Interview with Alyssa Robbins, Playing Hotel Utah This Friday Night

10/15/2014

About two years ago, I had the opportunity to meet singer-songwriter Alyssa Robbins at a mutual friend’s house in Washington State. Since then, I have been following her career from afar as she continued to evolve her style in Brooklyn.

Recently, Robbins recorded her second album, her first since 2007, entitled Our Time Was Here We Just Forgot To Bea short album that manages to touch on many musical styles. Think Aimee Mann, Bonnie Raitt and a few surprises in between. She is touring on the new album and stopping here in SF to open for Two Man Gentleman Band Friday night. But before she does we asked her a few questions.

SFCritic(SFC): I have been enjoying your new album Our Time was Here We Just Forgot How To Be. It has a really different feel than your first album, both in the type of music you are playing and the way you use your voice. What changed or inspired you to evolve your sound since the last album?

Alyssa Robbins (AR): Aww thanks! Glad you’re enjoying it! I think what changed or made my music evolve the most was, frankly, just getting older. I had a long break between my last album and this current one, almost 7 years, and in that time went to graduate school, had my heart broken, travelled a bunch, fell in love again and just had a ton of different life experiences. I also began playing with such wonderful musicians and producers who pushed me and re-imagined the songs for this album in ways I never thought possible.

SFC: For the most recent album you turned to Kickstarter to raise the money to make it happen. What was this process like, were there any unexpected challenges along the way?

AR: It’s amazing to me how young of a company Kickstarter is, and yet how most of my friends have turned to it at least once to raise funds. It gets a lot of flack as a fundraising site, but I couldn’t have imagined any other way to raise the money to record this record. And I never would have reached my goal had it not been for the director of the video, David Sosnow, the incredible team at Six Part Productions and my amazing friends who volunteered their time on a sweltering Saturday in August. Together we created such a quirky, funny, miniature movie and because it was so unique, people contributed.

SFC: How is the tour going? Any funny stories or observations from the road? Where are you going next?

AR: Tour is so much goddamn fun. I had gone on trips with friends before and booked shows along the way, but had never actually gone on a “rock and roll” tour as it were. It basically combines two of my favorite things, travel and music, so it’s pretty much a dream come true. However, it would be impossible without the kindness of friends, friends of friends or even, in some cases, strangers throughout the US, whether it be a friendly face in the audience or the offer of a place to crash that evening. After my gig in San Francisco I’ll end my West Coast tour with a show in Santa Cruz, then in November I have a bunch of dates in the Midwest and the year ends with some gigs in December in New York. But I’m not sure what 2015 holds for me…hopefully more touring around. If I could, I’d do it forever.

SFC: Who would you say your major influences are? I hate to apply labels to folks, but with the new album I am getting a lot of Bonnie Raitt and Melissa Etheridge especially in “Going Mad” and “Ghost Town.”

AR: First off, thank you. I absolutely adore Bonnie Raitt, and Melissa Etheridge’s Yes I Am came out when I was in Jr. High, and I frequently rocked out to “I’m the Only One” and “Come to my Window.” Uh, influences are hard for me because, even though everyone says it, I really do love all kinds of music and hopefully that comes through on the album. The producer, Ted Limpert, and I discussed frequently whether the album had continuity because the songs are all very different in style due to the variety of musical influences. But by the end of recording, I felt that the diversity of the tracks was the album’s greatest strength. But I digress. Anyone who knows me knows I adore Aimee Mann and strive for her lyrical prose. When I “growl” on songs, I’m definitely stealing from Etta James and Janis Joplin. Patty Griffin and Sarah Siskind both have albums that are so simple, sparse and beautiful. But there’s so many. Hell, even my mom is a musical influence, since she forced me to learn harmony by singing in the church choir.

SFC: What is your favorite thing to do here in San Francisco?

AR: I haven’t been to San Francisco since I was 18, and at that age, my main goal was to see The Real World house on Lombard street. So I’m excited to explore it as an “adult.” But my favorite thing to do in any city is to just walk through it. I’ll walk through cities for hours stopping only to pee and eat.

SFC: I remember when we met a few years ago you told me a hilarious story about your brother being an actor or voice actor for something funny?

AR: Yes, my brother was the voice of Arby’s for like 3 years. “I’m thinking Arby’s…” was his tag line.

Check out out Alyssa Robbins covering “Wayfaring Stranger.”