Born in London Sam Richards studied music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, learning piano and composition with Alfred Nieman and attending his improvisation classes. While there he performed with electronics pioneer Hugh Davis and took part in performances of material by Cornelius Cardew under Cardew's direction. He went on to teach at Dartington College of Arts. For many years he performed folk songs and documented in sound the oral traditions of the Westcountry, including songs, music, stories, personal histories and oral history. Today his collection is housed by the National Sound Archive in the British Library. In the late 1980s his interest returned to avant-garde and experimental music, and he has composed and performed extensively in that genre, improvising both solo and with others, starting the Totnes Improvisers' Orchestra in 2009. He also plays jazz and jazz-based music and improvisations with The Jazzlab and recently formed a folk duo with Mick Bramich. As a composer he has written for the Ten Tors Orchestra, the Torbay Symphony Orchestra, piano and various large mixed ensembles.
He has also written a number of books.