When you wind up finding success in a group like the Black Crowes, finding the time to carve out solo projects on the side becomes quite the challenge. Particularly when you’re squabbling with your older brother and band business winds up finding its way onto social media. Such was the case for Rich Robinson, who recently went back in and reissued a quartet of albums and even found time to record Flux, his fourth solo project.
“The releases were kind of disjointed. One would come out one year, then I’d go away and do one on another label. I didn’t have time to devote the kind of time that I would have liked to. So when the opportunity came up to just have everything under one roof and refocus after having done this for a decade, [I went for it],” Robinson explained. “Now that the Crowes are done, this is for real. This is what I’m doing. So it’s kind of time to take it seriously.”
For this journey into the vaults, Robinson reissued the Llama Blues EP, which had only a 1,000-count pressing and was not available on vinyl. His 2011 outing, Through a Crooked Sun, is now being reissued with a number of live cuts and 2014’s Woodstock Sessions is a full live recording that was cut over two days at Applehead Recording, the same studio that Flux was recorded at. But it turns out that Robinson’s 2004 solo debut, Paper, wound up getting the most extensive overhaul thanks to Mother Nature.
“I re-sang and remixed all of Paper and I added songs and remixed it because the storage where I had the tapes for Paper were in Weehawken, NJ and got hit by Hurricane Sandy,” he recalled. “When it hit, I lost all my guitars, amps and shit. So the tapes were in there and got ruined. A friend of mine was able to restore them in Pro-Files, but some of the files weren’t there I guess and the vocals weren’t on there. So, I was able to re-sing the whole thing and even kind of tweak some of the lyrics that I hated. I was just getting started [at the time]. It sounds the way it should have and it’s really cool.”
As if diving back into Robinson’s canon wasn’t more than enough activity for 2016, he had a run with Bad Company earlier in the summer, where he wound up stepping in for guitarist Mick Ralphs, who declined to go out on the road with fellow founding members Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke (Boz Burrell passed away in 2006). It all evolved from an Experience Music Project (EMP) tribute show to Jimmy Page, Rodgers’ former bandmate in The Firm.
“Paul Rodgers was there and my manager knows Paul’s manager and knows what a huge Free fan I am. We were talking about doing a couple of shows and doing some Free songs. I don’t know how solidified anything was, but Paul wanted to meet. When I met him at the Jimmy Page event, he couldn’t have been sweeter and I think he really liked the way I played guitar because he saw me and asked for me to come out and play on those Firm songs,” Robinson said. “I said okay and learned them that day and got up and played. Then when they announced the Bad Company tour and I guess Mick [Ralphs] couldn’t do it, they called me and asked if I’d do it. And it leads right up to when my record came out.”
A true Renaissance man, Rich Robinson has also spent the last two-plus decades exploring his love of abstract art. Influenced by the likes of Salvador Dali and Gustav Klimt, Robinson got his start around the time he was on tour for his first band’s 1990 debut, Shake Your Money Maker. It was a gift of an easel, canvases, a set of brushes, paint and a palette from fellow Crowes guitarist Johnny Colt that sent Robinson down this fine arts path. It was an intimidating trip for Robinson to take and one that he wound up embarking upon with a healthy degree of trepidation.
“I sat on it for about a year. I had too much respect for it and I didn’t want to suck on these canvases. I kind of felt like they were sacred in a sense,” he explained. “The first one I ever did was on a piece of paper. It was much more Impressionist. There are faces and figures and those kinds of things. But as I started getting more into it and my abilities were growing, I was going to it more. At the end of the day, it just brings me peace. That’s really what it does. As I got into it and as I started with discovery—you get in, try one thing or technique and that leads into another one and another one. Then you change format…and the arc of how it changed for me was just amazing. I used to just have fun, which is really how I do it. It’s not me saying I’m a great artist because it’s so subjective anyway.”