some of which came to the show in Sam Glaser t-shirts. Your website says you have a devoted following in all denominations. Now that I’ve seen them in person I believe it.
SG: I grew up in a Conservative synagogue, half of my concerts are in the Reform movement, I became Orthodox, my brothers became Chassidim and my parents became Chabadniks. I’m all over the map. I play all types of synagogues and make the rounds at JCCs. I’m a regular at Jewish conferences, performing at Biennial, OU, GA, Cantors Assembly, CCAR, Aish, Hadassah, CAJE, for any Jew that moves. My goal is to get people together. Enthusiastic about their heritage. Close to each other and close to God. As far as I’m concerned we’re one big happy family. I’m the oldest of four boys and I’ve always been a “pleaser” type person, trying to make peace. I guess it’s my destiny. It’s a real blessing when I play a gig where all the synagogues in any given community collaborate on producing my concert.
JE Magazine: I know we hear your music all over the place but some of our readers probably don’t know it’s yours. Can you give us some ideas where we hear your stuff?
SG: Well, I have sold over 100,000 of my CDs and hopefully they are getting around. Other Jewish artists sing my songs as well. New York’s JM in the AM had two hour-long shows of my music recently. Thank G-d we have dozens of great Jewish radio/internet stations around the country. Have you heard about Jewish Rock Radio? I’m a featured artist and it’s available as an App on the iphone…how cool is that? Aish.com uses a lot of my stuff. Jewish Life Television plays a lot of my videos. I’ve been on several of the Reform movement’s Ruach CDs. I’m on the Chabad Telethon frequently. Let’s just say that I almost never say no.
JE Magazine: What about TV stuff? Didn’t you used to do the music for the Dodgers?
SG: I spent much of the 80s and early 90s chasing that dream. Composing for commercials, TV movies, the WB Network, ESPN. I’ve never cared much for televised sports but somehow I became the sports music guy in LA for a while. I did music for the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, Clippers, World Cup of Surfing, Warren Miller Ski Films. Those were the good old days, before music libraries took over, before Frostwire and everybody having a studio on their Mac. I must admit that the scoring business was somewhat empty…I felt like everything I was writing was disposable. From that perspective, I don’t miss it. I still get a soundtrack project in the studio from time to time and I appreciate the challenge.
JE Magazine: And Jewish music is filling that spiritual void?
SG: Bigtime. When I come into a city I feel totally uplifted by the audiences. They empower me to inspire them. It’s a symbiotic thing. It’s that mixture of adrenaline and spontaneity and all the stars colliding. What a rush. I have a selection of a few dozen workshops I offer when I lead a Shabbat program. I can’t explain how but there’s a power that an audience has to suck the right words out of me. Obviously I have notes when I need them but I go into this heightened plane where I just deliver. Playing the clubs back then was dehumanizing. You did your 40 minute set and then got chased off the stage like cattle so the next wannabe’s could set up their gear.
JE Magazine: What’s on the horizon for you?
SG: I have so much new material that I’m recording. It’s got me totally stoked. That’s California talk for really excited. I want to release a new CD every quarter. But my wife would kill me! Last year I released The Songs We Sing Volume 2. It’s a 28 song greatest hits of the Jewish People collection that took me two years to complete. When I recorded that I also did Volume 3 at the same time. Volume 3 is all Jewish dance music. My band doesn’t want me to release it cause they’re afraid we’ll never get booked anymore…people will just buy the CD! I still need to do final vocals…it’s coming soon. Next up is a secular album dedicated to my dad. It’s called Father’s Day and has songs about fatherhood, aging parents, life and loss. God willing out this June. My next album of my original Jewish music is also in the works. It’s called The Promise and focuses on our relationship with Israel. After this interview I’ll play you a few cuts.
JE Magazine: I’ve been listening to your stuff since a friend gave me Across the River. I still think it’s your best work.
SG: That was 1997! Actually I just listened to it and I’m still proud of it. People always think that the first album of mine they got into is the best.
JE Magazine: I think it’s safe to say that your albums are among the best produced and most heartfelt in the Jewish world. It’s not simple music. It’s real and powerful stuff. I hear just about everything and your CDs really tell a story and stand the test of time. But you got so many albums… this new one was number 21!? Which ones would you recommend for newcomers?
SG: Well, first of all, thank you! I guess I’d start with Presence and The Bridge. They were my first albums freed from the limits of tape machines. You have to understand that unlimited tracks with digital recording was like a miracle for us producer types. Finally I could get these sounds in my head out in the world without any technological compromises. Hallel is ideal for a long drive. If you like nigunim (songs without words) and a more traditional Jewish sound, my Nigun/Voice of the Soul is really rich and features RebbeSoul and singers from Blue Fringe, Moshav and Soulfarm. For kids, my Rockin’ Chanukah CD, Kol Bamidbar and Soap Soup should do the trick. On my website you can buy 3 and get 1 free. Shameless plugs!
JE Magazine: Any final words for our readers?
SG: First of all, many thanks to JE Mag and to you for getting the word out about new Jewish music. For your readers: Love your Judaism! Celebrate Shabbat! Have an attitude of gratitude. Don’t steal music. Buying downloaded songs is cool but keep in mind that many artists like me intend to have their art taken in as a whole…you wouldn’t only buy 1/10th of a painting! Try the whole album…it’s how I meant for you to hear my stuff. I love getting feedback. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and say hello!