An Interview With Singer-Songwriter ROBERT VINCENT!
Liverpudlian singer-songwriter Robert Vincent is a premiere voice in the UK’s Americana circuit, having received the inaugural Emerging Artist Award from famed British broadcaster “Whispering” Bob Harris in 2016 — who described him as ‘”absolutely magnetic,” Vincent was then invited onto BBC4’s Old Grey Whistle Test: For One Night Only. That performance marked a real breakthrough for the musician, establishing him as one of the U.K.’s leading lights in Americana and propelling him to #1 in the iTunes Country chart.
His new album was produced by BRIT (British Record Industry) award-winning Ethan Johns — acclaimed for his production work with Paul McCartney, Kings of Leon and Laura Marling, among others. With the new album, Vincent deals in hard truths and easy melodies, furthering the tradition of classically crafted songwriting that asks the difficult questions about everyday emotions. His universal themes should earn him new fans on the other side of the Atlantic. Though Vincent’s tastes are eclectic and his influences many, the Americana circuit continues to provide support and inspiration for him as an artist. “It’s nice to have a family and have a home,” he says. “In itself it’s priceless — it can be quite lonely being a musician.”
Learn more about Robert Vincent in the following All Access interview-
Happy New Year! When it comes to your music, what are you most excited about for 2020?
Well, I’m really happy that the new album is out there and to have Thirty Tigers a label I’ve long admired distributing and helping me I’m hoping to access a wider audience than I have before. I’m excited to get out on the road with the band and to be playing the songs live.
At the same time, I’m also looking forward to starting to think of new material. I like the process of writing and gathering together the next body of work.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be a musician? What do you think motivates you day in and day out?
I always sang. I joined choirs when I was a kid, that type of thing.
Then I started putting bands together with friends in school. They would lose interest fairly quickly, but I can always remember that I was very determined even from a fairly young age that I was going to play music and I couldn’t understand why everyone else didn’t. I’m motivated by the need to express what I have to say in music, plus it makes me happy if my music connects with people. That’s a big motivation.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the kind of music that you make? If not, why is that?
It definitely inspired me. Music is everywhere in Liverpool and especially all things Beatles. It’s a very cultural and artistic place. Liverpool has always had such a rich history with American influences. In the late 50’s and the 60’s the Sailors for Cunard used to bring in records they picked up in New York back through the docks. I guess these would not of been available in shops over here At the time. Jazz, Blues and importantly for my Dad, Country. So, I had Roy Orbison and Emmylou Harris and everything in-between.
My brothers listened to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and my Dad used to bring home cool records like Tom Petty and The Travelling Wilbury’s. A favourite of mine was Paul Simons Graceland. I used to listen to it all endlessly.
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Was your family and friends supportive of this career choice? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing?
I never seemed to make a choice I just always wanted to make music or write words. It felt very normal. My family and parents have always been supportive although it got to the point that they realised music wasn’t going to go away and just completely embraced it. I can’t imagine doing anything else really. Although I have done some pretty soul destroying jobs in the past to make ends meet.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all? What has been the best part about it all?
The best part is being able to play songs you’ve written live for people, that’s the most rewarding seeing the numbers grow to your gigs knowing that they have invested their time and effort to see you play some songs you’ve written. Having the support and acknowledgement of people like Bob Harris and counting the likes of him and Duane Eddy and Ethan Johns who I’d long admired as my friends is something I never dreamed would be the case. Not much gets better than that.
The biggest surprise is the industry and how it has drastically changed and continues to change all the time. There is so much to being a musician these days, it is tough to make a living, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone both financially and if you like to have a normal day to day routine, but that is the best thing for me, 9 to 5 doesn’t suit me anyway.
Let’s talk about your newest album. What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything surprise you about the process? Where did you get the inspiration for these songs?
I enjoyed the process of putting this album together. The songs sneaked up on me really, I was obviously aware of writing them, but it was only when I sat back and was deciding what to put on the record that I really became aware of the thread running through them all. That’s not to say I wasn’t trying to say something political as I really couldn’t avoid that. The inspiration came from what was happening politically in this country and around the world as I see it.
When I talk about ‘This Town’ in the song, it could be my town, your town, everyone’s town and how Social Media has made the world more accessible but also helped to divide people and their opinions. There is a control happening with that. People used to make small talk over their garden fences. Now that talk can be global. I think it’s unprecedented, it is something we haven’t quite yet fully learned to deal with. I genuinely (rightly or wrongly) feel a compulsion to say what I am saying, I’m not preaching It just happens to be my opinion.
What was it like working with your producer Ethan Johns?
It was my best musical experience to date, and I really hope it is something we will repeat. I can remember the moment I heard ‘Heartbreaker’ by Ryan Adams. I was already familiar with his Whiskeytown album ‘Pneumonia’, but Heartbreaker blew me away. Ethan’s production was something I immediately fell in love with. Not only did he create an amazing sound with Dom Monks (who has been Ethan’s engineer for 12 or 13 years) for this album. Ethan was brilliant at getting the best out of us as a band. It was a special experience. I know we all just really enjoyed the process of recording the songs it was fun and that’s not something you necessarily expect recording to be.
How would you say that your new collection compares to anything else you have released?
Lyrically it’s more defined and says the things I’ve wanted to say, I think it’s more coherent as a piece of work because of the band I have playing the songs and having Ethan producing it made me realize that without the right people around you it is hard to get the result you are after.
I’m also happier with my song-writing than ever before I think I’ve progressed. Vocally I’m always at my best when I’m relaxed and reacting to the band which I was during this process so again I think it’s my strongest work to date but again that’s up to the listener.
Do you have any tour dates scheduled for this year?
Yes, I have several dates planned for the UK in March and April that are on sale at the moment. I have some festivals booked in and plans for European and US shows so keep an eye out for those. The plan is to tour UK, US & Europe as much as possible with this record and get out with the band to replicate the sound of the record as much as I can.
How do you think you have grown as a musician since you first started making music? What if anything has stayed the same about your music-making process?
I’m hugely aware of how much I’ve grown as a musician, I suppose you never stop learning. I don’t think much has changed about the process as such, it’s always just been about the song. The words and the melody and trying to be truthful with the message.
I’ve been lucky enough to have taken part in several song-writing retreats ran by Chris Difford through the Buddy Holly Foundation. This has introduced me to the process of co-writing. The song The Ending was co-written with James House and is the first time a co-write has appeared on any of my albums. I now feel more confident about pushing the boundaries of my song-writing outside of material that I’d use for myself .
How do you feel about social media? What do you think social media has done for your career so far?
I have a love hate relationship with it, I’m happy to use it for music as it is essential these days for that, but I’m not sure how my relationship would be with it if it was purely personal. I think with anything it’s about moderation, and I know people who are totally obsessed with all forms of social media. I think like anything we need to be aware of how much it controls our lives. I think I probably don’t have the same connection with it compared to someone who has never ever known anything else.
I’m pretty sure there will be health warnings with social media in the future. It can boost your confidence and then take it away in a single click. Like everything you have to try to not take it all too seriously.
What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
Neil Finn, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Jason Isbell would be top of my list.
If you could design your dream music video right now, what would it look like?
That’s a tough one, I just did a couple of videos with some cool young producers, Miles Myerscough-Harris and Katie Nicholas and they came out just like I’d wanted really. I had an idea to plan a video for a song on the new album ‘End of The War’ it’s a nine minute tune that I reckon would make good video if I ever have the budget.
Where would you love to hear a song of yours played?
I’m a big Liverpool FC fan and I’ve had a song played at Anfield before the game a good few times. That’s always a massive buzz. I think I’d love to hear a song played in a big movie, the end scene where someone wins the day. Or the opening credits…do you know what anywhere in a film would be great. Or in space!
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
Hope the songs are hopeful and I’d like the songs to make people feel good.