Pat Robitaille (pronounced RO-bi-ty) grew up in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, where he spent countless hours soaking up the Motown, soul and Gospel music originating from the radio stations across the river in Detroit. He became a musician in junior high school, and now, at 34, Robitaille has toured internationally, had TV placements, and ventured to the music capitals of the United States to learn the realities of the music business. With five full albums behind him, he’s been working on a variety of new projects, including his new single, “Fearless Woman.”
With the aid of a highly inventive YouTube video produced by Massachusetts-based animation duo Opertura, Robitaille is promoting “Fearless Woman,” a song of reverence and respect for the female sex. “Opertura just seemed like they would be out of reach for me because their work was so incredible,” he told American Songwriter by phone from Canada. “Their catalog spoke for itself, I loved their work so much. We found them at just the right time in their timeline for it to happen. We just explained some of the feelings that we were going for and the intentions behind the song and they drummed up an incredible video.”
Written by Robitaille and Jay Merrow, of the Canadian dream pop duo Twin Rains, “Fearless Woman” was inspired by Robitaille’s observations about the women in his life. “In a world that is perpetually set up to hold women back, these are the bravest, strongest, most resilient and inspirational people I know,” Robitaille said in his press materials. The song opens with instrumental work very reminiscent of a Motown production intro, but then switches to a more modern pop flavor with heavy bass and kick drum, leading into Robitaille’s trademark falsetto underpinned with chords on his ’65 Fender Jaguar.
Robitaille ventured out of Canada to the States when he was barely out of his teens with no real plan but to follow the music. “I spent a lot of time in Detroit just because it was close by and I was making music and I just wound up in the States a lot, by way of Michigan. I was just making music at home with one of those first-generation digital recorders. A local music shop would spin the music I was making. Some people heard it, and fast-forward a couple years later and I ended up a production deal with some pretty successful people, then [engineer/producer] Ben Grosse [Vertical Horizon, Ben Folds] brought me out to LA. But I was way too young, I really couldn’t appreciate everything there. I had some unfavorable things in my contract. I went around to all different kinds of labels and nothing happened for me, but through that I ended up socially connecting with some guys from Nashville.”
“When you’re young you’re pretty green,” he continued, “and when I got to Nashville it was like a smack in the face, everybody there was so next level. Then I met the MuzikMafia people, like John Rich and Big Kenny and Gretchen [Wilson], and they were so cool. They had an extra bus for the MuzikMafia tours for people who just came along to assist, and I got to be part of that, to see everything from an insider’s perspective. I realized that I really needed to develop my talent, so I came back to Canada. And I think just by virtue of my experience in the States, it put me in a stronger position, it kind of got me launched.”
“Later I was in a band called the Walkervilles, it was a straight-up homage to our Motown influences,” he said. “It was a three piece, almost like getting a more Hendrix-y vibe out of Motown. Before we knew it we took off, and we ended up touring with the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, we recorded an album at Willie Nelson’s in Austin – it was all because we had this inherent love for the Motown thing and could articulate it.”
In 2018, with the members of Twin Rains, Robitaille cut a cover of the Velvet Underground BDSM classic “Venus in Furs,” written by Lou Reed, for the Netflix series You. “When the pilot was being done and the call went from the music director that they were looking for a cover, we put it together over the course of a weekend,” he said. Currently Robitaille has a co-write on Interscope folk artist Billy Raffoul’s latest release, International Hotel, and is collaborating on a video game soundtrack with film composer Jim Guthrie. And at the time of this writing, Robitaille is releasing another new single, “Montreal,” which he wrote with Canadian singer/songwriter Leighton Bain.
While Robitaille identifies as a singer/songwriter type, he can’t deny that the Motown connection of his youth still burns brightly. “In my early days of making music I think I identified with people like Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn,” he said, “channeling more of that singer/songwriter sound and feel. But this [sound] is authentically me, it definitely runs deep in my blood.”