It was barely a couple of years ago when a young man named Sam Golden up and moved to St. Louis, never having visited the city prior to his arrival. This was a relocation based on the best reason of all: love. His ladyfriend had received a residency offer from BJC, and Golden "decided to tag along and see what happened." Together, the two crossed the country, from Arizona to St. Louis, with one half of the duo knowing exactly what would come next, the other taking a more free-floating approach.
Armed with a degree in composition and serious competency on a host of instruments, Golden hit the open-mic scene and played a few gigs, meeting some folks that way. Mostly, though, his deep dive into the St. Louis music scene came as a result of linking up with one musician, who put him in touch with another, who put him in touch with another. He's already had to cycle out of projects, simply because his time has become so stretched.
"There's more breadth to the music scene here than in Tucson, more genres and a lot of cross-pollination going on as well," Golden says. "It was super easy to find bands and to make friends. Hardly any effort at all; it was really great. I said 'yes' to every offer and didn't think twice. I wanted to meet as many people as I could, become a better musician that way. I trusted it to kind of sort itself out, that some bands would naturally get to make more money and play more gigs. If I had to leave something, there'd be no hard feelings. It's been a nice, natural flow."
While his skills and easygoing personality have clinched the deal in some cases, he's found himself locking in with folks for a host of reasons.
"I think Sam may be in thirteen bands or something," says Jenny Roques, one of Golden's many bandmates. "He's from Tucson, and I met him shortly after taking my first trip there. It's a mystic area of the country to me and we bonded quickly over knowing the area.
"He plays with me when I do solo stuff and is in my new project, Desire Lines," she continues. "He is truly a wizard at many instruments. Sometimes on fiddle or sometimes on electric lead guitar. He adds a lot to Desire Lines with his lead work and is able to create a sound that is perfect for what I felt when I wrote the song."
OK, so that's one band. Let's pause for a fuller roll call ...
In the genre-blending Brothers Lazaroff, he alternates between fiddle, guitar and keys. With the new(ish) Arcadia Dance Orchestra, he dons a tux and plays only the fiddle. With the "psychedelic witchcraft rock" of Sparrowhead, he's on drums. He's back on fiddle for a "country bar band doing covers and drinkin' music" called the Brucetoffersons, which is a very different project than the Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra, the silent film-scoring unit in which he's featured on piano.
To varying degrees, he's a side player in those groups, his involvement ranging from simple rehearse-and-gig status in a few to taking on a more active role in others; with the Lazaroffs, as an example, he's scored symphonic parts when the group has played with string sections.
Somewhere in all that, he's found time for personal expression, too. There's a solo gig on the horizon, as he'll be performing Friday nights at Sophie's Artist Lounge and Cocktail Club at .ZACK, a gig that'll see him playing any number of genres while at the piano for a three-hour, Friday night residency. And while that gig will help pay some bills, his résumé includes one purely personal outlet: Golden Rodeo, his songwriting project that released a four-song EP earlier this year.
"In the band, I play guitar," he says. "Jack Catalanotto, a Webster U jazz grad, plays guitar and sings. Andrew Warshauer, who's also DJ Boogieman, plays bass. Keith Bowman, who does a residency at the Dark Room, plays drums. There's a healthy dose of jazz influences, but these songs aren't jazz influenced as much as it's how flexible and attuned to each other that we are as musicians."
Recently, the band got an injection of new, original material, thanks to Golden writing four songs in two weeks. "I felt incredibly inspired out of nowhere," he explains. "Nothing particularly momentous triggered it; I just had to write some songs and the muse descended upon me. I wish it was here more often."
The group has already started some recording around those cuts, "rather than letting them stew and get stale," Golden says. "I like working with these little chunks" of material. So a second EP could very well come out later this year.
On Saturday, July 21, Golden will debut a three-band bill called Golden Hour, which he hopes is a recurring, themed showcase. Not surprisingly, the common thread of the evening is the inclusion of Golden in all of the participating bands. In this debut version, Golden Rodeo will be joined by Desire Lines and Sparrowhead.
In a sense, Golden views this night as something of a coming-out party, a chance to introduce himself to the scene formally while bringing that cross-pollination element. For someone who on his own time principally listens to twentieth-century classical composers, the variety of his band pursuits is striking. For Golden, though, it's the natural side effect of his quick, thorough envelopment into St. Louis' music culture.
"Almost without exception," he says, "people have been welcoming and friendly. It doesn't hurt than I can put on a lot of hats musically.
"From my end, there are all these established relationships and connections in the scene and that's motivated me to work a little harder to join these communities. I started from scratch. I'm naturally an introvert, so it forced me to get out there and that definitely paid off. It wouldn't have happened without the whole city being as welcoming as it has been."