He sits in his home recording studio as we talk casually. Although I have heard him sing and play his guitar many times, there are many things I realized I didn’t know about Robb McCormick. On the surface you might see a laid-back, hippy teddy bear of a guy, but throughout our conversation, I found that he is much more than just Some Guy Named Robb.
Emory: Who came up with the name, Some Guy Named Robb?
Robb: I was in Altus playing at Kelt’s, and someone called to ask who was playing music that night, and the bartender looked at me, scratched his head and said, “Some guy named Robb.”
E: What are your musical influences? Which artists inspire you?
R: I certainly jump around [from artist to artist]. The first song I remember loving at a young age was “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King. I wore the grooves out on that record. There’s this sustained feeling that makes you want to melt into that song. Paul Simon and Sting are some of my favorites. In fact, my wife, Jeri, and I are going to see them together in concert for our anniversary. U2, The Cure, and Bach’s “Air in G” come to mind. I remember listening to “Air in G” in choir with Mr. Townsend at RHS. I was instantly drawn in by the long, sustained note that begins the piece; similar to the feeling I had with “Stand by Me.”
The Police’s Synchronicity molded me. My mom gave me that CD, and when I asked her why she chose that CD, she said, “They were called The Police, so I thought they couldn’t be too bad.”
I’ve been influenced by everything I’ve ever listened to; even current songs on YouTube and the radio. My song, “Everybody Blames You,” is inspired by Eminem. I have vinyl, CDs, tapes. My CDs are my friends. I like to look at the cover art and read the notes.
E: When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
R: I’ve always liked music. I was working for my dad at the furniture store [McCormick Furniture in Russellville], the book store, the Picwood and Bailey’s Grill. The world stopped and said, “If you’re going to do this you’re going to have to do this now.” And I quit all of those jobs. Financially, I definitely went into the hole before I figured out I could teach lessons to support myself. I would go to gigs with Ben Smith two hours away and make $25, which basically covered the gas to drive there and back.
E: Who taught you to play the guitar?
R: A guy named Dale Gilke who worked at the furniture store. He taught me songs like REO Speedwagon’s “Take It on the Run.” I also took lessons from James Prim for about a month. I wasn’t a great student. After that I taught myself. I also took piano at age five for about six months and from Vicky Kiehl at ATU. I really dig the piano.
E: Tell me about your latest album, 7.
R: 7 was the first album I recorded in my house. If you can afford the equipment, you can produce the same kind of album as they record in a studio these days. “Something Beautiful This Way Comes” was written for a friend whose wife left him. It was meant to be an uplifting message to him.
“Homeless” is this song I struggled with for a while. Why am I really writing this? I think that’s the first line, “This doesn’t make any sense.” My mom passed away about 6 years ago in February. This song is from my Dad’s perspective.
“Lullaby” was written to my daughter. The life insurance policy for your kids is that you want to leave them “you.” “Lullaby” is a guide to choosing someone you can live with for the rest of your life. It’s a really intimate album.
“Stop Pleasing the World;” God gave me that one. I really like “Ain’t No Love.” It’s kind-of this anthem toward both the church and the world. It’s challenging.
E: What do you hope people will say about your music? What feelings or reactions do you aim to inspire?
R: I think most musicians, including myself, just want to connect. “What do you Think, Christine?” [on the album, 7] is about a girl I was once engaged to. Looking back on it, there were so many things I wanted to do differently. I just wanted to say, “I’m sorry.” I honestly started talking about the situation. People have really connected to it. When you write about yourself, you risk being transparent and vulnerable.
E: What is your process for songwriting?
R: It begins with an idea. I’m looking at a playlist for the next album. One is called “The Stars” and it’s kind of autobiographical. It’s about a guy who gets into music and is offered record deals. “If You’re Cold” began as an idea. You build up an idea of what’s important to you, and you realize it’s the person [not the idea] who’s important to you. If we can build something up in the listener’s mind and then just tear it out, it makes an impact. “The Sinking of the USS America” is an analogy of how America is going downhill in a lot of ways. It goes down through the social classes on the ship levels from top to bottom. The ship sinks and we have to find some place to be.
We were praying for the kids one night, and I started “Laughter and Tears.”
“Rambling Man” is a country song. Instead of running into the Devil at the Crossroads like in lots of stories, he runs into God. It’s a work in progress.
Lyrics start with a point I want to get across. Sometimes I’ll start with the music, jamming on the piano or the guitar; I’m trying to get a feel.
Once I put it out, I give it about a year before I want to hear it again.
E: How far does your fan base reach?
R: Facebook gives me stats. There are fans from India to Australia, Alaska and Africa. I’m not very big in Russia or Jamaica, but I’m the U2 of Bangladesh.
E: Other than playing guitar and singing, what do you love to do?
R: [I like to] hang out with my family, be outdoors in Colorado. I love traveling; seeing things I haven’t seen.
E: Family is obviously very important to you. You are married with a young son and daughter. How do you share your love for music with them?
R: I don’t force music down anyone’s throat. I don’t let it come between us when I’m having a good time with my kids. I live life first then write about it later. If you’ve got a family, that’s where you ought to be. I want to drink in this time with them while they’re young. Music is a wonderful expression, but you have to live life. I like it when I play a new song and put the guitar down. Then 5 or 10 minutes later I hear them singing it like little mocking birds. Then I know it’s a good tune.
I love my family, and they know if they need me, my guitar is firewood.
E: In addition to writing, recording and performing, you also teach guitar lessons and lead worship at Fellowship of Christians. How do all of these pieces fit together?
R: Sometimes I’m performing in a bar at 2 a.m. and then at worship practice at 7 a.m. I don’t sleep much. I get a few hours here and there. Life takes control.
The line between secular and Christian is very thin. I feel like what I’m meant to do is honor God wherever I am. I do a lot of crossovers. I’ve done Pat Benatar’s “We Belong” in church.
In March I’m going on a trip to England with my guitar. My pastor, Wayne Drain, has a relationship with some churches over there. It’s a sharing of what the spirit’s doing all over the world. I’m going to play music for worship while I’m over there, and then I’m going to do some free shows and see how people respond. I’ve never been, so I’m curious. I’d like to see Big Ben and the River Thames. I’d like to go to South Hampton Dock where the Titanic docked.
I don’t normally enter contests, but when friend after friend sent me a link to the Song of Arkansas songwriting contest on Arkansas.com, I wrote and entered a song about Arkansas. If I am chosen to be in the top five, you can all vote for me in February.
E: I’ve noticed that you frequently give your time and talents back to our community. In addition to your church, F.O.C., what are some of the organizations and events you care about helping with your music?
R: There are a lot. Some that come to mind are the ATU Wesley Foundation and Age to Age, Grace Fellowship, Fellowship Bible Church, First United Methodist Church, Manna House, The Crossing, the Pancreatic Cancer benefit, Relay for Life and Main Street Mission.
It is our duty as artists to give our gift we’ve been given. The reason God has blessed me with his gift is that I am willing to give that gift back. It seems we have lost the art of giving. When kids ask me, “How do I do what you do?” I tell them, “Have an anchor in giving.”
I feel loved by my community. That is success to me.