“Am I up and coming?!”, Robert says as we get to the topic of describing himself. “For a while I thought I was more down and going!”, he adds, breaking into a self-deprecating laugh.
This isn’t Robert’s first rodeo. In 2008 he released his debut album ‘Distance’, while still at college studying journalism. Universal distributed the record, but for all intents and purposes Robert was an independent artist. He describes the period of time as “expensive and exhausting”. In 2012 he followed up the record with ‘Resistance’, an EP that received wide critical acclaim. Golden Plec said Robert had “more potential and less ego than most others in this country”.
A year later the EP was remixed and released as ‘Reincarnated’ and lead by a striking remodelling of his track “Too Late” by EDM producer Matty Graham. The track drew comparisons with Pet Shop Boys and Robert was elated. “Once I got the PSB comparison I thought well that’s it, it’s not going to get any better…and so I retired!”, Robert says, and it’s hard to tell if he’s joking or not.
Cut to summer 2017 and Robert was in Las Vegas at a Calvin Harris show. “I had been working two jobs and was doing a course that would lead me to office cubicle hell”, Robert explains. “At that Calvin show I felt like I was jolted back to life, it was euphoric, and in that moment I decided I had to make new music, because music is sanity for me, I need that creative outlet to feel alive”.
Robert set about finding a producer who would bring his new songs to life. After multiple fruitless meetings, he made the call to drummer Steve Hogan (who produced Robert’s first record) that would prove to be a turning point. “It turned out he’d dismantled his studio, but he was certain he knew the man for the job”. Enter Stuart Gray, multi-instrumentalist and producer extraordinaire of Jealoustown Studios in Ireland, where the likes of Hozier and Ryan Sheridan have previously recorded hits.
“I went in to meet Stuart with Steve, who I hadn’t seen in a decade, and we just got to work straight away”, Robert says, sounding altogether more optimistic than before. “I had these new songs but I was nervous about what people would think of them, I’d lost confidence in myself as a writer and a vocalist. Stuart said to me ‘If we’re going to do this, do it for you, make the music you want to make and forget about everyone outside of this studio’ and for once, I did what I was told”.
Robert describes the short time in January he spent recording two singles at Jealoustown Studios as “cheap therapy”. “First Stuart got my head right, then he got me to sing like I’ve never sang before. He was brutally honest about the material I presented – he’d say things like ‘where’s the chorus, I’m not hearing it’ and I’d panic thinking, ‘I’m a temperemental writer, will I be able to write a chorus on demand’.
That’s how the big anthemic chorus of upcoming single “You Found Me” came about, he explains. “I wanted my Coldplay moment, I wanted to go from the darkness of those verses into a euphoric sing-along moment that makes you feel like it’s all going to be alright. So right then I went into the booth and belted out that ‘Yeah…’ line, and from there on I knew, this combination of people in the room is the one to make me dig deep”.
With his first single in five years due for release on March 30, Robert tells us his expectations are different from before. “I’m not looking for financial gain, fame or critical acclaim”, he says, “I’m just thrilled to be back in the game”.