INTERVIEW: Robby Rothschild

Pic by Jennifer Esperanza

Hi Robby, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thanks, I’m all over the map, even for me. Which is to say, really good. Thank you.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Smiling”?

I’d be pleased.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Thanks, yeah…I was on tour in Australia with Kip Winger when the COVID bells started to toll…this growing feeling of unease verging on panic was gripping me, especially being so far from home. I kept imagining that I’d end up marooned down under. Not that I wouldn’t have loved it, but I’ve got kids. I flew on 11 flights while over there, and started to catch a bit of the shift happening in the social climate. A guy sitting next to me put on a mask, and I caught myself wondering if I’d offended him somehow. Then I realized I was going to have to get on board, to find a new way of being careful but not afraid. The song had some words, and when I got home into quarantine I basically took out the stopper, and out it came.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

It was remarkably easy! Don’t even remember it, actually…

How was the recording and writing process?

It was really affirming to feel something coming about easily, even as so many other things in my life and in the life of the world were making so little sense.

Would you call this a complete departure from your previous musical work?

No, I’d call it a further integration. I reached out to a lot of people who’d influenced me, especially Chris Berry, who I used to play with in the band Panjea. His feeling and connection to the Shona mbira was actually a lot of the inspiration for the song, and having his music on there brought it together like glue. In fact, I was on tour in Australia another time with him and my brother Char, who plays horns on this track, back when Y2K was (not) happening. The experience of being over there and afraid I’d never see my family again was eerily familiar.

What role does Santa Fe play in your music?

I believe strongly in the connection between music and place. I remember music by thinking of where I was when I heard it. I remember places automatically when I hear the music I was listening to there. I believe the place gives the tunes. Santa Fe is my homeland, and it is perhaps a gathering place of eccentrics of every different imaginable ilk. As such, it’s powerful place to try to gather my influences into a voice that is also me.

Does the new single mean we can expect a new material – how’s that coming along?

Thanks,. I’m working on it right now. Yes, there’s an EP in the works. I’m really excited, pulling in some more people I’ve been moved by. I hope to have Kip Winger sing on one of the tunes, and guitar features of Ottmar Liebert and Calvin Hazen, as well as Moira Smiley on vocals.

Any tentative release date or title in mind?

Still wrestling with the title. It’s a breakup album, I suppose – and I was thinking of calling it “Real is the New Good” but I just can’t quite let myself. I plan to release it on July 31.

You are bringing some special guests into this record – did you handpick them or how did they come on board?

Oh I guess I already spoke some to that. Yeah, they’re mostly folks I’ve played with or am connected to through the community and the cool path I’ve gotten to walk. My brother Char is perhaps the person who knows me and my music best on Earth. Jon Gagan and I have been playing together with Ottmar, and he was a bass player and engineer for Round Mountain for many years. One really new thing for me is that I’m finally getting to hear a string arrangement of mine played (albeit not together in a room). As a theory and comp grad student, I wanted to pull in that thread as well. As a concert piano tuner, I get to know some great players.

What did they bring up to the table?

They just bring stuff that I can’t muster myself, and often I find that when the idea comes, I’ll audiate it in their voice or with their instrument. Like with Kip, for example. The influence literally echoes back out into my music. Depending on who it is and what I hear, I’ll either be really specific or just kind of ask for ideas. I like to feel the interplay. And I try not to fuck up and make an ass of myself. It’s fertile terrain for magic and for mishaps.

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than working on your own?

See above. I’m still learning about it. For a while, as a multi-instrumentalist, I wanted to try to do it all, and I still tend toward that, since I can be as sloppy or as anal as I want. But by the time Round Mountain’s fourth album came out, we were starting to really love bringing people in. And that trend continues.

What else is happening next in Robby Rothschild’s world?

Hmm. I won’t suffocate you with the details. It’s a time of reawakening, reshaping, trying to become more like myself, a time of painful transformation and elation. Music is the medicine that makes me able to survive and enjoy it. I hope I get to play some more concerts soon. I hope to hear some shows sometime soon. Hell, I hope I can go to a bar sometime soon.


About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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