Joe Robinson: international man of music
Australian native Joe Robinson gives the impression that he’s been in the music business for a long time– which doesn’t make much sense, considering he’s only been in Nashville a year-and-a-half, and he’s a mere 20 years old. But if it seems like he knows what he’s doing, it’s because he’s been an accomplished musician since he was 13.
Robinson won Australia’s National Songwriting Competition at the tender age of 13 with the help of his band, the Kaotic Penguins. Three years later, his guitar skills gained him first place in the reality show, “Australia’s Got Talent.” Now, after releasing his first lyrical album, Let Me Introduce You, Robinson is continuing to travel the world playing his music and dazzling audiences with his smooth voice and smoking-fast fingers.
With a cool, casual personality and an evident zest for life, a grinning Robinson said in regards to his latest album, “I feel like I just graduated college.”
Robinson moved to Nashville in order to expand his music career. He put out two instrumental albums, but because no one in America knew who he was, he said he was given the chance to start fresh with new skills.
In the small town of Temagog, Robinson was introduced to music through his parents. His mom played the drums, and his dad played the guitar and banjo.
“But he’s not very good,” Robinson joked.
Music had forever become a part of him from the very beginning.
“Even before I knew how to play, I was kind of interested in it,” Robinson said. “I thought it was just part of life because my parents did it, and I thought everyone did it.”
With no formal lessons, Robinson began picking up tips from other musicians that practiced at his house and from YouTube videos. While still in his preteens, the Emmanuel brothers, Phil and Tommy, discovered the young musician and fostered his talent by having him perform with them at local shows. It was Tommy Emmanuel who brought a 15-year-old Joe to America for the first time.
“He invited me here to play and check out Nashville and see what it’s like,” Robinson said. “That was, like, my eyes were open so much on that trip. That’s when I decided to come here.”
Robinson’s move to Nashville brought more than just the average lessons that moving to the other side of the world brings. Although singing had always been a part of his career, this gave him the opportunity to live and breathe his music, focusing on his vocals. Learning new writing skills and how to sing and play at the same time was an exciting new experience.
“It was crazy,” he laughed. “It was a really steep learning curve. To write lyrics, if you’ve never done it, is really hard. Every day I learn something new. It’s a constant learning process.”
As far as Robinson’s lyrics go, his album, Let Me Introduce You, is full of relatable songs delivered with a unique sound. Everything from personal songs like “Adelaide” and “Keep It Together,” to the singles “Out Alive” and “Skyline” that address the crazy moments life can bring, the hard work Robinson put into his album can definitely be heard.
Robinson’s success has come with some setbacks, such as the process of finding an American label to sign with. He has his own Australian label, “Joe’s Garage,” but when Robinson met with other songwriters, the first thing they asked was what format he was writing for.
“I would walk in a room and people would be like, ‘Well, what format are you? Are we writing for country radio?’ and I’d be like, ‘I, I dunno man,’ ” Robinson said. “And when it comes to labels, they tend to say, ‘You’re really good, but we don’t know what to do with you.’”
Not finding a fitting label hasn’t been a big issue. Robinson spent a couple of months touring in Europe and routinely goes back to Australia so they know that he hasn’t forgotten about them.
The writing process for his album was a new experience, meeting with other songwriters five days a week for three weeks straight. Despite the grueling process, Robinson loved every bit of it.
“I even do it in my sleep. I go to sleep at night and just see a fret board.”