30 seconds: Robin Elliott

Robin Elliott is a riddle. Two parts singer songwriter, one part jazz-shanty-troubadour and one part Northern comic, you don’t always get what you are expecting from this Mersey-born performer.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 20 Jul 2012
  • min read
On record, his songs ebb and flow like poems, rich in imagery and sentiment. But the stage is where he really brings his craft to life; engaging a double bassist and professional jazz singers to take his music out of the realms of the proficient singer songwriter and into new uncharted territory.

With a voice that echoes Paul Simon’s range and pitch, waves of lilting accent and bittersweet melodies catch audiences unawares as he delivers astute political observations and sobering social comment.

This week, we spent 30 seconds with Robin, to find out what makes him tick.

How long have you been making music?
We always had my Granddad’s old upright piano in the house when I was growing up. He was a TV repair man. I remember trying to pick out melodies on there that I'd heard, but I can't remember when I started to try.

What inspired your latest song/EP/album?
The EP is called There is a Land. The title track I wrote a while ago, and then I decided I wanted to do a collection of songs that all related to that title in some way. It turns out practically anything can be related to that title if you try.

So a bunch of stuff: the recent royal wedding... realising that I'd remembered some old experience fleetingly and then forgotten it again, and now not knowing what it was I'd remembered... resisting yearning... Things to come...

It’s all ever so deep.

What process do you go through to create your music?
It's a writing process, for me. The job at the studio end of things is recording what's been written; for me the studio isn't really a part of the creative process.

For years I tried to resist developing a writing process at all, but generally what happens is I play the guitar constantly until I find some bit of music that has something interesting in, play around with it.

Then I spend a thousand years trying to figure out what the thing is I find interesting, and trying to find a topic or theme I can relate to that thing - that I can use that interesting music thing as a way of expressing. Then I hope that the music-thing and the theme-thing foment and ferment each other til I know what I want to write. Then I write it.

Alternatively, occasionally I dream songs. The shower is also good. I spend a lot of time in the shower.

How would you describe your sound?
I don’t know. Folksy-wolksy? I'm told I recall a sarky, arty, vaguely Northern Paul Simon.

What would your dream collaboration be?
Louise Brooks.

Where can we catch you performing next?
I'm playing upstairs at the Ritzy in Brixton on 25 of July and the Silver Bullet in Finsbury Park on 10 of August, and then I'm at the Rhythm Festival, Biggleswade, Bucks, on 26 August. Then on 1 of September I’m playing the Live and Unamplified Festival at St Margaret's House, Bethnal Green. If I get any more I’ll have to update my website.