Songwriter staying in tune
On Dec. 1, 1987, Robert Armes had just released his album, Part of The Family, which was available at Toy Circus on Queen Street near Lee. At 34, his career was in high gear as a singer, songwriter, musician and partner at Sounds Interchange, the largest and fastest-growing award-winning music production house in Canada. He had co-written, arranged and produced such award-winning commercials as Labatt’s Call For The Blue, Blacks is Photography, and Thank you very much milk.
He and his wife had two little boys: Ryan, 5 and Tyler, 2. He told me that in the future he would “like to see more of a balance between doing advertising and recording his own work,” and hoped “to expand his record label and would enjoy working a couple of months on and off.”
Twenty-six years later, Armes – still a Beacher – looks much the same as he did back when I talked to him in Studio Two at Sounds Interchange, where he was working with a team on a Kellogg’s commercial. On Dec. 5, 2013, he had just returned from some golfing in South Carolina and near his home in Florida, which he has had all this time.
But a lot of things have happened since 1987: he co-founded a business, teed off on a couple of the most challenging golf courses on the planet, and his boys rocked Massey Hall.
In the early 1990s, he and a couple of partners started Shurman Armes Crawford, which evolved into Pirate Radio and Television, the largest company in Canada doing commercials and music for TV shows. “We built four recording studios and a casting company plus a company that did sound design, and original advertising screenwriting and music,” he says. “When we got it developed to a certain point, we brought in partners who were able to buy us out.”
A passionate and gifted music writer, Armes has written nearly 10,000 music tracks that have gone to air. Hockey Night in Canada uses a song he co-wrote and produced, Hockey Tonight. This year, HNIC used a track by the Juno nominated rap rock band, Down with Webster, for which his son Tyler plays bass and keyboards, and other son Ryan manages. “It’s great to hear music done by Tyler and I on HNIC at the same time,” he says.
Armes writes his songs these days at his piano and on guitar, then arranges them with digital virtual synthesizers and recorders in his home. He concedes he is not the primary tenant any more in the garage studio. “It’s been taken over by Down with Webster,” he says. “They have grown up in there during the last dozen years, and there’s always great music coming from there when they’re in town.”
An avid golfer, Armes has teed off in Ireland and Scotland, at South Carolina’s Kiawah Island Golf Resort and, most often, at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club outside Orlando, Florida where he is a member. “I’ve recorded a song about St. Andrews Links in Scotland and am recording one about Ireland where I played last spring. It’s funny, but tons of pro golfers are into music and play instruments. The two are so different but they go together really well. I grew up with golf, and continue to love the people, and places that it takes me,” he says.
“I’ve been really lucky, in my life and career. I really miss rooms full of live musicians and singers, but those days are gone. I am now looking for people and things that inspire me and teach me to grow.”
Lorie Murdoch wrote a series of articles under the Persons of Note banner in 1986 and 1987. She decided to follow up with some of her subjects to see where they have ended up, in a new column which will appear occasionally.
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