Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Artist Profile: Mike Robins

Growing up in a musical family, Mike Robins's love of music started early. "Music was a huge part of my early life, my dad was a drummer and mom was a pianist. It was always around at home," he explains. Originally calling Thornhill, Ontario home, Robins is now living in LA working on his solo EP, which he plans to release mid-january, and touring with Hope, a singer-songwriter on Atlantic records. I caught up with him after a show in Cambridge, MA.

How long have you been playing music?
Since high school. I played in a few bands until I finally just put together the Mike Robins band. A little while later the guitarist and I started an acoustic duo called Robins and Stokes. That did well for a while and we released an independent EP which sold well in Ontario. However eventually that ended, but once I got to University, I started a band called Two Foot Falls. This was the band I was playing in right up until I went out to Los Angeles

Tell me more about that band.
My brother Brandon played drums in it, and he still plays with me today. We toured a bunch and built up a great collegiate fan base, and then released a record and a live EP. Which actually got us airplay south of the border. We won a competition and got a chance to preform at the Canadian Music Week Festival which is like South by Southwest, only it’s in Toronto. We also won a nationwide competition for one of the best indie bands in Canada which got us a release on Bullseye records.

When did you start writing music?
Ever since I picked up a guitar really, so I guess I was about 13 years old.

Where'd you go to college?
I went to York University in Toronto. I have a specialized honors degree in Communications.

What made you decide to go solo?
Two Foot Falls were taking a break and I made the decision I wanted to try to go solo again. Then I got in touch with this law firm in LA that liked my music and was going to help me connect with some producers out there. It just seemed like the right thing for me to do. After meeting some great people I met with the incredibly talented Mikal Blue. He produced some of my favorite bands and we both shared a big love for the Beatles. Together we made my new EP that will be coming out this month. I've been releasing a couple of tracks on my Facebook page and they've gotten a great response.  I'm really excited for the it to come out!

What have you been up to since you got out of the studio?
While I was in the studio I met this singer songwriter Hope (Atlantic Records) She is amazing and I have been touring with her playing guitar and vocals. We were on tour for about a month across America with Ryan Star and Days Difference, it was a blast. We also just got off doing some radio shows for the holidays which were amazing. We shared the stage with so many incredible bands. I also have been writing a bunch.

Playing with Hope in Cambridge
How'd you get into songwriting?
I don't remember exactly, I have always been a music junkie! I remember being into the way chords sounded together, then when I finally figured out melody, the marriage of the two things really just blew my mind. I know I definitely started playing other people's songs first, and somewhere along the way I just started writing my own.

Do you write music or lyrics first?
I write music first 99.9% of the time. I once was sitting in a room with a very accomplished songwriter and he was telling me, “it's gotta be lyrics first. start with the story." I don't know why I didn't listen; I tried it a couple of times but it always seemed like the music would just come first. Usually these days I will have an idea of what I want to say, with no set lyrics at all, then the music comes and I just have to focus and get the lyrics together after.

What inspires you to write songs?
Real life. I wish I could and have always tried to write a song about a story, a narrative like rocky raccoon or something like that. I just seem to always find inspiration in things that have happened to me or to people I know. Life can get pretty crazy really quickly.

Do you play any other instruments other than guitar?
Well I started out as a drummer, my dad was one and I was really into Dave Grohl (still am) so I just wanted to bang on loud things. I do sing so I guess that kinda counts. I play bass. Actually on one of the new songs on the EP I did with with Mikal, I played bass. He is a great bass player but when he left the room I put down a part and to my surprise he was into it, so it stayed. Lately I have been working pretty hard at getting better on the piano. I also play lots of hand drums. I think that about covers it.

What are your musical influences?
The Beatles first and foremost. I love Zepplin and all the early 90's Rock stuff like Counting Crows, Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana and Matchbox 20. I am a big John Mayer fan as well as James Taylor and love the early soul stuff like the Temptations, Smokey and the Delfonics.

Thanks for your time, Mike. Can't wait to hear the new EP!
Thank you!

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