interview with tart

Just before christmas I did an interview with Tarty Tart for her lovely blog.

The original can be found here ( but I thought i might post the interview in its entirety as she asked some really good questions…

Tart: The most obvious question: have you got to meet your hero, Leonard Cohen!?

Robin: Nope, not yet – I must confess I left The Glastonbury Festival before he went on stage this summer, wanting to get home before the end of festival crush so I haven’t even got to see him play live…

This may be a good thing as my expectations tend to run a little on the high side – anything other than a profoundly life changing experience would have likely been a bit of a let down for me 🙂

I have read a fair number of interviews and books, as well as spending quality time with his music and poetry, so we are fairly well acquainted nowadays without having met.

Tart: Some of the songs, especially on your LP, Only The Missile, deal with lost love. Is heartache a kinder muse than happiness for you? And how so? “These Days” comes to mind for me on this theme, as does “Every Waking Hour,” of course but also “Shakes and Shudders.”

Robin: Heartache used to be my most steady muse but she has been a less frequent visitor of late and other muses have been dropping by in her place. It has been a great relief for me to have a wider pool of inspiration as I was getting a little tired of singing solely about unrequited and lost love.

I am happy to say that my next record looks likely to touch on life, politics, global warming, permaculture gardening, transience, Leonard Cohen, nostalgia and family amongst other themes.

Tart: I love your voice as it’s sounding lower on the EP, I Love Leonard Cohen, you seem to be taking it down to the lower register more than on the LP, is that intentional? For me, it’s the vocals that catch me, then I start to hear the words and after that the musical arrangement. Somehow the EP sounds more personal, more heartfelt and well… “you.” What do you think of my analysis? How do you prefer to sing? Do you write for your voice or for the guitar?

Robin: I am still taking my first few fledgling steps both in discovering my voice and also in learning how to sing my songs. This has been far and away the biggest learning curve and challenge in the last two years. I am slowly growing in confidence with my singing which is allowing me to capture performances that are more real – I think you are close to the mark in your analysis and I thank you for recognizing that.

I have not found a preferred way to sing yet and enjoy a varied approach to writing. There are many songs I am still working out how to perform and I joust with them regularly; indeed a couple of my best tunes have yet to yield and I don’t feel I will be ready to sing them for a good while yet. I like that they are watching me from the wings waiting for the right moment to take the stage.

Tart: Why release an EP so soon after the LP (was the EP a kind of “clearing of the air” as I suspect?) and just how many songs do you have up your sleeve, man!? 🙂

Robin: My song ‘I Love Leonard Cohen’ was far too impatient to wait for another album to come along so took it upon itself to gather up a few other songs and release an EP. I really had very little to do with it but was grateful for the excuse to have another launch party.

I am approaching forty songs that have got past the cutting room floor and my pen is still being kind enough to provide more candidates with reasonable regularity.

Tart: I’m so curious about your choice of releasing your music on a creative commons license. Tell me why you chose that avenue and how Jamendo is working out for you?

Robin: I was inspired by Ruth Theodore’s use of the creative commons license on her amazing debut album ‘Worm Food’ which I had the privilege to work on.

I feel it absurd to criminalize anyone who wants to share my music; creative commons has provided an inspiring legal framework for solidifying this intuition.

The creative commons website Jamendo has exposed a huge number of people to my music who otherwise wouldn’t have heard it and that can only be a good thing.


Mr. Grey, I can assure you, is full up of good things! Sometimes with a simple guitar backing, others with glorious harmonizing vocals and harmonica, his songs are pure folk and excellent storytelling. There’s a sense of humor, a sense of heartache, a sense of longing in them.

It’s great music to sit and listen to intently the first time and then to have on throughout the day from that point on. I hope you find his music as much of a comfort and a joy as I have. It’s the perfect antidote to those post-holiday blues, just snuggle up with your favorite blankie, or better yet, your favorite lover and have a good listen to these gorgeous tunes from quite a talented chap.

You can also donate a few extra dollars to him on Jamendo’s site in lieu of a purchase price for his album. Surely you have a little something left over, darlings xoxoxo

the londonist interview

The lovely Sally from the Londonist did a little feature and interview with me which made the front page on 3rd December – causing me to break the record for the most number of people visiting my site in a week. Happy days.

Have a read below and check out


Singer song-writers: a rare breed, and when they’re good, a real treasure. Well, we’ve found a new one for you.

Robin Grey has a lovely fresh approach to the folk genre (although he does seem to wear sandals). He cites Cohen and Dylan as influences, but we can hear a definite echo of the late great Harry Chapin, a growling of Tom Waits and a sweet sprinkle of Don Mclean in the mix. He has a honeyed yet clear voice and his lyrics are arresting. Piano and guitar are joined by unexpected riffs on the banjo, ukulele, and assorted percussive things – although his tunes are pleasingly strum-ti-tum, he keeps us guessing as to where he’s going with it. We like. A lot.

He works cheerily out of a blue-doored studio in Hackney and has just brought out his first album, Only the Missile. We caught up with him to get the lowdown:

When did the music start?
My Grandma will quite happily vouch for my enthusiastic nursery school rendition of ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ though I must confess the memory is a little more hazy for me. I guess music has been with me since way back when.

I only began performing my songs with any degree of gumption in the last year or two after spending a healthy amount of time at the back of the stage wielding a double bass with various bands and singer songwriters.

Do the words come first or the music?
Both, sometimes an old poem fits nicely over a riff and other times a new chord progression inspires a mood and words follow. Likewise some songs write themselves in ten minutes whilst some take a year or more to solidify.

What are you up to right now?
I have just finished recording an e.p. with the wonderful Madelaine Hart, to be released on my creative commons label ‘modifythevan’ next month and am about to start demoing tracks for my next album which will hopefully be recorded in a farm house in Tuscany over Easter and released soon after.

Where do you live in London and why?
I live in a lovely part of Hackney called Shacklewell, sandwiched between Stoke Newington and Dalston. I moved east from Kilburn as the rent was cheap and it was nowhere near a smelly tube line. I don’t think I would want to live anywhere else in London after living here for three years, the food, the people and the amount of green space all around make me very happy.

Is London a good place to be for folk musicians?
I think it is a great place for anyone creative – there is so much to be inspired by round every corner.

Working out how to pay the rent without using up all the energy I need for my music was hard at first but now that puzzle is solved I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Have you ever busked in London?
I used to busk my classical guitar exam pieces in the tunnel between Kings Cross Thameslink and the tube line when I was in sixth form – once I was over my nerves of busking playing in front of the examiners was far less of a problem.

What’s the best London venue for a folksy gig?
I love any venue where I can perform unamplified and that has cake. My favourite place by far is Iktoms at The Liberties Bar in Camden: I have played there twelve times in the last two years. They have lego to play with, penny sweets, colouring in pens and pencils and I am always blown away by at least one of the acts whenever I am there.

The Magpies Nest in Islington also put on amazing shows and the Betsey Trotwood is always a good place to be serenaded too.

Can you think of an unusual venue that should open itself up for gigs?
I would love do a show on the top of a double decker bus driving around central London, perhaps Londonist can help me make this happen!?!

I often play uke whilst on the 243 and have even managed to lead a sing-a-long or two on occasion.

Who else should we be listening to and why?
Ruth Theodore is an amazing talent who taught me a great deal, her album ‘Wormfood’ should be heard by everyone with ears.

I shared a stage with ‘This Is The Kit’ recently, who regularly come over from Paris, and I have nearly worn through the grooves of their brilliant album. I also love Fiona Bevan’s work and my good friend Hugh Coltman has just released his debut album which is ace.

Where can we see you playing next and when?
I am currently hibernating until spring – I have quite a few shows lined up for February and March, details of which are on my website.

What’s your London secret?
The carrot cake at Pogo Café in Hackney rocks my world.

Londonist is going to have strong words with Father Christmas: Robin Grey’s album better be in our stocking or else the mince pies are off.