Songwriter Series presents guitarist, vocalist Joe Robinson
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As a 6-year-old, Joe Robinson’s first step into the world of music wasn’t so different than that of millions of other kids across the planet.
“I started taking piano lessons, and I really didn’t like them,” Robinson recalls with a laugh. He didn’t like the sitting still nor the classical music that was put in front of him.
After several years of struggling through his lack of enthusiasm of the piano and watching his parents’ living room music jams with friends, a 9-year-old Robinson pleaded with his parents to let him quit piano and try something new.
“Please, can I play guitar, like your friends?” he remembers begging. “I really think that’s my instrument.”
They came to a deal: Robinson could quit piano and take up guitar, but if he dropped guitar, he’d be put right back in piano lessons. With this motivation, a guitarist was born.
“I just fell in love with it right away,” Robinson said.
He liked the sounds he could make on his guitar, and he liked that he could take it anywhere, often setting up shop to play guitar, sing and write songs “way up into the bush” of his family’s small farm in rural Temagog, New South Wales, Australia.
“I didn’t think twice about totally committing to this instrument,” he said.
What: Songwriter Series presents Joe Robinson
When: Doors/bar open at 6 p.m.; show starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18
Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.
Tickets: $20 at chieftheater.com and All That, 811 Lincoln Ave.
Robinson is mostly self-taught and found no boundaries on the chords and tunes he could learn on the internet.
As an 11-year-old, Robinson began touring with his mentor and guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel. At 13, he claimed first at the Australian National Songwriting Competition. Two years later, in 2007, he released his first collection of original material, titled “Birdseed,” and in 2008, as a 17-year-old, found himself catapulted into an even brighter spotlight as the winner of “Australia’s Got Talent.”
Robinson’s discography grew quickly. He released “Time Jumpin’” in 2009, “Let Me Introduce You” in 2012, “Toe Jam EP” in 2012 and “Gemini Vol. 1 EP.” At the same time, he played — by his calculations — more than 10,000 hours of concerts on at least four continents. He moved 9,957 miles across the world to Nashville, Tennessee, where he often collaborates with Emmanuel, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, among others.
“Living in Nashville and collaborating with these extraordinary people, I really feel like I’m growing a lot,” Robinson said.
In his latest project, “Undertones,” Robinson’s acoustic-with-electronic-effects sound came through stronger and more true than in any previous album because he produced it, in a style not unlike how he learned his instrument in the first place.
“I watched a lot of online videos and courses on mixing and music production and figured out how to get the sounds I wanted,” he said. “I really enjoyed having end-to-end control; I really enjoyed the whole process.”
The 12 songs of “Undertones” are the end result of 80 Robinson wrote throughout a year during 2016 and 2017.
“It was pretty full-on,” he said.
As much as Robinson likes producing his own music, he also enjoys the collaborative process of working with other producers. He’s currently working on his next project with six-time, Grammy Award-winning producer and engineer Brent Maher.
“I think the greatest songs and literature are the most truthful and can speak to people all over the world,” Robinson said. “There are a lot of great artists who’ve done that, and I want to contribute to that. So I want to find more ways of saying more truthful things on a deeper level.”
On Saturday, Jan. 18, Robinson and his guitar will take the stage at the Chief Theater for the third show of this year’s Songwriter Series. Doors and the bar open at 6 p.m. ahead of the 7 p.m. show. Tickets are available at All That and chieftheater.com.
“Really, it’s about joy,” Robinson said. “I want to share the music I have with people and show how fun it can be. To me, (a show) is not necessarily a performance — it’s people getting together in a room and sharing an experience.”
Robinson also shares his music by way of an online video course called Joes12, in which Robinson talks with 19 guest artists about everything from practice to touring to scales to improvising.
“It’s a series of ideas that really span the gamut of ideas you wouldn’t necessarily learn at a music college,” he said.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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