Songstress Robinson has only released a debut single thus far, but she refuses to be forgotten. The New Zealand-bred emerging singer released her debut track “Don’t You Forget About Me” earlier this year, with a message to a former lover and inadvertently the rest of the world as she croons in a pristine voice that she is here to be remembered. Though the up-and-comer is only just beginning her career, jet setting between major music cities across the globe and recording with major songwriters and producers like Daniel Ledinsky (Tove Lo, Rihanna) and David Sandström, Robinson is eager to have her soothing, symphonic pop sounds heard. Robinson may hail from what seems like the other side of the world in New Zealand, but she is ready to cast a spell of her pop poetry on the world.
Growing up in New Zealand seems like it could feel so distant from the rest of the world and the major music industry. How did you originally get into music and what made it special to you?
ROBINSON — I grew up in a very musical family and from as far back as I can remember, there was always music. I remember listening to these incredible songwriters, in particular Jeff Buckley, Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell, who made you feel so much with their words and their sounds. I thought how incredible it must be to be able to translate emotions into music like that, which is where my passion for songwriting came from. Music felt like a true friend that would always be there to help me express myself when times were hard. If there was anything hurting me, or if anything ever went wrong, I would think, ‘Oh, it’s ok, I have my music and I can write a song about it.’ New Zealand can sometimes seem far away from the rest of the world but that separation can be really good for music. I know the travel side for me has been essential to my growth in writing and transitioning into an adult. I don’t know if I would have done as much travel as I have without living somewhere like NZ, which requires a lot of travel to get anywhere haha! And the travel really helps for sad songs if you miss someone!
Pop music is so universal and can reach so many people. What is it about pop that you’re attracted to and have held onto?
R — The beauty of pop music is that there is so much of it to appreciate; there’s sad pop and happy pop and all the pops in-between, but it also has a great platform to be heard and reach so many people which is an incredible thing.
“Don’t You Forget About Me” is about being vulnerable in order to find yourself. Do you feel as if you have found yourself now?
R — Definitely not! I don’t think you ever completely find yourself, I even think at 50, 60 and 70, etc., you are still finding out new things about yourself and who you are. I believe it’s a constant journey and we become more aware as we get older and experience things, but never 100%, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s like a big mystery!
Why is it important for you to be vulnerable through your music?
It’s important to be vulnerable because that is where honesty lies. I look at music as both an escape from and confrontation of reality. When I write I’m sort of looking for that emotional root the best I can and I think the only way to find it is through vulnerability. If I go into a studio or if I sit down to write a song and I feel I’m holding things back, I don’t think I’m doing my job or fulfilling the song’s purpose. Music is there to dance to, have fun to, cry to and to express these incredible emotions that human beings feel, and how powerful is that — emotions connect people so I think you have to be honest when it comes to writing in order to truly help people through your music.
The visual for “Don’t Forget About Me” is in black and white and very somber. Do you feel like there is a sort of beauty in telling these more honest stories that may not be completely happy?
R — I think all music video storylines can be greatly appreciated, sad, happy — it totally depends on the song as to the direction of the music video. However, I’ve also come to believe that sometimes when a song is really sad or heartfelt; it is sometimes best to not follow a specific storyline that plots out the exact emotions of the song — that’s what I tried to do with ‘Don’t You Forget About Me.’ Sherry Elbe (who directed the music video) came to me with an idea which didn’t follow the plot idea that I had in my head, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised how brilliant it was to have a music video that follows the general feel of the song, but isn’t specific to the meaning behind to song for me personally. This allows it to be left open for interpretation and for people to take away however the song/video made them feel.
What can we expect from your upcoming music?
R — The songs to expect are ones right from the heart and ones that I’ve written at these different points in my life in different parts of the world, over the past year! My goal throughout the creative process was to approach it lyrically, as honest as possible, so I’m so excited to share them with you.
You’re really started to get in the studio and write a lot. Have the past several years been surreal in any way as your music career really starts to take off?
R — It’s all been very surreal to me, as this was a big big dream for me growing up. It sounds like a cliché thing to say but music is all I’ve ever wanted to do and now I’m actually travelling to these amazing places and writing songs — it blows my mind sometimes. I’ll sit there and go, ‘Wow. I’m really doing what I love’ and feel so much gratitude to all those that believed in me getting to this point!
What has your experience been like pursuing music in New Zealand? Is it challenging to pursue an international career?
R — The only real hindrance is all the studio time you get out here in L.A. and other major cities for music, and the travel it involves to get here, [but] good thing I love travel. Usually if it’s going well, it’s just easier to move to one of those big cities for touring, to be close to your team, etc., but I look at it as a big positive having grown up in NZ. The NZ music industry is small, but we all either know or have heard of each other and support what we’re all doing, which is so cool!
What is it about the London music scene and working in London that you love?
R — London is a very beautiful and inspiring city, from the buildings to the weather, it really helps create a mood. I really loved the time I spent there and felt so emotionally in the right space for the music which was a wonderful feeling! The music scene in London is unreal and packed with so many incredible musicians, I loved the approach to the writing and how it felt very honest.
What has it been like working with Daniel Ledinsky and David Sandström? Have there been any specific moments in the studio that stand out and feel pivotal moments in your creative process?
R — I feel very passionately about Daniel Ledinsky and David Sandström. They’re like the best friends I wish I knew sooner! In music sessions, it’s so much more than just writing a song, you’re also communicating feelings, stories, emotions and hoping you understand each other as people also; and this happened instantaneously for us three, which I am incredibly thankful for. All the sessions we’ve done so far feel like standouts to me, but I’ll never forget our very first session together. I’d written a song, which would eventually become “Don’t You Forget About Me,” the night before in my hotel room knowing I had a session with Daniel and David who at this point, I didn’t know personally. Originally, I was never going to play it to anyone but I played it to them and the rest is history! They created this really authentic sound around the piano, vocal and backing vocals with haunting synths and then made it heavy and punchy on percussion in the second verse. After we finished the session it made me think, ‘Yes, this is my sound. This is what I want to sculpt my vision around and I never want to stop working with these guys because they just get it and we have so much fun!’
You’re still relatively unknown by the greater music industry. Are you using this to your advantage in anyway? How do you hope to define yourself as an artist as your career continues to grow?
R — I enjoy it because I’m still sculpting my vision for my music. Having a bit of mystery on my side helps and gives me a little time to do that. The biggest thing I want to do is to stay honest in my music and allow my music to really resonate with others. Feeling is a big key to me, I want to make people feel the way I do when I listen to my favourite songs.
Where do you hope pursuing music takes you?
R — I guess I can only hope it goes as far as it can! However, the music industry is so unpredictable and is constantly changing so I think the biggest part of it is to never take anything for granted and to know at each phase of it all, that I am very lucky to be able to make music in different parts of the world and that it’s being heard by others. Music is so special and so important to me, and no matter what happens, it will always be a part of my life. That much I know for sure!