An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Rob Grad
Photo by Dyana Valentine After being a member of two successful bands, this Venice, California-based
singer-songwriter decided to step out on his own. He is one of those rare, instantly recognizable artists who uses his unique style, sound and voice to create his own brand of rock. A fan at a recent show referred to the sound as "...if Lucinda Williams and Peter Gabriel sat in with U2."
Rob Grad was the bass player and a main songwriter in early the Ď90s RCA act Kik Tracee. After that experience and being inspired by Sonic Youth, he picked up the guitar, started singing, and left Kik Tracee to start in a new direction. In 1998, he formed a studio project called Superfine. Superfine recorded two CDs, a 7" vinyl single, and appeared on the 1999 soundtrack to the television show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which has sold over 200,000 copies to date.
As he continued writing, what he originally thought was going to be more Superfine material, Rob again found himself moving in a new direction. He is currently working on his first solo CD, and performing regionally on the west coast. These live solo performances have quickly been earning him a reputation as a "must see" artist. Recent Los Angeles venues include The Hotel Cafe and Genghis Cohen. His set lists tend to blend his original material with drastically reworked covers of an eclectic mix of songs that can include anything from Nirvana to Billie Holliday.
Guest performers on the album include Martin Tillman (cellist, Elton John) and John Leftwich (bassist, Lyle Lovett, the Eels). Rough mixes of some of the songs have already placed on NBC, CBS, HBO and the WB. The CD is tentatively titled "No Apologies" and will drop early 2008.
Photo by Jeannette Scheibe
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Hi Rob. It was great to meet you at the Durango Songwriter's Expo. So what are you currently up to as far as musical projects?
Rob Grad I'm really focused on my solo recording artist career right now. I was doing a lot of session and commercial work for awhile, but I realized I was spending too much energy on things that were just helping me to get by, rather than pouring it all into what I really want and what I'm best at. And I was wondering why not much was happening! I was spread too thin. Once I committed and made the space, things started to move quickly.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Who are some of your favorite artists and/or bands and influences?
Rob Grad This question is deceivingly simple. I don't really have a central figure musically or otherwise that has been my inspiration. There have been many. Who can I point to? Abraham Lincoln, U2, Thomas Edison, Tiger Woods, Henry Miller, Lucinda Williams, Peter Gabriel, the clerk in the supermarket yesterday who randomly said something that made me think...it's not that the clerk himself is a "biggest influence," but that process of being open and listening. It comes from everywhere.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Good point. So who are some of your favorite songwriters?
Rob Grad Chuck Cannon, when he lets loose with his solo material. He just kills me. U2, Lucinda Williams, Peter Gabriel. This list could get long, real fast. People who write songs with depth from a unique perspective that I can relate to. I've always been inspired by writers who stay relevant over time with songs that send chills up my spine. That's the type of artist I see myself as, and that's what I'm trying to do.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] So how many Durango Expo's have you gone to? Has it been helpful and how?
Rob Grad I've been to every Durango Expo I could get to since I first heard about it three years ago. It's this bubbling nucleus of incredibly talented, artistic and creative people from all sides of the business. Good things happen just being immersed in that. It's helped everywhere in every way. The showcases I've played there, in particular, have sparked some amazing relationships and opened some big doors for me.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] And what do you like to write and/or sing about?
Rob Grad I try to take my experience and the things I've learned and share them with people through my lyrics and melody. I want to connect to as many people as humanly possible. I've learned a lot from my experiences and I like being alive. It wasn't always that way. My music chronicles the journey.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] As far as writing habits - do you write all the time or when you're inspired?
Rob Grad I carry a moleskin notebook and a little hand recorder with me always. And I watch people. I talk to people. I love Las Vegas casinos. Everybody is there and accounted for. Phrases and melodies hit me all the time. My favorite quote about this is from Picasso - "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."
[Cindy Beth Gordon] What's some of the best advice you've received and from who?
Rob Grad To trust my own vision and voice. The woman's name is Christel Nani. I was undiagnosably ill for 5 years and she helped me to get healthy again.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] We're very glad you're healthy again. Where can people buy a copy of your songs or CD and find out about upcoming performances, etc.
Rob Grad I'm almost finished with a CD. The journey has been nothing short of incredible. People I idolize have stepped up out of the blue after hearing pieces of it offering to play and get involved. The energy around this thing has been amazing. Obviously It's not for sale yet, but I'm easy to find:
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Do you perform a lot - locally and/or nationally?
Rob Grad I've been performing in the LA area at places like the Hotel Cafe and Genghis Cohen and will be playing live nationally as soon as the CD is finished. I've had rough mixes from the album already place on a bunch of TV shows and get a lot of emails from all over the country. So I'm excited to get out there...and live has always been my thing.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] We're excited too! Thanks Rob for taking the time for this interview. We wish you much happiness and success with your upcoming shows and soon to be released CD!
Rob Grad Thanks Cindy.
For more information on this talented performing songwriter, check out his website at www.robgrad.com !
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