The young and exciting guitar virtuoso Joe Robinson will be playing several venues along the North Coast over coming months. Joe drops in at the Glasshouse on November 16, plays FOTSUN in December and also calls in at Bellingen later this year.
Back home now in Australia from his new permanent base in Nashville, Tennessee for his Comin’ Home Tour, the busy star spares a few minutes to update us with his latest news …
I’ve been reading your bio, and the thing that struck me the most is it’s certainly a long way from Temagog (where you grew up) to Nashfield! How long have you been in the USA now?
I’ve been there for about two, nearly three years. I made the move there when I was 18. It’s been a great place to live, and I’ve learnt a lot there.
So what are some of the most important things you’ve experienced in the time you’ve been there?
Recording in different studios and touring all over America, which is a really huge country, I’ve made a lot of good friends over there. I’ve seen a lot of good acts, and the whole experience of being there amongst it all is just fabulous.
You were self-taught on guitar from an early age. How much of an impact did watching YouTube videos have on your guitar playing?
When I was 13 or 14, I got lessons at school for a little bit, and my parents had a lot of musician friends whom I used to kind of hang out with and jam with. When it came to really learning a lot of the stuff I rely on now and just being exposed to the wide world of music, YouTube was the way I found the type of music I like to play.
You’re a big fan of both Phil and Tommy Emanuel. What led up to you actually meeting the pair?
I first met Tommy and Phil when I was 11, and that was a case of Phil’s old bass player living in Kempsey hearing me playing in my band called the Kaotic Penguins. We were playing at the Smithstown pub, and he heard me play and gave me Phil’s number – I then called Phil and met with him and Tommy in Taree.
They really encouraged me and said that I was really talented for my age.
Tell us a little bit about your latest EP and the music and inspiration behind it …
I made an album last year that was released in January this year, and I had great experience recording that. With this EP I went to the studio and basically recorded new songs that I felt had bit more of a raw quality. I was just really creative with the production of it; I played all the instruments, and it was a really fun time. I’m really proud of this recording − more so than others I’ve done.
And the EP’s called Toe Jam. Where on earth did that the name come from?
(Laughs). I wrote the song Toe Jam with a friend of mine − she’s a drummer in Nashville. We were jamming on it together and having fun, so I just thought I’d call the EP by the same name.
You’re coming to Port Macquarie and playing on two occasions, one at the Glasshouse and then Festival of the Sun. Do you get homesick much living away from home?
Absolutely. It’s really hard to be away for that long. I got back two days ago, and there’s nothing like the coast − it’s so beautiful here. Usually I try to come back this time of year.
What do you prefer – playing venues like the Glasshouse, or the whole festival atmosphere?
I like them both for different reasons. I love the energy and the rawness of a festival show; it’s a little more off the cuff. The theatre is more intimate, and you can connect with the audience a bit better.
I think the Glasshouse is one of the best venues in Australia; it’s a really awesome place to play, but I’m kind of biased, because I love playing there.
I haven’t played Festival of the Sun before but I’m excited to play there, because I’ve heard a lot about it.
You’ll also be playing at Bellingen soon, in December. Have you been there before?
I played a little festival there five years ago when I was young. It was a lot of fun!
How much of what you do on stage is ad-libbed, as opposed to being rehearsed and practiced?
Usually I change the set list every night. As far as the songs themselves, I structure them so I have the freedom to change and improvise during a song. If it’s a festival, you really want to build the energy up and make them exciting.
Pretty much every song I play, there’s some level of improvisation.
How many guitars do you have in your collection, and how many travel with you when you do tours?
I think about 20. I take 4 on the road.
I guess it would be a bit hard to carry 20 around on tour!
What is there left for you that you’d like to achieve but haven’t accomplished yet?
I would like to win a Grammy and to crack the market in America. It’s really a huge industry there. Ultimately I want to have a touring career and travel and perform all my life, keep making albums and doing gigs and becoming better as a performer and writer.
Thanks Joe. Best of luck with your upcoming gigs.
Interview by Jo Atkins.