The Black Crowes have a long history of employing some of the best keyboardists in the business - from Chuck Leavell to Eddie Harsch, and now Bay Area native Joel Robinow, who will join the newly reunited band on their arena tour in 2020. Get to know our TALENT SCOUT Artist of the Week.
NAME: Joel Robinow
HOMETOWN: Oakland, CA
MUSICAL TRAINING: I'm self taught largely, but I had a few years with an amazing piano teacher as a kid named David Glass. My mom had an aerobics studio, and David came in and asked if she wanted to trade lessons for a membership. He had an amazing approach. I don't read music, and I didn't really want to, so we would just listen to things like Erik Satie and ELP and try and pick out the notes. That approach made me really unafraid of music, which I feel is the biggest failing in modern music pedagogy. I also grew up around Berkeley High jazz musicians like Michael Aaberg and Steve Hogan, who were world class at age 15. They were always willing to play with me even though I was at a different level. That gave me a ridiculously high standard for musicianship and dedication.
FIRST GIGS: My first gigs were with my musical partner Raj Ojha, who is currently playing drums in The Black Crowes with me. My dad had is a newspaper man and he would do promo events for the New York Times. The first one was at Tower Car Wash in San Francisco, where we basically played "Oye Como Va" for an hour and a half. Another one was at Blackhawk Plaza, where I played guitar and we played some jazz/funk originals and classic rock covers. That gave me an appetite for indifferent audiences - if two people noticed, I would just hone in on them, even if it was just the dude selling corn dogs!
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: Harry Nillsson, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Todd Rundgren, Claude Debussy, Raj Ojha, Eli Eckert, Frank Robinow, Raze Regal, Danny James, Quinn Walker, Aaron Harvey, and on and on.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: I really love Kiefer. I think it's the best sh#t out right now. Also Harry Nillsson for ever and ever.
MY BIG BREAK: Probably playing on Howard Stern with The Black Crowes.
LATEST PROJECTS: My band is called Once and Future Band, I recommend it. It's really good. It's also my joy to play with the genius Danny James, who made one of the world's greatest records called Pear. I also play keys and guitar in the Shannon Shaw Band, featuring Shannon Shaw from Shannon and the Clams, produced by Dan Auerbach. And I'm extremely excited to be playing with the newly reformed Black Crowes, I have endless admiration for Chris and Rich. I'm stoked they put me on the gig.
FAVORITE KEYBOARDS AND WHY? I like cheap keyboards. I learned on 90's Casios, so I love to put on the auto accompaniment mode where it plays a reggae beat and you hold down the chord with your left hand and you shred solos with your right on a trumpet patch. If I had the dough I'd get an Oberheim OB-X because I love Tangerine Dream and they probably had one. I will also accept one as a donation. Thanks in advance!
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? I'm beyond excited to be touring the world with The Black Crowes this summer. I'm also releasing a new Once and Future Band record in April on Castleface Records that I'm extremely proud of. For those in the Oakland, CA area, I play and sing covers at a bar called the Cathouse every Sunday. And I take requests!
ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION: You don't have to earn the right to play music. Sit down at whatever and just mess around. Try and find the notes of a song you're listening to, and remember that music is truth and beauty and the only honest language in the universe.