Nottingham Singer-songwriter Rob Green really impressed us back in June at Wake Up Gigs. Read our chat with him as he prepares his debut album fresh off a selection of major support slots.
Meet Rob Green
Just this summer he supported Michael Bublé at Hyde Park as well as Earth Wind & Fire on their UK tour. Last year he released the euphoric single ‘Belief’, Which is just a taste of what’s to come from his in-progress debut album. This all follows on from his self titled EP which contained the stunning and revealing track ‘Blue’. The accompanying video was shot in one whole take and featured Game Of Thrones cast member Joe Dempsie.
Back in June, we sat down with the Nottingham Soul Singer Rob Green to find out more about the man behind the music. He’d just come off stage from supporting Nick Mulvey at Wake Up Gigs, a series of gigs in which parents are encouraged to take their young children so they can enjoy gigs from upcoming as well as established artists together. This, of course, means artists have the additional challenge of appealing to a wide age range (you can read more about our experience at the June gig with Nick Mulvey and Rob Green here).
As I sit down with Rob Green in the Omeara’s green room he’s characteristically chripy and joyful, always full of positive energy.
Hi Rob Green, could you briefly describe a bit about yourself?
I'm a singer-songwriter from Nottingham and I perform with a loop pedal and a guitar and a lot of energy. (chuckles)
Definitely a lot of energy! how did you find playing to a much younger audience then you would be used to?
In all honesty, I had no idea what to expect, its one of those things where you think this could be really amazing or this could be really hard to do. But actually, it was beautiful. I think what's really nice is that the gig is laid out in such a way that parents are with their kids. Because I was worried that it would be like parents watching the gig and kids being in a play area separate, but what was nice is that the kids were with their parents watching music. In fact, Most of the kids watching the first ever gig, there’s something really special about almost being the first musician that a person sees in their life. That's like incredible and you know the kids loved it.
Not to mention there was so much energy, I have lots of moments in my show that require people to sing and dance and they all kind of got involved in that. Equally, there are moments in my set that are very sort of serene and quite laid-back. Those are the things I was like Ummm we’ll vibes it and might only do one of those songs, but no actually they all sat down attentively, there were even kids like waving to me in the middle of songs. That’s when I realised that one of the hardest things is to do some of your more emotionally raw songs, especially in front of kids that are just giving you so much love and energy because I was like I don’t want to do this! I just want to do all the happy songs (chuckles).
But you know there is something to be said about families and parents seeing gigs together. One of the first memories with my dad, like one of the first things we sort of bonded over together, was music. When I was younger we didn't really get along as well but then we both realised we listen to the same kind of music, so we started to go to gigs and stuff. My dad took me to my very first gig, so that experience is something I've carried with me for my whole life, so you know it's cool to have been that for somebody else.
So what was that first gig for you then?
Back in 2001? Or 2002, When I was 12 my dad took me to go and see a band called Mr Hudson and the Library (the very same Mr Hudson that went solo). We saw him at Rescue Rooms in Nottingham and he was amazing, it was a really good show. I still listen to that album now and it just really reminds me of my dad, and really reminds me of that day.
We also went to go see Kasabian, in the Manchester Arena, it might have been? and that was amazing. Also, later on, that same year we went to go see a brand-new band that nobody had heard of called The Script when they came to Rock City. I loved their first album, especially the lyrics in that album and the musicality of it. We went there and I sang every single word, I loved it inside and out.
What was really nice is I remember watching The Script's reaction to everybody in the audience also knowing all the words. For them it was their first time on tour, so they were really emotional, saying “I can’t believe how many of you know these words!”. And I just remember watching that and being like, this is what's great about live music.
Also at times, you realise you are part of something and it's never going to happen again, you’re part of a moment which is happening for the first and only time. For them, it's that sudden realisation that you could feel that they were making an impact because this was a room full of people in a city that they had never been to. whereas the gig they had done the day before that was in Ireland.
So Nottingham couldn't have been any more different?
(laughs) Yeah exactly, Nottingham couldn't have been any more different. Also because The Script being Irish it was like “oh yeah our hometown gig, everyone’s going to be singing” but then they went to Nottingham next, somewhere they’d never been to, some of the band had probably never heard of it (laughs), went and played and everyone knew all the words. For them, you could see it was like “What!? I can't believe it”. Danny the lead singer, he was halfway through one of the deeper cuts and everyone was singing all the words, you know it wasn’t just like one of the hit singles, and he just stopped in the middle of it and let everyone sing it. He didn’t do the typical “you sing it!”, he just literally stopped and they kept on going, and he listened to them all sing it.
When the song finished he went “this is unbelievable! this is amazing!“ and he just did the song again but let the audience sing it, he was going “can we just do it again? And you guys sing it because this is unbelievable" and he took his in-ears out and just listened to the audience, and that is...
…the moment your chasing as a live performer isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s a moment you’re chasing but it’s a moment you can’t possibly plan for and that’s what is great you know. You have an album and you sit meticulously thinking about every moment and then when you’re live, you are at the mercy of so many people and it’s just amazing.
You mentioned Kasabian, that couldn’t be any further away from your sound...
(laughs) yeah definitely!
…I’d describe, your music as R&B but with a lot of influences of older soulful styled music, looking back in time it's of a similar style to that of Marvin Gaye especially when you, unlike modern musicians actually incorporate God and religion into it. What’s the decision behind having a more gospel style sound?
I think for me, I’m an amalgamation of a lot of influences. I think you're right in the sense of when I was growing up, I was brought up in a very strict Catholic environment and at the same time I was really into gospel music, really loved R&B and my dad was so into rock music, and sort of electronic sound. so he was into the likes of Kasabian as you know and then the Arctic Monkeys, who are from Rotherham like my dad, so before the Arctic Monkeys were massive, he was like “There’s this group from around my ends that are amazing”.
What you realise is that’s what’s universal about great music I think, you feel like you’re getting a piece of the person, it’s not just a well-written song. I think for me it’s always been about a balance, between having great musicality and great voices but also having something to say.
Great personality? something people can latch on to and relate with?
Yeah, but also having a message, having a reason beyond “I just want to play some music.” Nothing against that, but that’s just my personal preference as to what makes music great. For example, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” album is such a message based album, Donnie Hathaway’s voice is my all time favourite voice, and then wow, Nat King Cole’s voice.
I remember my mum played me a Nat King Cole record to explain to me why my voice breaking was a good thing. (laughs) There’s me all panicked “my voice is breaking!” and then my mum just says “well listen to this” and puts on when 'When I Fall In Love' on by Nat King Cole, but she played it so loud, and his voice is so deep that the glass in our windows vibrated and I remember thinking “Woah!” as I was being wrapped in his voice, and she was like “your voice will do that when it's finished breaking” and I was like "wow!" now excited thinking, "ok that’s cool."
So there has always been that duality with me, the Soul sound and the Country Rock songwriting thing. Soul music has always been about the voice and it’s always been about the former whilst Country, Indie, Rock and I’d say even Electronica music to a sense has always been about the songwriting, the lyrics and so to me, I hold both things as important as each other.
Therefore, I think no matter what happens to my sound, even if the sound changes slightly, I think I’ll always be bothered about the voice and the lyrics. it’s all like a combination for me.
Are you working on new music at the moment or is it currently still about your EP and touring?
So yeah, I released the EP in 2016, that’s definitely reaching the end of its life. I’ve just started working on my debut album and I’m just taking my time with it, I don’t know when it’ll be out but it’s started and it’s a big project for me. The album has come as a result of reaching a point where I’ve realised there’s a lot of things…. well let me rewind and explain.
So when I did the track ‘Blue’ which was on the EP. It’s a song I didn’t think I was going to write. It’s about something very personal to me and I didn’t think anyone was really going to get it and I wanted to focus on writing songs more for other people. I didn’t really want to go too deep into my own life because I only had four songs, but then my friend Stella was like “No! talk about that, it’s really important”. So I wrote the song, it ended up being the single, I did a music video for it and ultimately that’s the reason why the EP got to Number 3 in the iTunes Chart. That was sort of a realisation for me, that these things that I think are so alienating and the kind of thing nobody is going to get…
…Are relatable and people want to hear that, so they’re latching on to it.
Yeah! they are actually. This is the thing, when I perform Blue, the people in the audience who look the most disarmed are other men, because I think, there’s no way they know what it's about for me necessarily. They can probably guess, roughly, but I can see that for a lot of men in the audience it’s not only something they’ve been through but I’m singing words they’ve not been able to find for it and I think when I saw that and realised that. obviously, women are affected as well, but it’s the terror! it’s the fear! when I look at men, it’s the fear in their eyes that moves me the most. (chuckles) I’m like me too! I know what you’re feeling,
So I think with this album, what I’m trying to do and what I’m writing at the moment is to try and unpack a lot of that, where that all comes from. To do that I’ve been reading so much stuff, there’s this brilliant writer called Ryan Holiday, I’ve been reading a lot of his things. There’s a book called the “Mask Of Masculinity” which is really good, it sort of talks about the masks that we wear as men to kind of cover-up or to fit what everyone's expecting from us all the time. You know, it wasn’t intended to be as deep as that when I started but It’s almost a thread thing, so when you start pulling there’s more unravelling. With that being said the album’s not entirely one-note, there's a lot of fun and light things, a lot of permission giving, because I think we’re all way too hard on ourselves, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves as people, we need to sometimes need to step away from the pressure of everyday life. We’re always like “Everyones expecting me to do this, everyone wants me to do this” and it’s like what do you want? you should be doing what you want, it’s your life, everyone around you could go and it will still be your life so forget what everyone else wants from you, what do you want to give people, that’s what’s important, so... that’s where I’m at.
Well, it’s definitely all working out! support slots for Michael Buble, Nick Mulvey and you’ve gained a new fan today in Jessie Ware.
I heard she’d enjoyed the show so I’ll badger her on twitter! but that’s the thing, case in point with Jessie Ware, the album she did after having her daughter. She’s a big inspiration in terms of musical drive, she’s self-motivated, self-managed and she’s made hit music whilst, from what I can tell, she’s managed to maintain a great balance for family life, I assume based from her interviews. But also It’s sort of testament to the fact, I think Jessie Ware is one of the best female artists in the UK this moment. She’s just breaking a lot of expectations and that’s what you need to do as an artist, that's to surprise people, to prove to other people that you can do whatever you want when you set your mind to it.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me!
Since the interview, Rob Green has landed himself another Wake Up Gig slot this weekend! If you can’t make it down there is still a couple more chances to check out the Midlands soul singer including a date in Milton Keynes this winter. Find tickets and more information here.