‘It’s all rooted in my own first-person experience’ | Interview with Rob Quo

Do you feel the old times vibes? Do you get the urge to slow dance around the house? Mute this stupid TV . Take a trip down memory lane and Say No More!

Read our interview with the British artist below.

Describe your sound in three words

Eclectic, nostalgiac, contemporary.

Raised in rural England but with a sound that has been influenced by The Great American Songbook. Tell us a few things about your music background. Musicians you admire etc.

I grew up in a secluded little village devoid of kids my own age and anything you might refer to as ‘pop culture’. One thing we did have was a little hang at this slightly eccentric New Zealender’s place just up the road where we could make stuff, eat sweets and listen to music. The first records I was exposed to were the likes of Elvis, Queen & The Beach Boys. My parents were a fair bit older than my peers’, and it was the music of their childhoods that was the basis of my own. This probably explains my love for all things slightly vintage/nostalgiac. Whatever I do is strained through that in one way or another.
It was Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys that turned me on to words. The idea of being poetic, articulate but contemporary/cool made me aware of songwriting as this beatiful assembly of melodic/harmonic components that could become so much more than the sum of its parts. Later in my teens, I naturally veered towards folk music as the real distillation of these principles. It was John Martyn that demonstrated that you could access the full spectrum with just your instrument and your voice, and so I ditched the electric for an acoustic.
One other little component of my formative musical experience was fronting a ten piece jazz/rock and roll band as a teenager. This gave me a love for the American Songbook, as well as the old cooners/vocalists of that era from Sinatra, to Ella Fitzgerald right through to Otis Redding. One thing the folk mould doesn’t allow is the freedom to really sing, which is something I tried to address on this latest release, ‘Let It Spin’.

How do you relate to the London music scene? And what makes this city probably the world capital of music?

What I expected to find here, once I had fixed my mind on finishing school and moving to the capital, was the West London Folk Scene that was taking the world by storm in 2010/11. By the time I had my act together and started playing shows it seemed like that ship had well and truly sailed. I feel that in terms of folk/roots music, the city’s scene has been in a period of gestation, which I believe it is emerging from now.
Down in the South-East of the city (where I relocated late 2019), there are a lot of young creatives writing songs and playing shows, riding on the energy of the burgeoning young jazz scene which has been sending reverberations through the rest of the world. This is the kind of thing that could only happen in London, and although I don’t think we’re living through London’s golden years as a music hub, it’s stuff like this that keeps it relevant on the world stage. It’s hard to imagine being anywhere else.

Best album of the previous year?

2020? What a weird year for music. The only thing that springs to mind is Adrianne Lenker’s ‘Songs’. I’m a big fan of hers, and it’s cool to see someone doing folk music that’s true to the origins of the genre, yet unmistakeably modern in it’s sound/content. Beautifully crafted!

Who is the mind behind this very cool artwork?

That is James Owens, a young artist working in South-East London. James’ style has, in the last couple of years, developed into this intriguing combination of certain elements which he uses as the basis to most of his pieces. When I look at his work, I’m reminded of all the extra dimensions of our experience that we often overlook or ignore. He’s earnt himself a reputation as one of the most exciting young painters to emerge from his generation at Camberwell School of Arts, and I highly recommend you take a look at his work. This sketch of his, ‘As long as we keep spinning’ has a wild/provocative energy to it which I just love. It’s relevance to the title of the EP is just an added bonus.

Do you write songs from personal experience or your imagination?

It’s all rooted in my own first-person experience. It’ll be sometime before I start leaning on my imagination as source material for my songwriting I think. One reviewer noted the presence of a ‘child-like bliss’ in my music, and I think there’s a degree of fantastical embellishment in my words, but it’s all based around real life occurances.

Is Spotify the music industry’s new Gatekeepers?

You’re asking someone who has had very little experience with the ‘music industry’ (not for lack of trying). It’s hard to ignore the influence Spotify is having on listeners, but it’s just one of many avenues to reach/build an audience. I still have my hopes that one can benefit from Spotify without totally pandering to it’s ludicrous demands. Make no mistake – the imblalance between what Spotify gets via the artist, and what they give in return, appears to be totally flawed. Here’s to hoping that gets addressed sooner rather than later, and that Spotify will become a far fairer universe for artists to exist in.

One last thing we should know about you?

I’m a serial mover. As soon as I’ve been in an area/job for more than a few months, I get this immoveable desire to move on and try something else. Itchy feet. This has made the last 18 months a rather strange but refreshing period of stability. We’ll see how long it lasts…

Thanks Rob!

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