Sam Polley says he's unsure how to categorize the music of his band, Sam Polley and the Old Tomorrows, because he's always bad at such descriptions. A first listen to the band's debut album, Time Forgot, though, reveals a stew of influences that has amalgamated into a vibrant, assured sound that leaves listeners wanting for more.

"I would say our sound is a mix of the '50s and '60s, and everything that time entailed — rock, pop, country, a bit of soul, any of the '50s and '60s sounds," the Toronto-based, 28-year-old Polley tells me. "Our goal is to get people up and dancing, and those are the eras of dancing."

Most of Time Forgot was recorded during three days in December 2018 at the Woodshed, a studio in Toronto's East End owned by Canada's treasured band, Blue Rodeo. Polley, the band's vocalist and guitarist, is the son of Blue Rodeo's co-leader Jim Cuddy and the brother of another recording artist, Devin Cuddy.

"I was gifted the days in the studio as a Christmas present," Polley says. "I also love the sound that the studio produces, as well as the engineer, Tim Vesely, who ended up co-producing and being a big part of the album. The studio is also one big room — no engineer booth — so everybody is forced to focus, even if they are not playing. That means everybody will have better and more contributions and ideas. That really worked in our favor."

Polley's favorite parts of the 10-song album are not his own. His band includes Fraser Melvin on electric guitar, Jeff Giles on piano and two hockey-playing friends with similar musical influences: Tally Ferraro on bass and Gianni Ferraro on drums.

"I'm always more impressed by the instruments I can't play than the ones I can," he says. "Listening back to what each player came up with is the fun part for me — things I never would have thought of on my own, things that add so much to the song. Like a little background organ here or a certain strumming pattern there. In the end, I just loved everyone's contributions."

I ask Polley how the band's live sound and performance differ from the music on the album.

"I have always prided ourselves as being a performing band," he responds. "We have played many more shows together than recordings, so what we do best is live performances. We recorded the album live on the floor to try and get the same feel as a live performance, and I do think it shows throughout. But I think we play better when we are having fun. I've always wanted to create music that people can dance to, and our shows are a reflection of that."

Polley, of course, has attended numerous Blue Rodeo shows, which often seem to be national Canadian celebrations, as well as evenings of great music. So I ask which one stands out as the best in his mind.

"I've seen a lot in my day which sometimes makes them hard to remember or distinguish," he says. "When I was growing up, my favorite show each year was the Stardust Picnic that Blue Rodeo would put on. There would be so many great acts and, as kids, so much space and freedom to run around. That morphed into the Molson Amphitheatre shows (each August) that have now become my family's summer tradition. During those shows, the band always brings it big."

I sometimes describe Cuddy and his songwriting partner, Blue Rodeo co-leader Greg Keelor, as Canada's Lennon and McCartney, with a lot of the Band thrown in. The duo met in high school, began playing together in 1977 and released their first album, Outskirts, as Blue Rodeo in 1987. Unlike the individuals in so many rock bands, they remain together 33 years later, and Blue Rodeo is in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

I ask Polley what his dad and Keelor mean to him — musically and otherwise.

"My dad and Greg have been huge influences on me," he answers. "My dad was a big part of my love for music. Without him, I don't think I would be where I am now. Greg has always been like an uncle to me. He seemed a little more rough around the edges which I always liked as a kid. As a musical partnership, I have learned so much from watching the two, including how to navigate a lifetime career and stay friends, as well as creative partners. They also rock. Watching Blue Rodeo put on a professional show is very inspiring and taught me and a lot of musicians around me how to take the job seriously. That's a big thing I learned from my dad: how to have a musical career, a family, friends and balance it all. I hope that I can sustain my musical partnerships the same way that Jim and Greg have."

Polley also gives credit to his mother, Rena Polley.

"My mother has been a big influence on me," he says. "She is an actress, so she really taught me to perform. My dad taught me music, but my mom taught me to perform and be who you are. There are a lot of similarities between acting and performing on stage, and a true frontman masters both."

I ask Polley about concerts he attended that influenced him most as a musician, and he points to the performances of Cuddy and Blue Rodeo. But he also remembers attending some top shows by other artists.

"The first time I saw the Boss (Bruce Springsteen), when Clarence (Clemons) was still alive, was so good," he says. "I believe it was at the Air Canada Centre (now Toronto's Scotiabank Arena). At a Tom Petty concert at the Molson Amphitheatre, we were on the lawn, and it started to rain at the end of the show. But Tom just pumped up the crowd in the rain and kept playing hit after hit. People were loving it."

Polley points to two other memorable shows — McCartney at the Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tennessee, in 2013, and an unexpected  Kiss performance at the Molson Amphitheatre.

The McCartney concert was a 2 1/2-hour show at which Sir Paul played 24 Beatles and seven Wings songs. It also included, according to Rolling Stone, "a fall-of-Saigon-worthy fireworks display onstage and overhead that deafened and dazzled the crowd."

"The pyro was out of control." Polley recalls, "and, of course, he only played huge hits. It was great."

Polley once worked for a catering company at the Molson Amphitheatre — "a great job" that enabled him "to see endless shows," including a surprise Kiss performance.

"The guys played an acoustic set in the afternoon to 60 winning fans — two acoustic guitars, acoustic bass and snare with brushes," Polley remembers. "They sang a few acoustic versions of  'Beth' and other Kiss songs but mostly played covers of songs that influenced them. Mostly old blues songs. It was fantastic and real cool to see the other side of such a heavy band."

I ask Polley what are the best three albums he has listened to, but it's not an easy question to answer. He says he's "super indecisive," and his generation listens to various songs — not full albums — and is always seeking variety. Now, though, he is listening to full albums.

"One album I remember listening to as a kid, the Beatles' Rubber Soul, still sticks with me," he says. "That was once my favorite album, probably because it was filled with the pop and grace of the Beatles. But, as a kid, it wasn't a mainstream Beatles album. It seemed unique — something others didn't know yet."

Polley believes Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years is "a brilliant album" and "almost perfect," although Polley doesn't think the final song, "Silent Eyes," fits on the album and fails to reach the same standards as the other songs. The 1975 album produced four Top 40 hits and won Grammys for best album and best pop vocal performance.

McCartney's self-titled first solo album in 1970 and Bruce Springsteen's 1982 record Nebraska have made a lasting impression on Polley.

"I love that McCartney album, and, when I found out that he did everything on the album, I was blown away. When I first heard Nebraska, I was amazed that Bruce recorded the whole album himself. That's my goal: to make a great album and play all the instruments. I'm far from that goal right now."

Polley may not be playing all the instruments yet, but he certainly has learned to play a lot of other musicians' songs as well as his own. I mention to him that a playlist for a Sam Polley and the Old Tomorrows show in 2018 reveals covers of songs written or popularized by Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, the Band, the Coasters, Hank Williams, Barney Bentall, Rufus Thomas, Merle Travis, Great Big Sea and the Contours.

"Yes, I still cover all those artists," Polley says, "but have added a few new songs from each, especially Elvis Costello. I love playing his songs with the band. They are so rhythmic and funky."

Nearly all modern music fans probably know Morrison and the Band, but few Americans know Bentall, a great Canadian troubadour and songwriter. I ask Polley about all three.

"Van Morrison and the Band were early influences of mine — artists I was shown at a young age and took a liking to," he says. "I especially liked Van because of his upbeat horn sections. I've always loved horns, always wanted to play with them and recently added a horn section to my band.

"Barney Bentall means a lot more," Polley says. "I have known him for a long time, our families get along very well and I have been lucky enough to have spent a lot of time with him. He has definitely had an influence on my music and who I am as a person. He's kind of like a second father. Between him and my dad, I have all the wisdom I'll ever need."