As guitarist for The Black Crowes, he’s put out nine studio albums and sold over 35 million records, and co-wrote the number one hit “She Talks To Angels” when he was just a teenager. This June, Rich Robinson released his third solo album The Ceaseless Sight, showcasing not only his musicianship, but also his lyric-writing abilities. Robinson is currently on tour as a solo artist, and will embark this fall as a part of the Experience Hendrix tribute tour along with Buddy Guy, Johnny Lang and others. He talked to us about his favorite Black Crowes lyrics, his songwriting heroes, and what it’s like to finally be the frontman.
How would you describe your new album?
I wanted to approach the record with electric and acoustic textures and big drums.Lyrically I think it’s a positive record about moving forward.
How would you compare it to your last album?
It’s more positive thematically than the last one. I feel like Crooked Sun was a look around at what my life was like and this record is about Leaving the mess behind.
After so many years as the guitar player in a band, what’s it like to be the frontman?
I look at it like it’s a band. I’ve always led the Crowes musically on stage. This time I’m just standing in the center.
Who are some current guitar players you enjoy?
Nels Cline is really interesting. Derek Trucks is opening up a whole new landscape in the guitar world.
What are some Black Crowes songs that you enjoy lyrically?
I like “Thorn In My Pride,” “Non Fiction,” “Under A Mountain.”
How did you learn how to play guitar?
My dad taught me 3 chords and sent me on my way. When I discovered Nick Drake I wanted to know how someone could make the guitar sound the way he did. A friend showed me an open E tuning and I took it from there.
Who are your songwriting heroes?
Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Stephen Stills,Sly Stone,Jagger/Richards, Lennon/McCartney, George Harrison, to name a few.
What was the first song you ever wrote? Tell us about it.
The first song I wrote was called “Puds In Trucks .” My brother and I were in our punk phase. We were way into the Cramps at the time, and the Dead Kennedys.
What’s the last song you wrote or started?
I’m always writing so I have a few things here or there that I haven’t finished.
What’s the best song you ever wrote?
I always felt that the records I’ve made over the years had great songs on them. I never look back and think this record is better than that or these songs are better. There are lots of songs that I’m really proud of so there isn’t just one.
How do you go about writing songs?
It changes. Sometimes I’ll sit down to write and the whole song will come. Other times I’ll have a part that takes time to find it’s counterpart. It could be a chord or something sonic that will inspire a song. It could be anything really.
What is your approach to writing lyrics?
I finish the music sometimes with a vocal melody in mind sometimes not. Then I listen to the song and let the feeling of the song bring out the lyrics.
What’s a song on The Ceaseless Sight you’re particularly proud of and why?
Again I’m really proud of the overall record. That being said I really like the movement on “Down the Road” the drum beat the flow, the lyrics. To me it all culminates into a whole separate organism.
What’s a lyric or verse from the abum you’re a fan of?
From Trial and Faith: “A billowing sunset comes in like the fog/Stagnate unchanging until the dawn/The dawn my love the dawn my love/Crushes my ire like the birth of new sin”
Are there any words you love or hate?
What’s a song of yours that’s really touched people?
“Wiser Time”, “Girl From A Pawnshop”, and on this record “The Giving Key” seems to touch people.
Do you ever do any other kinds of writing?
As far as books or poems, not really. I stick to music, lyrics and painting.
If you could co-write with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills, and many more.
Who do you consider an underrated songwriter?
There are a lot if underrated songwriters in the world. I’m a big fan of Eric D Johnson from Fruit Bats. He’s making great records.
What do you consider to be the perfect song, and why?
A song that is musically interesting with movement and flow, but also has a strong melody that seamlessly interweaves with the music, and lyrically touches on an interesting theme and can state the them in an interesting way.