Hello to all our followers of Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey. I was asked to do a blog tour for the very talented singer, Robin Renee on my blog site, and of course I said, yes! She's a very talented performer and I want to help spread the good news about her music. Now I'm posting an interview that I did with Robin and I know you'll enjoy this, but first....
...the person who is orchestrating Robin's blog tour is no other than our very own Glenn Walker, and I would like to brag about him, before I begin Robin's interview. Glenn is an extremely talented, published, writer and has earned the nickname 'Patron Saint of Bloggers' but what makes him a Super Hero, is his way of supporting and encouraging all writers. You can read some of his work on Welcome to Hell: http://monsura.blogspot.com/ and on Biff Bam Pop!: http://biffbampop.com/category/glenn-walker/
And now, let me introduce you to a beautiful and talented singer. Hi, Robin. I'm so glad that you could join us on the South Jersey Writers Group blog. I'll start with my first question.
It’s usually a family member or a teacher that introduces us to music at an early age. Who was the person responsible for encouraging your love of singing?
Both of my parents were encouraging once they realized I liked music. There was a piano in the house as far back as I can remember, and as soon as I showed interest, I got lessons. I think I was seven when I started to play.
How did they encourage you?
There was always great music in my house. My mom liked a lot of mellower folk, great lyricists, and some R&B; I also learned of my dad’s love of jazz and other more novel sounds. So Mom and Dad, respectively, turned me on to Bob Dylan and Kraftwerk. I’d say that explains a lot about who I am today. They also took me to concerts from when I was really quite young, and once I started playing in bands, they would go out of their way to show up and be supportive. I’m really glad for that experience.
I remember one bit of encouragement very distinctly. I was listening to music and singing along when I was about ten. My mom came in and got all excited, shouting “Robin can sing! Come listen! She can really sing!!” It was very funny to me because I always sang – didn’t think anything of it and hadn’t realized people thought it was extraordinary in any way. The song, by the way, was The Bee Gees’ “Nights on Broadway.” Whenever I hear it now, I always laugh and remember that day. I really love that they used it as the template for the “Barry Gibb Talk Show” skit on SNL. Too funny.
Did you sing at school or church functions as a young girl?
I sang in the school chorus in elementary and junior high school. One of the most fun early musical experiences happened when I convinced the head of the school chorus in junior high to let my band (The Half Mann Band) sing in between sets of the choral music. We got to perform in a few area schools - it was our first and only “tour.”
In high school I sang in the folk group. I went to a Catholic college prep school and wasn’t really enthused about singing the religious songs, but singing at Mass was really the only musical outlet at the school at the time, so I went with it.
Is there any type of music that you just don’t like to sing?
I guess I’m not so fond of singing in styles that are out of my natural cadence or interest. So, I don’t think I’d ever attempt to learn opera – As cultured as I’d like to be, I don’t really grok it. I love punk rock, but don’t have that kind of voice, so I’ll sing it offstage, but I wouldn’t make a good front person for a punk band. I also would really not like to sing anything with seriously corny lyrics – unless it’s karaoke night and everyone knows it’s all for laughs.
Robin, tell us about your writing, and how you began.
The first song I remember writing was basically a fan song about Billie Jean King. Then when I was ten I started a band called Solar Explosion which turned into the aforementioned Half Mann Band. I started writing songs in earnest then. When I think about those tunes now, I think they sound very much like the pop radio hits at the time, so I guess I was learning by imitation. My love of poetry grew around the same time. It’s pretty hard to say more about how I began writing, because it’s like I’ve been writing as long as I’ve been conscious.
What inspires your work?
Inspiration is endless. Let’s see what inspires me today… The hazy sky, emotional complexity, travelling, J. R. “Bob” Dobbs, the desire to speak to social struggle without being overbearing, sexy people.
What do you write and where can we find your work?
I have five full-length recordings – In Progress, All Six Senses, Live Devotion, spirit.rocks.sexy (compilation), and This. They are downloadable just about everywhere, and you can find out more at www.robinrenee.com The music ranges from singer/songwriter, sometimes edgy, often melodic pop. Live Devotion and This. are centered on a kirtan, or call-and-response chant. I blog about music, art, love and sexuality, transformation, and whatever else at The Dream Between: http://dreambetween.wordpress.com/ and you can find other writings of mine around the web, anthologized, or otherwise published from time to time. Ostensibly, the “Truth” section of my website keeps track of that: http://robinrenee.com/truth/index.html I take on collaborative works and ghostwriting projects from time to time. My latest release is a song called “All I Am,” and I’ve been encouraging everyone to download it to help out a good cause:
“All I Am” - http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/robinrenee8"All I Am" Is a bright pop anthem-sexy, spiritual, and bold-for all those who color outside the lines, determined to be all they are without apology. Your download helps support the anti-bullying You Will Rise Project. http://youwillriseproject.blogspot.com
Tell us a little bit about the non-fiction book that you’re co-writing.
What are your thoughts of writer’s groups and would you join one? If so, why?
I honestly haven’t done a whole lot with writer’s groups, but I am definitely interested. I have paired up with close friends of mine who are also writers and we’ve prompted each other with writing exercises or various topics, critiqued each others’ work, and kept each other moving. That has been very beneficial and I imagine with the right synergy, a writer’s group could really magnify that experience. I’ve sat in on two South Jersey Writers evenings so far and have enjoyed it. I am looking forward to learning more and getting to know people.
What are some of the pitfalls that you’ve encountered and survived in building up your career?
The greatest obstacles I’ve encountered have to do with overcoming the idea that I’m supposed to be something other that what I am. It’s easy to start believing people who tear you down or your own head noise – not pop enough, not indie enough, not black enough, not white enough, not thin enough, not young enough, not spiritual enough, not definable enough… whatever. Enough! It creeps back once in a while, but for the most part I’m over it and living to do the writing and performing that feels most authentic to me. When I am able to feel that kind of focus without reservation, I am most able to move forward.
What advice can you give a young person today who loves to sing and hopes to make it big some day?
I don’t know. Maybe the best thing I could say is “Pay attention.” Listen to yourself and create what you truly want to create. Then pay attention and look and listen for opportunities. The music business is in such a wild flux right now that I’m not sure if anyone knows what “making it big” is these days. Some would tell you the business is dead, but I don’t believe that. It has most definitely changed and is changing. I think the key is to be open to recognizing what you have to offer and ways to make connections and be heard. In the midst of all that, don’t forget to make art that you love.
Thank you, Robin, for being a guest on our blog. I wish you the best with your music and I know everyone reading this blog will now be listening to your music. Now my little zombie snacks, I'm asking you a little favor. Please check out all the links included to learn more about Robin Renee and spread the good word.