Real As It Gets

Sports or music? That was the dilemma for Sam Riddle, who happened to excel at both, but eventually he put down the basketball and followed the piano keys to Las Vegas.

“Playing piano is the first thing I ever remember doing in life,” Riddle said. “But once I discovered sports and what that was doing for my life, I kind of figured that maybe that was what I was here for. I played Division 1 basketball, I played professional basketball for a few years, but then this guy saw me play piano at a bar, on a dare from my buddies, and then next thing I knew, I was playing piano seven nights a week in Las Vegas. This was not the plan, but it was definitely the plan from somebody a lot more powerful than me.”

Riddle slid into a three-piece suit and tickled the ivories at all of the upscale lounges in Vegas, but after awhile, he felt a different calling for his musical career path.

“A few years into it, I decided if I was going to do music I had to figure out what I wanted to do,” Riddle said. “I decided I was just going to be myself and throw a cowboy hat on like my dad and represent my family and write songs about where I’m from, and life, and growing up. Country music just kind of fit me. I knew I could bring all of the elements of myself into country music because it’s a very diverse genre.”

His special skill on the piano was still an asset when it came to country music.

“I knew that the piano thing was something that I had that was different from anybody else in country music so I kind of knew there was a hole there that I could fill,” he said. “The moment I decided to do that, just be myself, everything just kind of took off. I started headlining casinos immediately through everybody that knew me in Las Vegas. Although it’s been a lot of hard work, I’ve gotten really lucky to have had the last 10 years go so well.”

Riddle signed with a Nashville label in 2020 and released a single called ‘Bar Stool, Church Pew Town,” but he realized he wanted more creative control.

“I finally accepted a deal with one of the labels, but last summer I decided that that wasn’t for me and thank goodness I was able to get out of that situation,” Riddle said. “One of the things about Nashville is they try to stick everybody in these boxes and I just can’t do that. To make the impact that I’m trying to make, I don’t care how long it takes, I’m not going to try to be like anybody else. If I did that, then everything I’ve been working on will be a waste. I know the right deal is out there for me somewhere, but I took a step back so I could continue to have the creative freedom that I want.”

Riddle is currently producing a new independent album, and the first single should be out later this year. He said his focus is trying to bottle the experience of his live shows into his studio recordings.

“The trick has just been to find out how to translate what I do live, into a recording or a video,” he said. “I’m hoping this new music is the closest thing to representing the feeling that people get when they see me in person. It’s just a process trying to find different ways to represent me fully. I’ve always written my own stuff and try to be really honest and show people what I’m all about.”

His authentic presentation is what really sets him apart in the industry.

“I’m extremely real, and real for me is not just one thing,” Riddle said. “I have the ability to make the dude from Compton and the guy from Iowa both feel like we grew up together and they’re both very real parts of me. With all my life experience, I have this ability through energy and the performance to touch and really connect with all walks of life, no matter what age, no matter who you are.”

Laughlin guests know this feeling well, as Riddle has been making the trip down from Vegas to perform for years. He will be back, this time at the Edge Lounge within the Edgewater Casino, Friday-Sunday, May 13-15 (8 p.m.-1 a.m.) and again May 20-22.

“Laughlin audiences have been awesome to me,” he said. “We’ve been coming there for a long time.”

Get ready for his high-energy show, because it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.

“We’re not a bar band,” Riddle said. “Our shows feel like a stadium show, but I try to make it as personal as I can. When you come to my show, you leave with an experience. It’s really a special thing. It’s a show full of laughter and love and high energy, and it rocks like crazy!”