Interview with singer/songwriter ‘Mantra-Pop’ star Robin Renée
Poet, artist, writer and musician Robin Renée is a force to be reckoned with…but a soft, sweet, and strong inspiring force. Her prose and poetry have appeared in PanGaia, Big Hammer #12, Songwriter’s Market, Bold Females and their Brazen Acts (Random House) while she plays her music, which she calls Mantra-Pop consistently on stages everywhere and is featured across her many releases like In Progress, All Six Senses and Live Devotion. Her current single “All I Am” is an inspiriting song that sees part of the proceeds of its sale going to support the anti-bullying “You Will Rise Project.” I had occasion to talk to this thought provoking and inspiring lady.
Tell us about your new single “All I Am.” It’s a solid commercial acoustic rocker (is it ok to say I found it in a commercial?)
“All I Am” came about from a few different sparks. My graphic artist and friend Jenn Phillips had some images in her head for a video, but knew the song for it didn’t exist yet; “All I Am” is my take on the ideas she relayed. Also, I had been running up against messages – in my own head and in society at large – that tell us we have to be one thing or another. That’s a fairly powerful and pervasive message in our culture and it takes some effort to get past it. In music, it’s traditionally harder, for example, to write both serious and humorous songs and to be understood by an audience. The same goes for spiritual and secular. “All I Am” is a song of encouragement to myself and to everyone who’s breaking out of their prescribed boxes. There is a lot of seriousness that underlies it, but I wanted the song itself to be fun and uplifting, so yes, it’s definitely ok to say it’s commercial, “All I Am” is very much a pop tune.
Now this of course is not your first release. You’ve made lots of music, play plenty of gigs per year, but this project has a special significance…the You Will Rise Project. Can you explain what that’s all about?
The You Will Rise Project provides a showcase for people of all ages who have been bullied to create and share artwork. I find this so moving and important. I think we’ve made a lot of progress in talking about and raising awareness about bullying, however making stricter rules in schools and reminding witnesses of bullying to speak up doesn’t really do all we need to do. The process of making art and sharing stories is another level of finding understanding and healing. I really love that the You Will Rise Project is based on providing the space for personal expression and artistic interaction around issues of bullying.
I like the label “Mantra-Pop.” What exactly is that and do you know anybody else making music like this?
Mantra-Pop is really the way I describe my work overall. It comes from the fact that about ten or eleven years ago I became very interested in kirtan chanting, a form of call and response chant originating from India. It just sort of evolved that I began to combine some kirtan and other forms of chanting with the singer/songwriter/pop that I was writing. There are a few artists working and playing with this now, I think, and you can even go back to George Harrison, who I love, and a song like “My Sweet Lord.” For me, the term “Mantra-Pop” has become a bit more expanded to mean all that I do creatively because again, I don’t feel as though my work needs to be one thing or the other. Actually the strength of it, I think, is the insistence on holding and presenting the seemingly disparate influences together.
You seem to be a self contained musical force-your own agent, record company, etc.-do you find this simply had to be this way in order for you to do what you wanted to do the way you wanted to do it or in this modern day climate with record companies dwindling in importance, is this the smart way to do what you do?
I often work primarily alone on my projects because that’s how it’s been. I was focused on independent touring and it was relatively easy to throw a guitar and a little bit of gear in the car and take off. I enjoy solo acoustic performances, and at the same time would like to expand from it. And yes, it can be a real challenge to wear all the proverbial hats. I’d welcome the right person or group to help with bookings, strategy, and all the things you need to keep a career running smoothly. But it’s a matter of finding the right match. I’m up for assembling the right team though!
So, what’s on the agenda for you in the near future?
I’m getting ready for a couple of smaller kirtans and concerts, a fun event with an amazingly fun project I’m part of called the Mutant Mountain Boys, and I’m excited to have been asked to perform at Evolvefest over Labor Day Weekend. After that, I’m co-facilitating a retreat with Edie Weinstein, and then there’s some time off for writing and creating the 2014 schedule.
Check out all the latest Robin’s doings and her releases at http://www.robinrenee.com/ “All I Am” at CD Baby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/robinrenee8 & iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/all-i-am-single/id688088887
You can find We Will Rise here: http://www.youwillriseproject.blogspot.com/