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INTERVIEW: RICH ROBINSON of MAGPIE SALUTE – July 2018

| 23 July 2018 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “THE MAGPIE SALUTE-featuring three former members from the now-defunct The Black Crowes (Rich Robinson, Marc Ford and Sven Pipien)-will release their debut studio album HIGH WATER I on Friday, August 10 and hit the road this summer in its support, stopping locally in DETROIT on SATURDAY, AUGUST 25 at the DTE ENERGY MUSIC THEATRE alongside Gov’t Mule and The Avett Brothers. The band-Rich Robinson, Marc Ford, John Hogg, Sven Pipien, Matt Slocum and Joe Magistro-are launching HIGH WATER I with the first single “Send Me An Omen” (available now), in which the twang of a hummable riff roars under Hogg’s towering delivery before spiraling into an entrancing melody punctuated by gang harmonies and butter smooth solos. “‘Send Me An Omen,’ to me, wraps up all of the elements of this band,” says Robinson. “There’s pure rock ‘n roll juxtaposed with these pop melodies sung with a melancholy that creates this beautiful balance of surreal dark and light.” We got Rich Robinson on the phone to discuss the new disc, touring, and much more…

Photo credit: Joe Russo

Rich: Hello?

ToddStar: Hello, Rich. How are you?

Rich: Pretty good. How are you doing?

ToddStar: Doing good. Thanks so much for taking time out today. I really appreciate it.

Rich: Oh, yeah. Definitely.

ToddStar: You have a lot going on, a tour and a new album from the Magpie Salute. Let’s start with the album, the album High Water I, coming out August 10th on Eagle Rock. What can you tell us about this album that fans of yours might not catch or realize the first or second time they listen to this album?

Rich: I don’t know. That’s tough to answer because people listen to music in different ways, you know what I mean? And everyone kind of gets different things out of it. The cool thing is that it doesn’t really even matter what I mean when I write a song or what John means or Mark means. It’s what the person who listens to it, how they sort of connect it to their lives and what they get out of it. So, it’s really I have no idea. I just hope that they connect on some level and just, and kind of enjoy it.

ToddStar: Well, now that you’re been able to distance yourself from the process a little bit, I know it’s harder to look something especially while you’re in the middle of recording or mixing or mastering, looking back now, what songs from the album still grab you as intensely as they did when you were in the process of the writing and recording stages?

Rich: I mean, I think, we recorded two albums. We recorded 29 songs and there’s two records, High Water I and High Water II, which is coming out in early 2019. And before I sequenced the whole thing, all of the songs were finished. And then we just put everything kind of on a table or on some sort of platform, and then you can kind of separate them and see where everything goes. So I still look at this as one piece, you know what I mean? Although the releases are staggered. But every song has a new life. I mean, every song, I don’t get bored with the songs, you know what I mean? It’s almost like they go in some sort of rotation, you know what I mean? Some days, I’ll listen to “High Water” a ton and be really into it. And some days a song like “You Found Me” and “Sister Moon” are cool. So it’s just there’s no definitive song that I still keep going to. I really think that the record has a lot of depth. And I think both records do. And I think that it’s just really more like how I feel in a day, more that than sort of what I’m more interested in or less interested in.

ToddStar: In the past, you’ve been in bands, you’ve done the solo thing. What is it about this project specifically that made you want to, like you said, put together 29 songs and then go out and tour with this group of artists?

Rich: Well, I mean, I was in one band for a long time and it grew pretty quickly into this sort of negative sort of tornado and it was just constant. And it kept getting more and more intense being in the other band. And so, although I liked the band context, I mean, I liked the fact that everyone’s bringing something to the stage, and it’s cool, and there’s a collective, and we’re all up there, sort of, part of this broader thing. But it got too intense, and I couldn’t do it anymore. Making solo records is cool because it’s almost like just, in my opinion, the sky is the limit. And you can do anything you want. But it’s almost like finger painting. It’s like you can add this, you can do this, it’s really cool. But at the end of the day, it’s just you. And there’s something really cool about that. But there’s still no collective. There’s no band. There’s no interplay. And so, for Magpie Salute, I think what’s really cool is to have all of these musicians in the studio together and appreciating what everyone’s bringing to the table. I mean, things that I wouldn’t think of. Bringing Marc in, what’s Marc going to bring to the table? What’s Matt Slocum bringing? What’s Sven bringing? What John is bringing. And sort of having that, I think, kind of elevates it a bit. And to be able to play with people that you have such a strong musical connection with is a gift. And so the cool thing about this band is that I have this connection with everyone in different contexts. So John and I were in a band called Hookah Brown. Joe has played on all my solo records. Matt Slocum played on my solo records. Me, Marc and Sven were in the Crowes together. And so it’s just this sort of convergence of all these different contexts. But it’s interesting for me to see how Marc plays with Joe, and how Matt and Sven work off each other, and how John is kind of singing on top of all of it. So it’s just one of those things that I knew would work, but I didn’t really think about it too much. So I think it’s great for that.

ToddStar: Kind of like your own personal greatest hits.

Rich: Yeah.

ToddStar: That said, Rich, with the Magpies, it is a band. And everything I’ve read and seen, you’re giving everybody their due. What’s it feel like knowing it’s still kind of labeled as your band or you’re kind of the front guy when you’re reading stuff or hearing things in the press?

Rich: I mean, someone kind of has to make a decision. Someone’s got to help organize everything. But I ultimately don’t think about it that way. And I don’t think anyone else really does anyway, either. I think everyone’s pretty comfortable with us all being here together, you know what I mean? We’re all on this journey together, even the crew, even everyone that we’re out with is here because we all want to be here. And we want this to kind of thrive and succeed, and to spread the word. And that’s more important than who’s the leader, or who’s this or that. That’s how I see it. And I know everyone in the band sees it that way. And it’s just really cool for a band that got so successful so early on and trudged along for 24 years. And although we made great records and I was very proud of those records, and of the songs that I wrote, and all of those things were amazing. But towards the end it was so negative, it was hard to have that reverence for what we were doing. It was so bogged down in negativity. And no one, and it definitely wasn’t a team. And everyone was just there just to kind of because this is what we did for a living. And it really sunk into this sort of area of misery. And so to be back in a band making really music on that level, if not better, but to have reverence and have respect for it, and have respect for each other is just such a cool thing to live with.

ToddStar: You guys are going out on tour, you’re doing various dates and head over to Europe. But then you’re going to come back to the States. And one of those dates is right here in Detroit at DTE. You’re doing some dates with Gov’t Mule on the Dark Side of the Mule tour. What’s it like for you to be hitting the stage with guys like Gov’t Mule or the Avett Brothers?

Rich: Are you saying that I’m really old?

ToddStar: Well, I’ll tell you, if I’m saying that, Rich, I’m old to because I have been listening to your music for decades.

Rich: Oh, okay. Cool. No. I mean, yeah. I mean, look. It’s cool because Gov’t Mule opened for us. On their first tour, they came out with the Crowes which was really cool. It was when it was just a three-piece, it was Warren, Matt, and Allen Woody. And to see how they’ve grown. And I don’t know much about the Avett Brothers. I know they’re from Asheville and they’re cool. And it’s an interesting bill. It’s a rock and roll band. It’s a kind of folky band. And then you have Gov’t Mule. So it’s cool, but I don’t really consider anything or think about anything like that. I kind of just go where we go. We play what we play.

ToddStar: Rich, you threw names out there and people you’ve been around; you threw Warren’s name out there like it was nothing. When’s the last time you were actually star struck, Rich?

Rich: I don’t know. I mean, I kind of, I’ve never really believed in that kind of stuff because, I don’t know. I just, I mean, I remember people always asked me like, “What was it like when Jimmy Page was in your band?” I’m like, “He was in my band.” It’s just like, “He was our friend.” I mean, we looked at Jimmy like our friend. And Jimmy looked at us as his friends. And we all had this love for music. Jimmy, I remember, we were playing stuff and Jimmy was like, “Oh man, Davey Graham. You gotta check this out.” And he sent me the CD of one of his favorite guitar players who did a lot of acoustic slides on the 12-string. And he remembers this like, “I remember Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. And they were on the radio in England when I was a kid. And they did this song, Beautiful City. And I want to send it to you.” So he found that recording. I mean, his love for music and his knowledge of music was so deep and amazing, like ours. And we shared that in common. And so when we’d get up there to play his songs, we got up there to play Zeppelin songs, we weren’t going to be bogged down in, “Oh my God, that’s Jimmy Page!” I’m up there to do a job, and that’s to honor Led Zeppelin and Jimmy’s work the best that I can and make sure that he knows that we’ve got him covered, you know what I mean? And that’s kind of how I’ve always been. Just really, touring with the Stones, or playing with Dylan, or playing with Neil Young, or AC/DC to I don’t know, anyone in between, it’s always kind of been that way. I have the utmost respect for a lot of the people that we’ve toured with, but that’s ultimately where it kind of is, if that makes sense.

ToddStar: Yeah, it does. Getting back to the album I, what song or two on this do you hope that the fan base, and just your fans around the world, really latch on to and will stand up against your discography?

Rich: I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t know. Because if someone was to say like, “Write a hit song.” I would never know how to write a hit song. I never did know how to write a hit song. I did write hit songs. But I never knew how to. I just wrote what I wrote. And I’ve always been that way. And so what rises to the top or what people can kind of latch on to or connect with is, I have zero idea why or what for. I mean, I hope that people listen to this record as a piece and to kind of follow the journey. That’s the coolest thing for me is to just be able to, preferably on vinyl, sit down and listen to the sequence and kind of close your eyes and go somewhere. And it’s designed to take you somewhere more as a broader piece. And, I mean, I always thing about that. I mean, a part that’s in a song within a record within in a career, what’s the overall music, what’s the overall arc of the journey that you’re taking from a creative standpoint? And where does that go? I think music is a friend because it gives you validation. It can validate your feelings, it can bring you joy, it can commiserate when you’re feeling bummed, it can show you a different angle to the world. I mean, it can be so poignant when it comes to sort of explaining the world for someone who may be confused. And so that’s ultimately what I hope that people can tap into and sort of glean from what the record is and what the songs are. Because it’s on so many levels. I mean, there’s a sonic level that you can vibrate with in the sense that everything is on a sympathic frequency. This sort of sound comes out with all of these sort of vibrations. And then that creates another vibration which then goes into the world. And someone can kind of sympathetically vibrate with that, and move out, and sort of gain something from listening to the music. And the more authentic it is and the more sort of real and human it is, I think the stronger the connection is.

ToddStar: I’ve been able to absorb the album in its entirety. I skipped listening to singles and went from song 1 to song 12. I like that journey that you’re talking about and that real feel that you get while you’re listening to it, kind of morph and ebb and flow from song to song. That said, looking back over your personal discography, Rich, what’s the one or two songs that you really still have some attachment to that you thought never got their fair shake?

Rich: I don’t ever look at it like a fair shake or not, you know what I mean? I have songs that I listen to and I still really love. There’s songs that I’ve gotten away from over 28 years of doing this that I’ve come back to, or some that I just kind of stay away from a little bit. But ultimately, I always feel like the record we made, the records we made, are always the best record we can make at the time that we made them. So I have zero regrets. I mean, I don’t look back and think, “Oh, I wish I would have done that differently. I wish this differently.” But that being said, I mean there are songs that just really are cool. I mean, songs and records that are like, “Wow, that was a cool record. It was heavy.” I mean, Three Snakes and One Charm was one of those records that there’s so much depth on that record. And depth of tone, and depth of song, and depth of approach, and just, I mean, everything. And it wasn’t even remotely one of our most popular records, but it was just it was one of my favorites. So, I mean, ultimately, that’s kind of where I look at it on a sort of bigger scale like that.

ToddStar: Fair enough. I know you’re busy, so I’ve got one more for you before we let you go. Rich, you’ve done it all. I mean, and there’s still more to do. I mean, you’re a long ways from being able to hang it up. But, in your mind, what else is there really left for you to do? I mean, are there any accolades you’re still looking for?

Rich: I don’t look for accolades, really. I just look for getting better. And I hold myself and my work to a standard that I hope gets better. It’s always exploration. I don’t know everything. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. And so, to me, writing a better song, playing a better show, like I said with this band, sort of creating this band where we’re all very respectful of one another and have reverence for each other and what we’re doing, those are the most important things to me. And I think everyone else in the band feels the exact same way. The cool thing about it is there are no laurels for us to rest on. We’re a brand new band. And so we’re just kind of getting this whole thing started again. And so there’s a youthful exuberance in an older shell that exists with that.

ToddStar: Rich, again I appreciate you taking time out and we wish you well on the dates you have in the US before you head over to Europe. And I look forward to you traveling the country and doing what you do the best when you’re out there with Gov’t Mule.

Rich: Great. Thank you so much.

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Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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