Introducing herself to listeners with a blend of raw vulnerability and ear worm pop hooks, Robinson has built a loyal following of likeminded emotionally charged listeners who have danced and sang their hearts out to songs like ‘Nothing To Regret’, ‘Medicine’ and ‘Karma’.
The New Zealand singer-songwriter has welcomed her debut EP ‘Watching You’ into the world with a bold pop polish. From the rhythmic flow of ‘I Tried’, to the pulsating beat of ‘Don’t Say’, to the emotionally driven title track that hears her bearing her soul, she finds a way to really open up to listeners within this collection.
Bringing this EP to the live stage later this month, she will be heading on her first headlining tour of Australia with highly anticipated dates in Sydney and Melbourne.
I recently chatted to Robinson about the sonical and lyrical inspirations behind her debut EP ‘Watching You’, explored the creative process behind ‘I Tried’ and discussed the art of collaborating and how it’s impacted her artistry. Check out the chat HERE;
TB: Your debut EP ‘Watching You’ is polished pop affair that hears you honing your sound and diving deeper into the sonic you had already previously established. Song’s like ‘I Tried’ and ‘Watching You’ in particular gave me a bit of Taylor Swift inspired element while listening. So what was inspiring you sonically while working on this EP?
R: I know that a lot of people like to listen to music and have some references when they start a session, but I just love going straight to the piano and doing whatever feels natural in that moment. There are sometimes that you go into a session and you feel like you’ve got nothing to say that day, but there are other times where everything falls into place in a very authentic and beautiful way. And I think that most of these songs from the EP happened like that.
I was in London a year and a half ago, and I went into the ‘Watching You’ session with Mike Needle and Dan Bryer and had no idea what I was going to write about that day but as soon as I played the chords it was as if I could feel what the emotion was. The words sometimes find their way to the melody in a really beautiful way.
Releasing singles was a really nice introduction to me as an artist and who I was, but I really wanted to release a full body of work once there was a cohesiveness throughout what I was doing. So once it got to the point we could connect it all up with production but have four really different feeling songs, then the EP fell into place.
TB: ’I Tried’ is a song that immediately stood out to me with it’s refined pop polish, so do you mind explaining how this song came together creatively?
R: I was in Texas doing SXSW, but whilst I was there I did a session with Phil Cook, Olivia Waithe and Steven Bashir. I sat down at the piano and we just talked for hours while I was explaining this long winded story. It was about how you may have met someone that felt like the right person at the wrong time. You try to get them out of your brain but as much as you try you realise how much you really do like them. And that’s what this came to be about too.
It was initially a piano ballad, but once all the songs were finished Sam De Jong jumped on the production and lifted it with such a quirky contrast, which is what he also did to ‘Don’t Say’. So they both feel like pretty fun songs but also have an emotional depth behind them.
TB: I feel like that contrast is highlighted really well on those tracks, because ’Don’t Say’ to me felt like a bit of a Robyn sort of moment with it’s pulsating synths and emotional underlining lyrics.
R: I love that! I initially wrote that song in Los Angeles with Fred Gibson. We were just vibing at the start of the session, he was doing some really cool production things and I just jumped on the mic and was singing all of these different melodies. He recorded the whole thing and at the end we were going through it all and could instantly pick out what was the verse, pre and chorus.
I had this song sitting there for a year and a half which is the same for most of the songs on the EP, but now these are the songs that feel like the right next step for me.
TB: ’Lie To Me’ is a song that I feel like quintessential Robinson, and has quickly become a fan favourite on this EP because of it’s moody sonic and your dreamy vocals.
R: Oh that is a classic Robinson song, for sure! It’s also one of those special songs as it feels very essential to my life. It was exactly what I was going through at the time and sometimes you write a song and it ends up meaning even more to you down the track, and that’s what happened with this one.
TB: I follow quite a few Julia Michaels fans on Twitter and they’ve been in particular very supportive about this EP and this song.
R: Oh my god, do you know Laura?
R: Laura, is seriously so sweet! There is this group of Robinson fans who have started this Twitter chat and I always see it and I just think that these girls are the coolest! There is so many people apart of it now, and they are all so wonderful, and it’s been so incredible to see their reaction to all of these songs.
TB: So looking back on you first experimentation with music, how long did it take you to find your voice and how you wanted this whole artistic vision to come together?
R: I honestly think I’m very lucky to have Ashley Page as my manager, because at 17/18 I had music ready to release but it was really about taking that time to allow myself to actually figure out who I was as an artist and as a person. And he really allowed and encouraged that.
The biggest challenge was for me was to learn how to co-write as I had done it on my own for so long. I was learning about other people’s experiences and learning about what I wanted to focus on. So Ashley allowing me that time to have that experimentation was very crucial to this whole process as when I finally released music it felt right.
TB: Reflecting on the ‘Watching You’ EP in it’s entirety, what would you say is the most vulnerable moment on it for you as a songwriter?
R: At their individual cores, they’re all emotional songs. ‘Watching You’ is definitely the most heart wrenching one as the concept of unrequited love is so raw as it is.
I remember being in the studio with Sam to re-record the vocals as I was sick when I first recored them. I was full on crying in the recording and I sometimes think you can kinda hear it in the little breaks of the vocals. But I do think that emotion really added to the overall feel of the song.
TB: You’ve done a lot of collaboration over the past year with artists like Illy, Ritual, Frankie Wah, CORSAK and Grey. So what has been the biggest takeaway from collaborating with all of these artists within your own personal discovery of the musician you want to be?
R: I think it’s just incredible experiencing other people’s musicianship. There’s no one way to write a song or to do music. Through collaborating you learn so much about musicians, their lives and what their journey’s have been like. On top of that, I think combining two different worlds is always such an amazing thing. So I think I’ve just learnt to appreciate how special collaborating can be.
TB: Last time we talked you told me that you dressed up as KISS with your band for Halloween but wanted to dress up as the guy from We’re The Millers that has “No Regrets’ on his forehead for the next Halloween. So did you ever end up doing that?
R: *Laughs* No I didn’t, but I did go to a Halloween party and my costume was literally pathetic. So I’m kicking myself that I didn’t remember that idea I had for the We’re The Millers costume.
I ended up going to a Halloween store and all the costumes were ridiculously expensive so I went home and got these bug stickers and put them all over me, wore all black and dripped blood over myself. It was a bit tragic, but I did put a lot of effort in.
TB: Since our last chat you’ve done quite a bit of support slots as well as some headline shows. So what have you learnt about yourself as a live performer over the past year that you’ve wanted to work on or implement in these upcoming Australian headline shows?
R: I just think all live performance is incredible because each time you do it you learn something new, even if we deam it as a negative experience in the moment.
I remember doing a show years ago where Ableton crashed. I always thought that would be the worst thing ever but you actually learn how to handle yourself in those situations and everything turns out to be fine.
Doing these support tours recently has been great because you’re playing to someone else fans and you get to gauge the reaction to your music in such a brutally honest way and see the raw connection with the crowd.
I think the upcoming shows are going to be so exciting because there is so much new music to add to the set, and it’s music that I’m so proud of.
TB: What song from the ‘Watching You’ EP are you most nervous about performing live?
R: Look probably ‘Watching You’ because it’s so sad and I may actually cry. But oh well what can you do *laughs*.
TB: Let’s play a little game of rapid fire questions. You ready?!
R: Love that! Let’s do it!
TB: The emoji that best describes my new EP ‘Watching You’ is…
R: The blue love heart!
TB: If I could have any super power it would be to..
R: Be invisible for the day…. actually wait… I take that back. I want to fly!
TB: Most mornings I…
R: Sleep in.
TB: If I was to have a drink named after me it would be called the…
TB: My pre show ritual involves…
R: Vocal warms up and talking a lot because I’m nervous
‘Watching You’ is out now
Robinson Australian Tour
Wednesday 11 March – The Lansdowne, Sydney
Friday 13 March – The Gasometer Hotel