As November welcomes us with second-rate Halloween costumes and fireworks at un-godly hours, you can’t help but feel that now it’s cold and dark and even the sporadic sunny spots seem to have waved goodbye, the temptation to take your foot off the accelerator looms. But for Rob Green, it’s go mode! In this November edition of the Member Spotlight, Rob and I touch upon the joys of being a self-proclaimed bookworm as well as a Raye superfan! But more importantly, we delve deeper into Rob’s life, experiences, and inspirations that have shaped his unique sound and storytelling. We also talk about Rob’s new visual EP, ‘Manhood’ which was released on 3rd November.
A storyteller at heart, Rob started his creative journey as a poet in his early teens, later adding guitar and keyboards to transform his words into songs. Rob’s sound is rooted in acoustic pop, R&B and Soul at times fused this with spoken word and rap elements. Sighting India Arie as a huge inspiration, he admires India’s “Very personal lyrics from her own experiences…it seems that she’s always trying to kind of put it in the context of the wider world.” Beneath the surface of Rob’s music lies deeper, more profound meanings, as he fearlessly addresses personal struggles in his songs. Rob’s journey hasn’t been without its share of challenges, particularly in his school days when he faced relentless bullying, which is addressed a lot in his music. Themes of Race, Sexuality, and masculinity at the forefront of his writing. Despite these challenged, Rob’s resilience and creative spirit prevails as he turns adversity into artistic expression. This is something to be expected in his upcoming project.
Rob’s vocal range can offer smooth baritone lows that resonate with raw emotion all the way to a delicate falsetto that begs the question of how such a sound can some from someone standing 6 foot 5 in stature! Rob’s presence as a performer is undeniable, having already had some distinguished support spots from names like Earth, Wind and Fire and Michael Bublé at Hyde Park.
Watch Rob’s visual EP ‘Manhood’ Below…
As Rob’s artistic journey continues to captivate and inspire as we eagerly await this new release. In the video below, Rob’s engaging and candid personality shines through as he speaks with honesty and conviction, leaving no doubt about the sincerity in his work.
I’m Rob Green, my artist name is spelt ROB.GREEN. I’m a singer songwriter, I focus on acoustic soul music and in my latest EP. It’s a visual EP which brings together the spoken word elements from my live show, some quotes from some really great people, and the acoustic soul songwriting and rap that I’ve been performing for a while.
A visual EP is an interesting choice. What made you want to do it in this way?
Well, it started off with a conversation I was having with Opera North up here in Leeds where I’m based. They do an incubator program for new artists, specifically artists of colour, to work in a new medium. And I love visual EPs and albums. Obviously, one of the most famous being Beyonce’s Lemonade album, but there are so many great ones. I just love the ability to extend the metaphor of the music and extend and think in a more aesthetic and visual way around the storytelling.
During lockdown, I released some singles that I called the Freedom Series that were all working with the same producer, sort of exploring some ideas around mental health and around identity and wellbeing. I was like, ‘I actually have a lot more to explore here,’ specifically around race, my sexuality and masculinity in general and what that means being a 30 plus artist who’s constantly growing and figuring themselves out. Also the importance of community, especially when you’re self-releasing work and working on your own – what it means to have a community around you and a team of people that you can work with…
I say all of that to say that for me, it turning into a visual EP was kind of an extension of all the things that I was interested about the original concept. Visually, I can work on how we show growth from being alone and isolated to being connected to other people. I wrote the treatment for the video, I developed it dramaturgically with an amazing dramaturg called Emma Adams, and we developed the storyline and it just made sense to me that it was a visual medium.
I love continuous shots. My music video from my first ever EP, Blue, was a continuous shot music video that I shot in my house with an amazing actor friend of mine called Joe Dempsey from Game of Thrones and a bunch of other stuff. I think like a live show, it keeps you immersed.
This was a big challenge. It’s a nine-minute visual EP, multiple tracks and poems in a space that I designed and curated so that it could shift and change, working with the videographer Declan Creffield. We’ve got lighting shifts and all this stuff that just keeps you engaged and it’s done all in one true continuous take. So yeah, big challenge!
How long did that take. How many takes did that require?
We shot it over two days. The final video is lip synced to the best versions of the acoustic recordings. The filmed part is all one continuous take and we got it on the second day. I think it was the fourth take of the day we got it, but then we did a few more just in case! I’m really happy with it and can’t wait for people to see it and hear it!
On the creative process…
What things get you inspired to write?
To be honest, I get a lot of inspiration at the moment from hearing about other creative people and creative practices. The thing that inspired this EP, to be honest, was reading Viola Davis’s autobiography, you know, the actress.
Everyone should totally read it, it’s amazing. In the first chapter, she talks about the first time she went to therapy. She’d had a degree of success as a performer and in her first psychotherapy session, her therapist invited her to bring her inner child into the room and sit down next to her and introduce her. And Viola sort of spoke about this child, the hardships that she’d been brought up through and how mean and tough that child had to be in order to get through that time.
The therapist invited her to take that inner child to work with her the next day to the film set and she shouted at the therapist. She was like, ‘no, I’ve spent my entire life trying to get away from being that girl,’ and the therapist said, ‘but she survived! That girl did what she needed to do to get through it and she didn’t get rewarded at the time. But, you can reward her now and show her that it works out and that it leads to better things!’
Boy, when I read that, I put that book straight down. I was like, what? Mind blowing…
I was a closeted kid in quite a conservative Catholic school. I was bullied every day, physically, mentally, verbally, spiritually, everything, and made to feel like I was genuinely not a human being, and I believed that. I believed it wasn’t possible, genuinely, if you’d asked me, even at 14, 15, if I believed it was possible to be gay, brown, and in music. I didn’t have any idea of anybody who was and wasn’t a joke and wasn’t constantly used as a punchline.I put myself through my own conversion scheme. I changed the way I walked and talked and got a girlfriend and never ate bananas in public! I did everything that I could to disappear and be invisible.
This EP is for him, and for loads of kids that sadly are still erasing who they are, redefining who they are so they can fit normal – whatever normal is. It’s so funny when a seed gets planted, I feel like you see it everywhere you go. Around that time I was just seeing examples of my childhood, my challenges, and the things that I just want better things to exist in the world for people like me and people beyond me, for men, for just humanity to be more aware of what it is to be who you are and why that’s not something to be edited or made not human. That’s a long way of saying I read that book and it was like ‘I’ve got a lot to say to this kid.’
That’s where it all started and then ended up with this whole EP of work that is probably more personal than anything I’ve ever written, yet at the same time was the least afraid I’ve ever been of anything I’ve ever written. It just felt so natural to make it. So yeah, I get inspiration from other creative people. They’re not necessarily in music. I love autobiographies. I just love humans. I think when we’re ready, we can do some amazing stuff.
Do you ever have times where you aren’t feeling so inspired to create music and how do you get yourself out of these dry spells?
I think for me, one of the big dry spells and probably one of the most common amongst the musicians that I know was lockdown. I think just because it was a time where there was a lot of pressure to either continue as normal, to pretend like what was happening wasn’t happening, or to write about what was happening, which a lot of people weren’t ready to do. And also, you know, for people like me who I get a lot of inspiration musically from working with other musicians and other writers, it wasn’t possible to jam or get together at that time.
There are some songs that I write on my own and they come to me and I’m like, yeah, this is the song. But to be honest, a lot of the songs that I write come out of conversations, like the one, you know, we’re having now, I realise I’m doing most of the speaking in this moment, but you know, conversations. I think the conversations really inspire me. I’m such a social person and love people.
When I get writer’s block, it’s normally because I haven’t got any resource. I haven’t been able to explore my heart out loud. Also to be honest, it’s like I said, I get a lot of inspiration from other work and other artwork. I love an album. Ray’s 21st century blues album at the minute… it’s like my absolute heart opens up, I’m like, Bring it, I want more! She literally just released her live at the Albert Hall with the orchestra. I was shook to my core! Talking about extending the vision of an album, what a brilliant way to extend the original artistic concept of a piece of work, it’s just mind blowing.
You can hear more than anything that she is so happy to be doing that performance. And for me, it’s the pure emotion, being around people who are just being 100% real. Ha ha, I just love it. I’m laughing now because I’m just thinking about a song, I think it’s the second song on the orchestra album, she’s literally laughing while she’s singing the song. She’s like laughing cause you can just hear that she’s beside herself just with joy. When you consider some of the subjects on that album, Ray has had to process some real stuff as we all have, but, you know, process her own journey in a very, very careful and decisive way.
To be on stage with something that clearly started off as a personal thing and to have it be that public and that supported and that musically aligned… it’s like you can hear someone healing you know. It’s beautiful, I love it, absolutely love it. I forgot the original question so I just went off on one about that, but yeah, it’s great!
You mention healing, from the sounds of it, creating this EP was a healing process for you.
It’s funny, the more healing part of it has been the first two single releases. I’ll be around, the first single was the one I was probably in the beginning not sure about. It’s very different to what I normally do. I don’t normally do spoken word in my actual music and it’s not rapped like on one of my older singles, Life Goes On, it’s like very much spoken. I was a bit nervous. Then when it came out, the level of response… it got BBC introducing Track of the Week, and it’s been added to Tom Robinson’s BBC Six music introducing mixtape. As somebody who releases my own music, I manage myself, all from this little room that I haven’t painted yet and still has glow in the dark stickers on the wall is mind blowing. It’s very healing because there was a time where the words that I am saying in that song, I would have never said out loud! To have it resonate even with people who aren’t gay or dual heritage or mixed race people or aren’t male identify, you know that is just so humanising, it’s great!
You mention sharing music and jamming with other artists. Is collaboration something that’s important to you?
Yeah I think so. I think to be honest there was definitely a time asI think most songwriters go through, where they feel like they have to write everything on their own. I have totally done that and it’s cool, like I’m happy with some of the stuff that I’ve written in that way, but it doesn’t beat sharing the process with somebody else and jamming off somebody else.
Tom Pendergrass, I have to shout out, who’s the producer who I made the Manhood EP and made my last three singles. We met during lockdown working with another incredible artist called ADMT, and we just hit it off straight away. He was like, ‘Mate, you should come to my studio and we’ll write something.’ He was just so easy to write with and such a wonderful person. It was one of those things where you go, I think I’ll work with this person again, and again, and again, and again, and it builds. And yeah, I just love that. I love it when it clicks and you just get each other. So yeah, definitely always about collaborating!
How was your experience on the Inside Track programme and what did you get most out of it.
I think working with Cassell the Beatmaker was probably the most wonderful experience in a studio I’ve had ever. That’s not belittling any previous experiences because I’ve had wonderful times in the studio. But that’s probably the most people I’ve worked with in a studio at once. You know, working with Cassell, working with Eric, working with lots of different collaborators within that process to build those two singles.
Liam Bailey, we were just sort of got into the room on the Monday, hoping to maybe start one idea. And we developed loads, loads of ideas, seven, eight different tracks just sort of floating about. Then we picked two and ran with those. That was just beautiful, so organic and you know, what I love the most about Cassel is that he loves all music. You can just sit there and play tracks to each other and also just have a laugh. It was just fun in the studio.
Liam Bailey like me, is from Nottingham and yet weirdly it was my first time being in the same room as Liam Bailey in a professional capacity, chatting to each other. We bonded and we wrote ‘Fade Away’ together. Liam started that idea and it was just such an organic process.
I think at the beginning of the year I really, really needed just to be in that space. I’ve been a musician and a songwriter for a long time, and like a lot of people who aren’t maybe in London, sometimes you can feel a bit isolated or a bit disconnected from the industry.
To be able to be in that space and know that you belong and that your creativity is appreciated and more than that, that you’re just vibing, that it’s just easy – It makes your ambitions a bit more reachable. I loved it.
My first time at the Ivor Novello’s as well. The way I found out about the Ivor Novello’s, I remember I was 17 years old and Ed Sheeran was in an interview talking about how of all the awards that he rates, The Ivor Novello’s is the one he rates the most because it’s an award for songwriting and not a popularity contest or a labels contest – It’s about writing. Ever since then, in my head, I’ve always had the MOBO awards and the Ivor Novello awards are like the two things that for my whole life, I’ve kind of been aware of, but never got to see.
I got to go to the MOBO awards a few years ago, and then I finally got to go to Ivor Novello awards this year. To see how songwriting is praised there and how it’s held up. It makes sense, everything I’ve ever heard about it. It makes you want one. But it also makes you go, ‘You know what? The reason why it’s important that we award songwriting is because without awarding songwriting, we would get into the place where we only celebrate performers. And actually, so many performers wouldn’t have anything to perform. if it was not for the writers!’
We see it in the film industry all the time that writers struggle to get valued. Songwriters can struggle to get valued. So much of what the Ivors is doing allows us to advocate for better rates, for better splits, and for better recognition across the industry. So yeah, I think the other good thing about being part of ITM was getting to see how the Ivors works and that there could maybe one day be a space for the work that you’re making, which is great.
What is the best piece of advice you have had in your career?
It’s from a book called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. The entire book is an incredible read and talks about the creative process and more importantly lowers the stakes on the creative process. But one of her early chapters, she essentially says: begin, just start! Start from where you are with what you have and take another step after that. It sort of links as well to Dr. Brené Brown, who was in an interview talking about perfectionism. She goes, ‘perfectionism is the 20-ton shield we carry around that we think protects us from blame, shame, and guilt, but actually it just prevents us from being seen.’ I think there is so much pressure when you’re a songwriter who also performs your work as well, who releases your music or you manage yourself. You do your own social media, you do all your own styling, to be like these algorithms, to be a machine, and to not be a human being, and not have a hard day, and not give up, and not get tired or exhausted. You are allowed to have all of those things! Not only are you allowed, but you must listen to them. You must make room for them. You need to recharge when you’re exhausted. You need to connect when you’re isolated. You need to do all of these things and your career is not a race! You need to begin from where you are with what you have and just aim to get a little bit more tomorrow. And if you can lower the stakes to that level you will achieve a lot more than if you wait until you have the perfect weather for the for the sale – You’ll never go anywhere!
It’s seems like you have gained a lot of insight from books. I’ve seen in previous interview you’ve mention Ryan Holiday.
I’m in the middle of reading the first one of that series, Courage is Calling. It’s a big one for me at the moment, doing this EP and trying to promote it and do the social media. This is the first time I’ve done a full campaign for any release. It requires a lot of bravery. I was speaking to my therapist on Tuesday. She said Courage requires compassion for the self. You have to be kind and show a lot of empathy to yourself in order to be brave, because if you are brave without compassion, you will end up being reckless and run a higher risk of hurting yourself in the process or draining yourself in the process. My therapist is a G, she’s amazing, but yeah, I think that Ryan Holiday’s book Ego is the Enemy is also a fantastic book. He likes his alliteration! Ego is the Enemy is a great book about the fact that in the creative process at any one time you were either making work, having made work and had it fail in some way, or having made work and had it succeed in some way. All three of those junctions your ego can come into play in a way that can damage your process. It’s a great book to read for getting out of your own way!
I love books. Books aren’t everyone’s thing – I know some people prefer audio books or podcasts. I love podcasts too. I love the dissect podcast. I love just people who break apart a whole album, lyric by lyric, Cole Kutchner is, you know, God’s gift to song writing!I listen to a lot of composer podcasts as well. I just listened to Alan Menken and the Disney for Scores podcast talking about writing some of the biggest Disney music of all time. And the Howard Ashman documentary! But like I said, I just love people. I just love people at the top of their game or trying to be at the top of their game, being creative and breaking the rules. My therapist said to me, If you want to do something unprecedented, you have to be willing to work in an unprecedented way – I love that. Just because there isn’t an example of what you’ve done in the world right now, you have to be willing to do things in a way that maybe haven’t been done before in order to get it to exist. I love it.
What artists do you have on rotation right now?
I’ve got Ray on rotation, big time! I love Mahalia’s latest album, IRL. I also have been listening to Brasstracks. There’s a Brasstracks album called Indigo that’s out – fantastic. The brass arrangements are sick. The writing, the songwriting on it is great. Brasstracks, if you’re watching, I would love to do literally anything with you! And an artist that I always have on rotation is India Ahri. I think as a songwriter, she’s doing great things in the world and always has in terms of her messaging and what she stands for. Although she hasn’t had a new release in a while. So also India, if you’re watching this, please, we’re ready, more music, please!
Any guilty pleasures or anything people wouldn’t expect?
Do I have guilty pleasures? Well, I don’t know. The thing is, a guilty pleasure, I guess, is a piece of music that you’re ashamed to listen to. I’m not ashamed to listen to any of the music I listen to. I listen to a lot of Disney music and a lot of musical theatre music. I also write music for musical theatre. I’ve got a playlist for driving too, that is just a compilation of awesome Disney songs. When I’m giving somebody a lift somewhere, I’m always like, ‘Do you want to listen to some Disney?’ No one has ever said no. We just have a great sing along all the way to wherever we’re going!
Rob, thanks for chatting! Tell us more about the manhood EP and where people can find you.
My social media is @RobGreenMusic on pretty much every platform. You can go to robgreenmusic.com to get live dates and stuff. I’m doing a tour to promote the Manhood EP in spring next year so it’ll be awesome to have people come to that. There’s going to be a bunch of intimate shows around England working with local poets and artists – exploring the theme a little bit more. It’s going to be really cozy and intimate spaces that are hidden. It’s called the Undercubator and the EP Manhood is out on November the 3rd and you’ll be able to watch it on YouTube and stream the audio on all streaming platforms that stream audio!
Thank You, Rob…
We chatted to Rob before Manhood came out, but the visual EP has since been released so please check it out! We are over the moon for Rob and can’t wait to see what’s in store for him. If you are an Ivors Academy member and feel like you have something worth spotlighting, send an email to email@example.com. To find out more about membership, click here.
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