5 Insights from Jimmy Robbins on American Songwriter’s ‘Songwriter Soup’ Podcast

When Jimmy Robbins sat down with Songwriter Soup podcast hosts Laura Veltz, Tracy Hackney and Kevin Sokolnicki, he admitted it was the first podcast he agreed to appear on.

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“This is the first podcast I’ve ever said ‘yes’ to doing because in my head I’m like, ‘If I do a podcast, people are going to figure out that I don’t know what I’m doing,'” he laughs. “And that’s at the heart of me.”

Robbins is one of Nashville’s most successful songwriters, having penned hits for Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett, Kelsea Ballerini, and many more. Below, we look at some of Robbins’ best insights from episode two of Songwriter Soup presented in partnership with American Songwriter.

1. On Getting His First Record Deal

Before he was a hit songwriter, Robbins was a recording artist who signed a record deal and released a series of solo albums and EPs. “I think I made a mistake that a lot of young artists make, which is I worked really hard, signed a record deal, and then expected them to make me famous,” Robbins explained from his perspective. “I now encourage young artists to wait as long as they can on record deals because I didn’t realize the shifts in hoops you have to jump through to release music.”

The singer/songwriter learned this the hard way when he went from releasing music at his leisure as an independent artist to having to wait two years to release music when he was on a label. He notes that prior to signing the deal, he was writing more “dramatic, poetic emo music,” but then the label steered him toward a more “Disney” direction, as he signed the deal around the time when the Disney Channel movie, High School Musical, was wildly popular.

“I lost the fans I did have,” he recalls. Robbins ultimately did get out of the label deal and turned his focus solely to songwriting. “That was the part I always liked,” he says of songwriting. “I kind of sang my songs out of necessity.”

2. On Getting Resourceful

After he left the record label and became a full-time songwriter, Robbins recalls one year when he was struggling financially and had to get creative to make money to afford Christmas presents. Using his social media platform, he sent a message to his followers saying that for $100, he would write and record a song with their name in it along with personal facts. Over the course of one weekend, he churned out 15 videos and was able to buy Christmas presents for his family and friends.

“When you have a gift Laura, you have to nurture it,” Robbins jokes in response to Veltz noting that he’s famous for doing this and that she’s gotten personalized ring tones from Robbins.

3. On Experiencing”Imposter Syndrome

During the early days of his career, Robbins had the reputation of being a “track guy,” meaning a person who works solely in front of a computer to write and create songs. Robbins garnered this term after he purchased Pro Tools, a music-making software.

“I was one of a handful of guys doing that,” he says, admitting he was “convinced that everybody was going to figure out that I didn’t know what I was doing, especially when they started asking me to produce records and I had no idea what I was doing. I still feel that way about everything.”

Veltz notes that imposter syndrome is the “nature of songwriters.” “I think we all have imposter syndrome–I think we’re all like, ‘When are they going to figure us out?'” she says, with co-host Hackney stating that he also deals with imposter syndrome. “What a unifying thing, if we all feel that then no one should feel left out, which is an ironic thing in that moment,” Veltz responds.

4. On When the Hits (Don’t) Keep Coming

Robbins hit a winning streak when he became a full-time songwriter, achieving the rare feat of writing five No. 1 hits in the first 18 months of signing a publishing deal. Those hits include Blake Shelton’s “Sure Be Cool If You Did,” Thomas Rhett’s “It Goes Like This” and Jake Owen’s “Beachin’.” He also received a CMA Triple Play Award in 2014, an award for songwriters who write three No. 1 songs in the span of a year.

But Robbins hit a wall in 2015 when he didn’t have any No. 1 hits. He recalls that time “being very difficult for me. “At that point, all I had known was No. 1 songs,” he chuckles, as the first five singles he wrote went to No. 1 on the country charts. “But my perspective had changed so much and my expectations. It was a really hard thing for me, very humbling…I was very down.”

5. On the Value of a “Bad Writing Year”

Robbins explains how his self-described “bad writing year” coincided with a “bad life year,” as he and his fiancee had broken up, and that he’d experienced a financial blow due to buying her an expensive ring. But he looks back on the challenging experience with a fresh set of eyes and sees the value in his setbacks.

“I now feel that certain writers could use a bad year,” he states. “It can realign your perspective a little bit if you’re getting a little big for your britches or jaded and a little bitter about the whole industry because I came out on the other side of it excited again.”

By staying the course, Robbins observes that life “got better and more hits came,” his name behind Jason Aldean’s 2016 single “Lights Come On,” Kelsea Ballerini and Kenny Chesney’s No. 1 hit “Half of My Hometown,” cuts by Dan + Shay and much more success.

Robbins notes he’s proof that “you get waves as a writer, if you’re strong and you stay in it, you’ll get another one,” he says. “And that’s the whole deal; just riding it.”

(Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for ASCAP)

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