Q&A with Nashville-based veteran musician Rob Robinson, has created the blues-soul outfit HeavyDrunk

"Southern music is the music of the world. Blues, Soul, Jazz, Country, Zydeco, Rock & Roll, R & B. Improvisational music of any kind. We owe it all to the Mississippi River."

Rob Robinson: Southern Holywater

HeavyDrunk is headed up by Rob Robinson, a veteran songwriter, musician and artist who has created the smoking nine piece blues/R&B, rock-tinged band HeavyDrunk. Their third album “Holywater” (4142 Records), will be released on October 4, 2019. Encompassing vocals, drums, bass, keyboards, two guitars, two horns and a pair of soulful background singers into the mix, Holywater sizzles from start to finish. All but two of the songs on Holywater – were written or co-written by HeavyDrunk bandleader/frontman Rob Robinson -- the exceptions being a Rolling Stones cover ("Slave") and "Midnight in Harlem," penned by Mike Mattison and Derek Trucks – and are brought to the peak of flavor by the acclaimed players, whose various resumés include backing Prince and Keb' Mo', among many others. With a band name evocative of the thick, dizzying vibes coursing through their latest album, Nashville-based blues-soul outfit HeavyDrunk continues to solidify their reputation both on record and in their live shows, which bristle with kinetic, freewheeling energy.

The nine-piece group’s unusual name originated with a quip from blues icon Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, “Man, he’s a no-playin’ so-and-so… and a heavy drunk!” the music legend sneered. The ace players who contribute to the HeavyDrunk sound create their own intoxicating blend of musical flavors including Mississippi Delta blues, rousing gospel, sultry soul and muscular rock ‘n’ roll. At the helm of this nine-piece band is Robinson, a Louisiana-born, Mississippi-raised singer-songwriter and restaurateur with feet firmly planted in the dual worlds of classic – and decidedly Southern – music and food. The owner, since 2008, of multi-award-winning and historic Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, 45 minutes south of Nashville, Robinson leads a band that smokes onstage, while offstage he spends much of his time feeding the smoker at Puckett’s in order to serve up some of the restaurant'c distinctive, slow-cooked barbecue and other famed dishes.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Southern music and heritage influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Growing up in Mississippi and Louisiana exposed me to the dirt, the heat and the flavor of the blues. The joy of blues music. The joy that sound brought me at a very young age. It woke something up in my soul, I did not know existed.

How do you describe HeavyDrunk songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?

It starts from a primitive slide country blues feel, cotton patch blues, mix in some funny stories, haunting pain from opportunities missed, mistakes, mix in horns, gospel harmonies a little shaken a little stirred

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences?

Jack Pearson was important to meet. He is such a slide master.

"I still love vinyl, tape, tube amps and funky old guitars. I love a ton of old music Robert Johnson, Billie Holiday. With everything edited so tight these days. I miss the loose soul of the great players."

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Get a real job.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

When we started cutting Holywater at The Purple House with Casey Wasner. It felt special, like that song in particular was important. Then when we brought in the horns riffing or singing the lines to Roy and Tyler. They took everything and brought it to life, great fun.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the old school drug culture that went along...Just kidding. I still love vinyl, tape, tube amps and funky old guitars. I love a ton of old music Robert Johnson, Billie Holiday. With everything edited so tight these days. I miss the loose soul of the great players.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

We are blessed to do what we do, but I would like to see artists and writers get paid better for sure. The digital collection cut for most artists and writers seems a little light.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in music circuits?

GMC vans cannot pull a band and its gear around for very long before the transmission gonna blow out. When a pretty girl offers to wrap your cable after a show, be sure of precisely what you are committing too.

Do you consider the Southern Blues Soul a specific music genre or do you think it’s a state of mind?

It could be both. When you grow up living that way you really don’t have any perspective on it until someone else tries to define it for you. That’s usually your first clue of where you start and where you end... Cornbread, turnip greens, black eyed peas is where it starts.

"Growing up in Mississippi and Louisiana exposed me to the dirt, the heat and the flavor of the blues. The joy of blues music. The joy that sound brought me at a very young age. It woke something up in my soul, I did not know existed."

What is the impact of Southern music (Soul, Blues, Rock) and culture to the socio-cultural implications?

Southern music is the music of the world. Blues, Soul, Jazz, Country, Zydeco, Rock & Roll, R & B. Improvisational music of any kind. We owe it all to the Mississippi River.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Take me to the Delta and let’s spend the day with Robert Johnson or let’s go to New Orleans and catch some swinging jazz cats playing on the street. I tell you what, I’ll meet you there.

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