Chris Robley

Chris Robley Interview


Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, music producer, and songwriter now living in Maine after more than ten years in Portland, Oregon. His orchestral indie-pop and Americana music has been praised by the LA Times, NPR, Boston Globe, and more. His poems have been published in Poetry Magazine, The Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, and many others. KCRW says of the 2016 album The Great Make Believer, “Chris Robley is at the top of his game with his new work.” Visit http://blog.chrisrobley for more information.

This is his music…

What is your favourite song of all time?

Damn. Just one? Umm, I guess I’ll base this decision on what I’m most likely to request from a jukebox: “The Great Curve” by Talking Heads.

Can you remember when you fell in love with it?

About fifteen years ago in a drab apartment in Richmond, Virginia on a warm summer night after rain. Rhythms blunt and funky. Adrian Belew’s guitar.

Has a song or album ever changed your life?

Many times. The live version of “Boy in the Bubble” from Paul Simon’s Concert in Central Park was what first put the spirit in me. Arguing for weeks with friends about Kid A made me rethink what I loved about music. A song like Dawes’ “A Little Bit of Everything” brings me near to tears every time I hear it, which is like getting a tune-up for your internal empathy machine. John Vanderslice’s Cellar Door gave me a kind of surrogate sense of confidence at a time when my artistic self-confidence had been eroded. Joe Henry’s Civilians showed me that Humanism and Patriotism might not always be at odds.

If you could only listen to five albums for the rest of time, what would they be?

My answer would probably change week to week, but today I’ll choose some standard (and durable) fare, and then I guess be stuck with it for the rest of my life!

  • Paul Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints.
  • Neko Case’s Fox Confessor.
  • Harry Nilsson’s Greatest Hits.
  • Gillian Welch’s Time (The Revalator).
  • Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.

How much of your day do you spend listening to music?

It varies pretty wildly. Some days I’ve got music playing all day long. Other days I never turn the speakers on and just let my mind relax. That weird loneliness of a silent house is good for me in medium doses.

What’s your ideal time and place for listening to music?

Autumn Sunday drives, or 1am in bed with headphones on.

What’s the best gig/show you’ve ever been to?

In that “holy shit, I can’t believe I’m here” sort of way, I’d have to say it was the first time I saw Radiohead, at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington State. A month later I saw them again at Madison Square Garden and in Boston too. By the third show I was happy to leave before the encore so I could beat traffic, and I learned a valuable lesson about “oversaturation.” Can’t expect my local fans to come out to my shows every other week if I didn’t even want to see my absolute favorite band three times in a summer.

Approximately how big is your music collection? And in what format?

Scattered! A few hundred vinyl records. About a thousand CDs: in boxes for years (I guess I should get around to getting rid of them). Three iPods that haven’t synced to my computer for years, so they’re like little time capsules. A subscription to Apple Music… a free Spotify account, … ubiquitous YouTube.

What does music mean to you?

This probably sounds hippy-dippy, but ideally listening to music is like that first snowfall of the season, where everything else slows and quiets (even if the music is fast and loud) and you find yourself in, or you give yourself, the space to have a real emotional experience — something that’s been building below the surface and waiting for its moment of expression. There’s some mixture of connection, concentration, and awe that helps you find or rediscover something about yourself, all by tuning into something that somebody else has made. It’s weird. Yes, there are plenty of throwaway uses for music, and I’m not always super present when I’m listening, and I love all kinds of surface level music experiences too, but music that requires me to create that kind of sacred space for it is always the stuff that sticks.

What song should we all go and listen to right now to make our day better?

LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean,” because, well, you’ll dance yourself clean. Also, now that they’re back together, maybe you can hear it live!


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