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Interview with Robert Harley
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
My parents always had music playing on the stereo growing up, especially on weekends we woke up to either the Beatles, The Eagles, Simon & Garfunkel , The Chieftains to Gershwin and Tchaikovsky the list goes on. My older brother showed me my first chords on a classical guitar, I would play along with records but when I heard John Lee Hooker for the first time that’s what really inspired me to delve into blues music. I think if I wasn't a musician I would probably be working in IT answering calls and asking customers “have you tried turning it off and on again?”
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I like to go on long walks with my dog and if I’m on a long drive that tends to spark the muse, anything where my mind tends to wander. Also listening to guitar progressions I record on my phone, I think of what the music reminds me of and a line might pop into my head or a melody.
How long has your band been around?
My album ‘Big Tree’ started as a solo project back in 2019, the producer Christian Best brought in session musicians Chris McCarthy, Darragh Keary and Liam O’Brien, we really hit it off and are talking about a launch and taking the album on the road, so watch this space!
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’m based out of Cork City, Cork has always had an encouraging music and arts culture, at the end of every October there is a Jazz Festival which draws in huge crowds, local and international acts play in every venue in the city and the atmosphere is incredible. There’s always live music on every night of the week from hard rock to irish traditional music, there’s a great blues scene there also, it’s the city where Rory Gallagher grew up and bought his first guitar.
How did you come up with your name and what does it mean to you?
I’ll have to refer to my parents on this one! I was named Robert but most people call me Rob, which is what I use as my stage name, Rob Harley really worked well for me at biker gigs.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
I have played many venues throughout Ireland but the shows that stand out are from Cork City, I used to play weekly in a venue called The Beale Street Blues Bar where I had great nights jamming with other like minded blues musicians and the crowds would be packed out the door, The Crane Lane was a regular venue I would play in with my full band, called The Rob Harley Blues Band, and we would play from 12 till 2 in the morning, people would jump up on the stage and rock out with the band. I played every year at The Cork Jazz Festival, we would have at least two gigs a day, from Thursday until the following Monday, the crowds were amazing and the whole city would just come alive and burst with musical energy.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
The Crane Lane in Cork City would be my favorite venue to play, it has a great atmosphere, lovely audience and a great stage, I have had many great nights there. I would love to play Vicar Street in Dublin, it's such an iconic venue it has had major international recording artists such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul Simon and Glen Hansard perform on their stage.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Glastonbury with Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Bob Dyaln, Lindsey Buckingham, Buddy Guy, Nick Cave and Tom Waits would make for an interesting lineup.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting started and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
I would say to practice your scales but don't forget about the music, it’s not all about technique. To my younger self I would say It’ll get better, like in the movie ‘The Matrix’ you must believe.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Practice your scales and make music with them.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
‘Big Tree’ , which is the title track of my album, is the song that stands out, because it captures the essence of childhood escape and the powerful connection we have with nature.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Big Tree is definitely a favorite, but the bluesy ‘I Can’t Wait’ is also one that gets requested, it has a great chord progression and is nice to play lead guitar over.
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
I start with my acoustic guitar, I’ll just noodle until something catches, a riff or a progression and build it up from there. Usually I’ll write a verse with filler lyrics and mold it and shape it every time I revisit the song. It's a slow process, always tweeking the lyrics which are important to me to get right.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
My songs vary a lot, but the main message is one of love and truth, honesty; John Lennon and The Beatles would be a big influence so it’s in that vein of philosophy.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I’m excited to say that my next single ‘Straight For Your Love’ is out on the 14th of July,, after that it’s the release of my album ‘Big Tree’ out on the 25th of August and I’m hoping to do an album launch around that date.
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
You can find all my info at my website robharley.ie
@rharleymusic on instagram
rharley100 on facebook
@robharleymusic on twitter.