Track By Track: Rich Robinson The Ceaseless Sight
Last year, The Black Crowes’ Rich Robinson self-produced his new solo record during sessions that took place at Applehead Recording in Woodstock, N.Y. Along with steady collaborators Joe Magistro (drums) and Dan Wistrom (guitar), one new face that joined Robinson for the follow-up to 2011’s Through a Crooked Sun (also recorded at Applehead) was area resident Marco Benevento. Robinson had not heard of the keyboard player, who was recommended by studio staffers, but found that they “really connected and he knew exactly what to play just intuitively.”
I Know You
With this record, I didn’t have a whole album when I went in. I just had bits and pieces—I had skeletons of songs [and] I kind of did that on purpose because I love being in the studio, and I love one thing pushing off the next and creating multiple springboards. Joe Magistro and I recorded the basic tracks and then I brought in Marco Benevento, who was amazing. He came in and put all the keyboard parts down, which was really cool, and then Amy Helm came in and sang. But for the basic chords, it was just Joe and I in there writing and recording these songs. “I Know You” was one of those songs that I just came up with on the spot, and I was really happy with it. Once it was finished, my thought was: “This would be a great first song.”
Down The Road
Some songs I write in five minutes but [with] this song, I thought the verse was really cool and it took me a while to find the right chorus. Once I did, this melody just kind of came up and this way of singing. That’s kind of how I work—one thing will inspire another thing, which will inspire another thing.
One Road Hill
My son had this little baby Taylor guitar that was missing two strings, so it was almost like a ukulele. I was sitting in his room when he was about a year old and I just started playing this song, and he and I both connected to it. I really like lap dulcimers or mountain dulcimers, and I thought that it had the timbre of that. So I kind of loaded it up with the acoustic guitars and it was just something simple and very positive. I really liked writing a positive song lyrically.
The Giving Key
“The Giving Key” was just one of those things that flowed. It just wrote itself, and it’s just a nice love song. If I write electrically, I always like to write with the drummer, with either [founding Black Crowes member] Steve [Gorman] or with Joe. On my solo stuff, obviously, it’s Joe. I really love his sensibilities— he’s such a musical drummer and he and I just have this connection where we know where we’re going, and we just came up with this cool love song.
This Unfortunate Show
It’s pretty obvious what “This Unfortunate Show” is about. It’s about being frustrated in a situation. A lot of times, my brother and I don’t get along or we don’t see eye to eye, and that’s kind of what it is about.
In Comes the Night
“In Comes the Night” was about insomnia in a twilight kind of sleep. A lot of times, over the years—because I have kids or for whatever reason—it has been difficult for me to stop my mind and go to sleep. So I had this idea of: “Hey, here comes the night and what does it mean? What kind of night is it going to be? Am I going to be immersed in this world in and out of consciousness?” So I delved into these twilight sleeps where I go in and I see some really cool shit and understand some things about myself or about the world. I used chords that would set up some tension because you don’t really know what it’s going to be like, but then the chorus is kind of this big release that it’s OK.
I grew up loving the band WAR and Sly & The Family Stone, and there have always been songs that I wrote in the Crowes that had that element to it, like “Halfway To Everywhere” on Three Snakes [and One Charm] where we had Gary Shider and Mudbone [Gary Cooper] come play and do really cool shit.
Lyrically, it was about someone living inside [himself ] and never being able to look outside. I liked the one-word chorus, and I let the music take what the chorus is conceptually because music isn’t vocal language, and a lot of people who live inside themselves have a harder time conveying that and speaking that.
I Have a Feeling
I always wanted to write a song that has this kind of really slow, bubbling percussion and rhythm section that pumped along like a WAR song and then, went into these changes. “I Have a Feeling” is about the whole world shifting. There’s a positivity that’s coming and a strong paradigm shift in the way that we deal with one another and how we deal with the world. It’s kind of like waking up, looking at things now and going, “I can’t believe we did that 10 years ago—that was absolutely acceptable and now it just seems so weird.”
“I Remember” is a rock-and-roll song that had been around for a while. I really liked the pace of it and the kind of bell-bottom, bluesy chorus. It has this kind of cool descending part. It’s a song of reflection and looking back on how life affects people and how they change and how certain pasts can make you go places or forget yourself or whatever it may be.
I’m really into music creating feeling in the cinematic sense. I scored a movie and a play and worked in that realm, and I always liked the fact that music can create these different emotions. I thought it was this kind of a lonely sounding song, but then, this chorus comes in—plugging along with the piano—and it just turns it into something much more positive and beautiful.
Trial & Faith
I was going through another Dylan phase and really listening to “Isis” a ton. I love the fact that there’s this piece of music that was never changing but a really cool story. And so I wanted to come up with a great story and build a track. I had this acoustic thing with the drums moving this way and that way, and then I brought in a second drum kit, an electric guitar and all these kind of cool percussive effects. I wanted to deliver it in more of a Beggars Banquet kind of way—a ‘60s, dirty rock-and-roll kind of way.
Obscure The Day
I was thinking about writing lyrics for this one but then I thought, “This works really well as an instrumental and it just makes sense as a great ending of a record.” It leaves a lot open to interpretation. What does this mean? Where is this going? I really liked that concept of it.