Robbie is part of the Song Academy team running songwriting clubs and workshops. Robbie has performed live on ITV’s ‘This Morning’, been regularly aired on BBC Radio 2 (by the likes of Graham Norton, Paul O’Grady and Jeremy Vine), BBC 6 Music, Absolute Radio and Xfm and sold out headline London shows at venues like Bush Hall, The Garage and the Jazz Café. He’s supported The Kooks, Mark Ronson, Jack Garratt, McFly, Jack Savoretti and Daughter, and he’s even had Suggs open up for him! Robbie’s co-written with the legendary Ray Davies from the Kinks, and written and recorded with some of Nashville’s finest.
We asked Robbie some questions to help aspiring young songwriters on their songwriting journey.
How old were you when you wrote your first song? I wrote my first song at the age of nineteen when I was travelling in Central America. I had been writing in a diary reflecting on my experiences, thoughts and feelings and then those words naturally grew into lyrics, so I created melodies and chords on the guitar to match the lyrics and hey presto, songs started to appear!
What was your first song about? I still remember it now. The opening line was: “The wondering mind leads to dangerous times, when you’re lost in the eye of the sun”. It was about following your feelings and trusting your intuition rather than worrying about everything and getting too trapped by the negative thoughts in your head. It’s funny reflecting back on this now as that’s a very similar theme to the most recent song I’ve just written fourteen years on!
Who inspired you to start songwriting? It’s something that I just really connected to and took to very naturally, as I said it began from the lyrics that I was writing in my diary when I was younger. I’ve always been very self-reflective, philosophical and observant of life, as well as appreciative of nature and the magic that we’re surrounded by. It’s always intrigued me as to why we behave the way we do as humans and so all of that combined with the music that I grew up listening to influenced my own songwriting.
What’s your favourite song you’ve ever written? It’s probably my new single ‘The Mighty Oak’. These are the lyrics to the chorus: “Whatever storms may come, I am strong enough to meet them with the love in my heart, just like the Mighty Oak in the winds that blow, standing solid on its path, we too can be this way, we too can be this way”. I wrote it with a friend of mine called Deborah Savran over Skype. It’s a very empowering song and a constant reminder for me that whatever forces or adversities may come my way, I can be as strong as an oak tree, firmly rooted in the ground, with my branches reaching into the atmosphere, when I let my heart lead the way.
How easy did you find it to get your music heard? For me, at first, it was just about doing whatever I could to get my music out there, whether it was performing at countless open mics across London, flyering for my shows, busking outside gigs of other artists or on Portobello Road which then grew my fanbase to a much wider international audience and enabled me to play gigs all over the world, to taking my singles into radio stations and having some ‘fortunate’ breaks there with the likes of Graham Norton, Dave Gorman and Jeremy Vine supporting me. I also have some very lovely fans who have always been spreading the word and making things happen for me. For example, my performances on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ came from someone who saw me busking recommending me to the executive producer of the show who liked my music and invited my band in to play. So, it’s been a mixture of the organic, natural word of mouth route, combined with playing the traditional game of the industry through PR, plugging and marketing that’s helped me get my music heard. Mostly, and behind it all, it’s been about building connections and relationships with people, that’s the lesson I’ve enjoyed learning. More recently my approach has been a lot more to sit back and let people come to me and discover my music for themselves rather than needing to keep pushing my music onto others which I found a bit imposing as well as draining and tiring for me.
What’s your biggest regret as a young songwriter? I wouldn’t say I have any regrets, although I’ve definitely learnt a lot of lessons along the way. Primarily about my responsibility to being more aware of what I’m saying in my songs and how that can either have a healing or harmful effect on the people listening. As I’ve been discovering more about myself and become more content with who I am, my lyrics have reflected this journey. So for example a lot of my old songs were about needing love from another person to fulfil me, whereas what I’ve come to realise is that I’ve already got all the love I’ve been looking for inside me, and that a true relationship is about meeting someone equally who can complement you as two whole people rather than losing yourselves in the relationship, which then leads to compromises and you can end up resenting each other because you weren’t really being true to yourselves. These sorts of realisations in the way that I’ve been living have naturally filtered into my lyrics, and it’s been great because lots of people have said how much more they can relate to my new style of writing. So, it’s showing how much I’ve matured and grown as a person as well as a songwriter, with the added benefit of being able to raise awareness around these sorts of topics to hopefully inspire others to come to their own similar realisations.
What are your top tips for aspiring songwriters? Probably one of the biggest tips is to not compare yourself with anyone else. When I stopped wanting to be like Mumford and Sons or Chris Martin and just be me, it was incredibly liberating. I realised that I would never be them anyway and so just staying true to who I am and focussing on how I’m living my life in a more loving way has been really ground-breaking and important to me. I’ve let go (or am letting go!) of needing to prove myself to anyone else or seek other people’s approval, so I’m just being me and letting the songs flow out of me.
How do you write songs? On a practical level, songs come to me in a number of different ways, for example while I’m sleeping, having a shower, going for a walk, or even cooking! I record these melody or lyrical ideas into my phone and then go into my studio and flesh them out in the relevant structure that suits the song. Otherwise I can be sitting down in my studio with the intention of writing and feel what I want to write about that day by giving myself a theme or title to write around. I am usually a melody and chords first man, and then I find the lyrics to fit the mood of the song. In terms of where the songs come from though, ultimately, they’re all from the Universe and I don’t feel like I own them and I just see myself as the guardian or the scribe! So, for me it’s about connecting to that source and letting them pour through me.
What do you especially like about The Young Songwriter competition? It offers young people a chance to express themselves and discover more about what they’re feeling, which is very valuable. For young people to be inspired by each other to develop their talents and appreciate what they’re able to bring to the world in their own unique way is hugely important. Songwriting can be an amazing outlet for this and the Young Songwriter Competition is a really great opportunity for kids to grow in confidence and show off their awesomeness, while reaching a much wider audience than they would otherwise be able to. It’s a great springboard to their future and a wonderful way for the youth of today to have their voice heard.
Are you aged 8-18? Have you written your own songs? Then enter The Young Songwriter 2019 competition!