I admit it. My attention span during this Coronavirus pandemic has been almost nonexistent. Everyone is encouraging solitude. TikTok videos are short. A lot of them are funny, but I am seriously in need of new music and to feel part of something. The quote above from Robert Browning says it all. Why then does Rolling Stone’s Emily Blake report that as the spread of COVID-19 isolates more and more Americans in their homes, music streaming is down. That is the exact opposite of what was expected. “Un-Block The Music” also sees a downturn in readership. Let’s change this!
“Music can heal the wounds which medicine cannot touch.”
– Debasish Mridha
Before this insanity started, I had the opportunity to interview Rob Graves. He recently released a piano album called Solstice. It’s relaxing and beautiful and just what I needed to get motivated to write. It can do the same for you!
You may recognize Rob’s name in association with the metal band Red (“Breathe Into Me”, “Death Of Me”). A metal guy doing piano music? What? The new album may seem unorthodox for Rob. It’s not. He is an unconventional guy.
Rob grew up in Maine playing guitar. He spent one year at Berklee College of Music, but “eventually, I decided to go to Nashville where I had some engineering friends. I was a songwriter, producer, guitarist and also a programmer. I tried to do it all at once which worked out pretty well. Unexpectedly, the first opportunities I happened to get were with female pop artists. One of my first projects was with Natalie Grant and her gold record Awaken.”
Rob worked with Joy Williams and Kerrie Roberts too. But, then, he had a chance experience with an intern at his studio. “The intern came in one day and asked me to check out his demo.” That intern was Jasen Rauch (who was an original founding member of Red and is now in Breaking Benjamin). That’s how Rob’s production career really took off. “I created a production company, made Red a demo and got them a deal with Sony. Here we are in 2020 and have just completed our sixth record together. It has been a great working relationship over decades.”
Another long-term relationship for Rob started with Dustin Bates, the singer from a band called Downplay that was on Epic Records. “I did a little writing with them but then Epic dropped all the rock bands. Dustin said, ‘I still want to do a band’. So he started Starset. So far, I have produced two Starset records.”
Rob says he never had the desire to do solo stuff before. “Guitar was my instrument. I was a session player in Nashville back in the day. It’s funny that now I created a piano record. It is a weird organic thing that happened.” He wanted to explore different creative avenues so he started writing piano pieces. He put them on YouTube, and people liked them. Now these songs are part of Solstice which was released in the last month.
Who is Rob’s audience for Solstice? “The people who are seemingly gravitating towards this music are people who connect to the elements of my rock productions. While this music may initially seem like a huge departure for me, it isn’t. I am known for putting strings and pianos into my rock productions. Those who like that music will like this album,” he said.
What “Un-Block The Music” loves about this album is how it came together naturally. It doesn’t happen that way for most records any more. Musicians today are talented, of course, but record labels don’t give them this opportunity. Everything is planned, every note perfect. Rob’s Solstice is real and easy on the ears.
Rob is the perfect musician for a tour, but nothing is planned right now. It’s not “his thing,” he says, although he is open to doing some sporadic shows.
In the meantime, go to https://www.robgraves.com/#/ and that will link you to all of the purchase choices.
Stay safe and remember:
“Music is a great healer. Begin and end your day with music.”
– Lailah Gifty Akita