some guy named robb, an Ozarks Musician

Below is an interview I recently conducted with “some guy named robb” a local Arkansas Ozarks based muscian and singer/songwriter.  For full disclosure, I should say that I’ve known robb for at least 20 years or more. We were sixth grade bffs.  I haven’t edited much of robb’s comments in order to show the true nature of his response. Robb doesn’t believe in capitalization and so out of respect for his aesthetic choice, I leave his comments (mostly) uncapitalized.   Hope you enjoy! 

1. You grew up in Pope County, Arkansas and currently live there now.  How much do you think the “culture” of the place (however you define it) has influenced your work as an artist?   Why?

for the first bit of my adolescent life i think it defined who i didn’t want to be. while i could appreciate certain positive aspects of being raised in pope county and a small town like Russellville, like everyone my age i was ready to rebel against something. usually that means home.  most of my songs have relational themes which are pretty universal, so i don’t know how much the place or cultural influenced me.

i will say i was always attracted to music beyond the stratosphere of what my culture readily provided.

2. A lot of your music definitely has a storytelling impulse in the lyrics. I’m thinking specifically right now of “Express Lane Love,” but there are others that fit into that category.  Do you think that your storytelling abilities are influenced by the people around and places you inhabit? 

the more i grow as a songwriter the more i find that to be interwoven into the age old storytellers theme.  i realized a while back, regardless of your culture, everyone wants their story to tell and be told.  and everyone has a story.

 in “express lane love” i simply picked some moments out of my life and let them unfold into a (hopefully) humorous misadventure about falling in love with the check out girl at the local grocery store.

( i think my chief influence is seeing my dad tell a really good story when i was a kid. maybe.)

3.  Many of your songs, I think, have a quality or conceit of “prayer” to them.  Many of them definitely incorporate religious imagery. This brings to mind the Ozarks’ reputation as belonging to the “bible belt.”  How do you think this  Christian cultural tradition and influence works within the themes and imagery of your songs?  How does it influence your own life? 

   again, i was very opposed to the Christian lifestyle because of the hypocrisy i had seen in some of these southern fried churches. and again, musically, i was determined to not be pushed around by the power’s that be. i’ve always enjoyed artists who could blend in subjects that weren’t meant to be put together, like, religion and sex.  like foreign policy and Chinese food. things that don’t belong together but have a connection.

 so that’s what i try to do in my music.

 and as far as the spiritual songs, i try to just write from an honest place. people don’t identify with a religion nearly as much as they do a person. and in that same vein, i think that’s what God wants. a relationship, not a pecking order.  i hope that comes through in my music.

4.  Do you feel like an insider or an outsider in your larger community (the town you live in, for example, or the county)? Why? 

a stranger in a strange land.

though i feel more comfortable with my surroundings, i’m often reminded that we grow the most during adversity. so i’m thankful for the times, good and bad.  mostly i feel thankful to be in a community that still feels safe. and a country that goes under the guise of freedom.

5.  You’ve managed to make a really remarkable career for yourself in a sort of unconventional way.  You could have gone off to Nashville, or a bigger market when you decided to start playing music full time. Instead, you stayed in north Arkansas and created a real following for your work.  Did you ever consider moving? If so, why did you stay? If not, what is it about the area that so attractive?  

 i did, and have considered leaving Arkansas. i think it’s the only way to succeed in the larger market.  so many people ‘came’ from Arkansas but no one stayed here to become a mainstream success.

 as far as what i’ve done in my career, i chose to build my home base here and enjoy the smaller side of success. instead of crazy paparazzi kicking down doors i have someone who digs my music offer to buy me lunch.  instead of rolling stone, i have this lovely little cyber-chat with a dear friend..

  i don’t feel like i’ve sacrificed much at all.

i love what i do so much. and i know it’s a rare blessing to be able to enjoy it the way i do. i’m very thankful to God, for letting me do this, on any level.

  the fact i can raise my family where i grew up is an equal blessing. there are few places as naturally beautiful as Arkansas. when we were young, we tried to escape, and maybe for the right reasons, but as we’ve matured, we’ve seen perhaps what our parents saw.  a quiet place, not completely filled with the hustle and bustle of the world.  a place where you can breathe.  later on today i’m going to take the wife and kids to a little beach off the Illinois bayou and play in the water. what’s better than that?!

 6.  Does the landscape of the Ozarks have any influence on your work?  Why?  

again, most of my work is relational, however, i have this love affair with the moon. a friend of mine pointed out i like to always mentioned the state of the moon in my songs. i like to describe it in a way that sets the mood for the song.  i hadn’t noticed it in my own writing but i was amazed he was right.

7.   You travel all over Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma for shows.  Have you developed in lasting impressions of these places along the way? What’s the craziest or weirdest thing you’ve encountered on the road?  What is the cruelest thing you saw? What is the kindest thing you saw?

good questions!

  i love the ozarks, the foot hills. the winding roads and the leaves as they blossom or as the fall.  i love how green the rains make everything in spring. and how peaceful it is before and after our storms.

  craziest or weird stories…  that’s not an interview, that’s a whole book.  new york doesn’t hold a candle to arkansas when it comes to truly weird things and people.  with over 3000 shows i’ve seen things i can’t mention, things i don’t have time to mention and things i won’t mention…  it’s crazy.

 whether it’s nudity or rudity, or violence or just bad karaoke stars jumping up on stage, i’ve seen a lot. i won’t say, “it all”. i’ll just say, a lot..

the cruelest things i won’t mention either.  there is cruelty everywhere.

and the sweetest thing? i remember i was walking, exploring a new town before a show, and i saw a family of three, mother, father, little boy. and i noticed they were all wearing hats and seemed to be having a great time. the little boy was about 6 years old.  as they were walking toward me i looked closer and didn’t see any eyebrows on the mom. and then i didn’t see any hair under her hat. and then i looked at the man and the boy and realized they had just shaved their heads completely too.

and it hit me the woman was undergoing some form of chemotherapy and the man and his son had totally shaved their heads as well.  as if to say, “it’s ok mom, if you’re bald, we’re bald.”  i don’t remember anything about the show that night. but that selfless act still speaks to me about  the true nature of Love.

that’s just one of many.  i could break your heart with a few more.

8.  Considering  that you are from Arkansas, what is your personal definition of the word “hillbilly”?  

no teeth, no running water, married to his sister, she’s barefoot and pregnant. 

9.  Where is the most beautiful spot in Arkansas? Why?

oh man, too tough of a question.  it depends on the time of year and the time of day. 

10.  Anything else you want to tell us about being a working musician in the Ozarks?  

to maintain a financial income, you have to play all the time. i’ve been on tour for 10 years now. 😛

aside from that,

i love to travel and see new things. but i know where home is. it’s here. 


6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Allie said,

    Great questions. I felt like I was sitting over coffee with a couple of friends.

  2. 2

    fan said,

    Great Interview. I really enjoyed the dialogue in this interview. I learned something new about “some guy named robb”
    Thank you,

  3. 3

    Tipper said,

    I loved the interview! A real inside look into someones thoughts and feelings. I especially enjoyed the contrast between wanting to leave as a child and wanting to never leave as an adult. Kinda the same experience I have had with Appalachia.

  4. 4

    j said,

    I totally related to that need to get away from the small-town life in the Ozarks and then the desire to return and be “home.” I think he was totally holding out on us, though, on the “things seen on the road” question. 🙂

  5. 5

    Reese Neal said,

    some guy named robb rox my sox!

  6. 6

    Reese Neal said,

    …rox my sox
    all the way off!
    and den i’m, like, walkin’ ’round barefoot all day long
    just a-singin’ his songs
    like it’s my birthday
    can’t nothin’ get in my way
    see, it’s useless
    ’cause his rhymes are ruthless
    and the truth is
    he ain’t even toothless (i’ve seen him…fo shiz)
    he got tha songwritin’ skills to pay tha bills
    sends chills up my spine
    ya’ll know it’s true
    …you betta believe it do.

    comes easily
    spin any one of his tunes
    and i know you’ll see
    why i dig it

    some guy always be rockin’ and rollin’
    the legend be growin’…by the minute
    website, iTunes, at all the live shows
    you’ll be rockin’ too when you lay down the dough
    no matter what you pay, it’s always a steal
    ‘specially when you’re bumpin’ to the “package deal”
    treat yourself right, yeah, you know you deserve it
    every single cent, yeah, you know that it’s worth it

    and every single time you give it a spin
    if you’re listenin’
    you’ll want to hear it again

    ching ching
    bling bling
    dat brotha from tha valley really know how to sing!
    so, some guy,
    don’t ever stop bringin’ it
    keep singin’ it
    keep rockin’ the mic
    and the guitar…keep slingin’ it

    yo! i’m outta here, ya’ll. peace!

    For real, thanks for the interview–truly enjoyed it.
    Props to some guy named robb and his poet spewin’ papa-ness.

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