Catching Up With Robin Beck
Robin Beck returns on August 15 with her latest solo album Underneath. We recently talked to Beck about the new disc, her extended arsenal of writing partners, and working with her husband and House of Lords frontman James Christian.
Interviewed by: Roger Scales
In comparing The Great Escape to your new your new record Underneath it appears that one of the biggest differences has to be the amount of outside songwriting contributors this time around as opposed to last time. Was this deliberate or just circumstance based on the amount of great songs that you had access to?
A little bit of both. The timing for putting a little spin on my music and working with other songwriters was inevitable. Personally speaking I was going though some drama during this period. James’ (Christian) mom passed away, our daughter (Olivia) was having some struggles with grades & SAT’s and then some touring came up for me. There were so many events that we were juggling that we were on an emotional razor’s edge. Although we never actively pursued a path to seek out outside songwriters it’s just sort of happened over time. The universe gave us what we needed and we just went with it. I could not have written better songs myself if I had tried because they were just so perfect for me. Then on the other hand, the difference in the way they sounded was something I really wanted to do anyway. I was getting to the point where I thought my music was becoming too much of a cookie cutter mentality. This was a good way to express myself and still stay rocking and still show some growth. Didn’t want to get to the point where my fans were falling asleep during different points of my album. Here’s another new Robin Beck song that sounds exactly like the one she did on her last album..yea we love it!
Once again James Christian is back producing and Tommy Denander is back playing guitar and contributing to the songwriting. Is it fair to say that this creative relationship is getting stronger as each album just seems better than the next?
The relationship I have with James is stronger than it has ever been. We are always going to be creating music together because frankly we really cannot see ourselves doing much else! My relationship with Tommy is as strong as it can be. He has been very busy working with several outside artists and touring. Underneath isn’t going to showcase the tightness that Tommy and I really have because he only co-written on a song or two on this record unlike The Great Escape.
Who else played on the record? Drums, bass, keyboards, harmonies?
BJ Zampa (House of Lords) is playing drums. On occasion James himself my sit in on a particular track or part of a song that may have needed a last minute touch up. James is playing bass. Jeff Batter (Arc Angel) playing keyboards. Jorge Salan is playing some guitar. Glenn Burtnick plays guitar on my cover of his song “Follow You”(more on that later). Tommy D of course on guitar. My daughter Olivia is helping out on harmonies along with James and myself.
“Ain’t That Just Like Love” is a cover song from Fiona’s 1992 album Squeeze. Did this particular song strike a chord within you that drove you to wanting it included on Underneath?
Yes for a couple of reasons. Fiona is an amazing performer for me. I don’t even try to get close to the vibe that she has going for her. She is such a star as far as I’m concerned. The song always struck a chord within me. I almost wish she had written it for me to be honest. We were talking and she had said to me to listen to this song again because I never thought it got it’s just due. She asked me if I wanted to record it for my next album and of course I jumped at the chance. The song in a way is honoring our friendship but the bigger reason is because the song is filled with so much passion I felt it was something I could wrap myself around.
Also another cover song “Follow You” is a Glen Burtnick song from his 1987 album Heroes & Zeros. Now you have been covering this one in your live performances as far back as 1989 but had never recorded it correct?
Right. That’s because I had other people TELLING me what I could or could not record. Not anymore! Back in the 80’s when Glen had his success and we would randomly cross paths touring and recording, I actually had heard that song even before it was released and I just flipped. I thought this was just a great way to tip your hat to the fans. From my point of view it is similar to a song I recorded ‘Livin’ On A Dream”(2007) and reminded me of it a whole lot. I used to cover this song on tour in 1989 supporting “Trouble or Nothing”. The audience went crazy whenever I played it. I wanted it to be on Human Instinct (1992) but the powers that be told me it had already been recorded and there was no need to go to the well again. Finally all these years later I was able to include it back into my live set and the fans once again really went nuts. It was calling out to me to record it. To have that memory and that bond to the past was something that was important to me. It’s not like Glen and I pal around or anything together but I have so much respect for him and for that song I just wanted it to live on.
Has Robin Beck ever been in a “Catfight”?
Hmmmm..I wouldn’t say a physical one, certainly a few emotional tortures. When I was younger there were certainly times when I would be dating someone that I felt threatened by another woman. I think a lot of people can identify with a song like “Catfight” especially the younger generation because there just not loyal to each other.
Was “Burnin Me Down” written as a duet or did it make its way into one after you got in the studio?
It made its way into one. That was my idea. I felt that is was just a perfect love song that James had to be included. I really have a strong urge for that tortured soul type of track. I can’t help it. The fans seem to agree because I’m always getting feedback that they enjoy hearing James in my songs and this seemed like the perfect one for him to be included.
Who do you think has an easier time with the age old adage “Check Your Attitude” Robin or James?
I do for sure. I’m always checking my own attitude. But I’m a very nice person. Men are more stubborn by nature they don’t want to check their own attitude. The true meaning behind that song is that if you think you can get by in life with the way you are..You’re wrong. You need to check your attitude. I think James can be more stubborn.
I had the photo that came from a batch that I wasn’t entirely pleased with for the most part. Then I saw this one and put it together with the song “Underneath” and I said this is just perfect. Then an artist/musician friend by the name of Richard Jones created the entire atmosphere. He did a great job with it.
I see that you have a few shows scheduled in Sweden in July with Joe Lynn Turner and Bobby Kimball. What other touring plans do you have for 2013 & beyond?
We also have another round scheduled with “Legends” The Voices of Rock in November as well. I also have a one off in October in Germany during Oktoberfest. I’m planning a full tour in support of Underneath so no place is off limits. Hopefully the tour will be combined with James doing some of his solo material and House of Lords. I’m going to hopefully play with House of Lords at Melodicrockfest 3 in Illinois on a song or two. I want to play Firefest again hopefully in 2014! There is also a Rock Opera that I have been working on with James and Olivia. This is a pretty big project with a cast of the three of us plus a narrator. The songs are killer. I’m also planning on a “Best Of” record for 2014 so that could potentially lead into another tour. So much to do and so little time to do it in. Touring is a very high priority for me right now. If I could stay out on the road for an entire year straight I would.
With Underneath coming out in August and then James has his solo release Lay It On Me July 9 it must be very gratifying to know that a ton of hard work in rock gets to be rewarded almost simultaneously in the same household?
It’s amazing. It’s like a tornado of creativity all day and all night. I can see the neighbors sometimes stopping by and looking in on the madness. I think they are trying to hear what we are doing on occasion. James has his studio in one end of the house. I have my live setup in another corner and when Olivia is here she could be playing guitar, working on her musical theater or even writing a song or a play. It never stops.
Are you more of a traditionalist in purchasing music where you enjoy having the actual CD with the booklet, liner notes and something palpable to be able to handle or are you just as satisfied with a download?
Well it depends on the artist. If it’s a band or vocalist that I personally like or have liked over time I do want the cd, the booklet to be able to read all the fine details and lyrics. But on occasion I may like a hit song on the radio that my daughter is playing that become addicted to because it’s playing so much. I’m not interested in reading anything about them. Depends on the artist. I do believe that the cd, the booklet, the photos are an important part of the musical experience. Real music enthusiasts cannot live without it. You have to have something to touch. In cannot be just a wave coming through their speakers. So for me if the Beatles were to release a new album of “lost” songs or recordings I would have to have the record or cd. John Waite, I’ll buy anything he puts out. He’s one of my favorites. I’ll put his poster on my ceiling. If I could dedicate a room with all of my LP’s I would put them all up to display. I’m not a real autograph junkie I would just want to appreciate the artwork.
Now your daughter Olivia is a performer. Is she more driven towards becoming a vocalist or an actress?
Hard to say. Right now she’s putting out an album but she’s having scheduling problems because she’s an actress. She’s getting a lot of offers for leads in off Broadway shows and working in performance art camps where she’s performing as the lead it’s difficult to nail her down to get it done. She also has to keep up with her school work which can be another challenge.
If you could tour on a dream bill and open for any act, group or vocalist who would it be and why?
That’s tough. Steve Perry, Bryan Adams, John Waite, Fleetwood Mac. Those would make my dreams come true. I could add 30 or 40 names to that list. Aerosmith..I would be trembling. I would be in the presence of greatness and it could affect your performance so sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for
Now Robin you’re having a contest on your website www.robinbeckrocks.com why don’t you give the fans the details on this please?
If you pre-order the album Underneath you will be entered into a contest to receive a phone call or Skype call from me personally. Two free tickets to any concert performance I’m appearing at as long as they can get there. This will include a meet/greet and usually I’ll buy them dinner. My entire CD collection that is currently available. Some are out of print. A few signed photos and t-shirt of their choice. Usually I will also send them MP3’s of songs I’m working on or demos of tracks that are no longer available just as a bonus. I think it’s crucial for an artist to stay close to her fans. Hope you enjoy the new record & see you on the road!