by Gio Pilato
Robben Ford is one of those very rare people that is able to make an impact on anybody, as a musician and as a human being. When I walk in his dressing room, his charming smile and his presence makes me feel extremely comfortable and personally, I could not hope for more, given the importance of this extraordinary musician.
Bluebirdreviews is extremely honoured to meet Robben in London, UK, to promote his latest record, A Day In Nashville, which demonstrates once again the class and the ability as songwriter and performer of the american guitarist.

Gio -  Robben, there is no doubts saying that A Day In Nashville is a unique record; did the idea of recording the album in one day come along when you and the band met in the Studio or was it a long-planned project of yours?

RF - The record began as it meant to be, I should say, live recording, from a Tour we did last year in Germany. We recorded three shows out there and when we came back and listened to it, my producer and I Rick Wheeler we were happy with it, so we decided to go into the studio, in a controlled environment and recorded the album like you do for a live show, but having the ability to stop and start and just few selected guests to come around and watch us play. In view of this live recording process, I ended up having some extra time before recording so I had the opportunity to write some new music, which was very satisfying for me to be able to bring some new music to the record, otherwise it would have been just a live version of Bringing It Back Home, which would have been far less interesting.

Gio - Nine tracks, seven penned by yourself plus two covers from Big Maceo Merryweather (Poor Kelly Blues) and James Cotton (Cut You Loose). How did you come across to those two fairly obscure gems that you so brilliantly brought back to life on the album?

RF - Well, I heard the James Cotton one many years ago and I even considered recording it prior to the last record but I never really got around to it somehow; the addition of the trombone to my band aided in my decision to cut that song because there is the trombone part on the James Cotton record so it kind of brought back to my mind that sound; the other song, Poor Kelly Blues, I found it on a vinyl record while I was looking at my vinyl collection of blues records for some inspiration and I found Poor Kelly Blues on this Maceo Merryweather record, which was funny because I am not even sure I actually listened to that record from beginning to end; I had that record at home for years and I never really investigate it so it was new music for me. That really turned out to be a good finding for me

(Gio) And a very successful one too!  

Gio - To be surrounded by very talented musicians just adds the sweetest of the cherries on the cake in this album; the presence of the trombonist Barry Green, in particular, underpins the upbeat southern-rock opener Green Grass, Rainwater. Have you been knowing Barry for a long time?

RF - No, actually I met Barry for the first time just before the recording session; we never played together before the recording session and I met him through my co-producer Rick; he is certainly a great musician! 

Gio - Robben, I believe that A Day In Nashville really reinforces beautifully who you are, as a musician and a music lover. How do you manage after almost 44 years on the road to find the inspiration to pen such incredible records as this?

RF - Thank you, I am glad you love the record. You know, for me personally, having toured as a solo artist for little longer than 20 years although I have done many things beyond that, I managed not to warn myself out quite yet. As far as writing songs, for me is a passion, you know; I like writing songs and it's something I have done to really encourage myself to grow as a musician rather than as an instrumental of "per se", you know, I've grown as a singer-songwriter which was like opening new chapters in my musical life. So, it's not over yet!  

Gio - How has it been, emotionally for you, to record the album at Sound Kitchen, one of the most iconic studio in USA?

RF - Well, it was ok but not a big deal in the end. I have been in many studios in my career, there were little issues whilst recording too but it was ok.

Gio - Robben, at the age of 10 you started playing saxophone and at 13, the first guitar chords. Looking retrospectively, if you had the choice, would you have loved trying playing other instruments in your teens?

RF - Well, I just had a kind of epiphany about the saxophone; I saw a young man with a High School Band in my little hometown; I saw him  coming upfront with an outer saxophone which was feature on the song they were playing; I was 10 as you were saying and it was like a light bulb went off, I said to myself "That's what I want to do! I want to do that, right there, whatever he is doing!". So I asked my mother for a saxophone and two weeks later she showed up with an outer saxophone and I jumped all over that thing, you know. So I just played and played and played it but I never really excelled that; so once I picked up the guitar and started playing it, there was a certain point where I just took it exponentially a big leap in which I realized I went from 0 to 60 pretty quickly so I went fully for it; I kept playing the saxophone up to my early 20's but hey, I was just meant to play the guitar, that was my destiny.     

Gio - It is rather difficult to pigeonhole the album, a sort of combustion of Blues, R&B with tinges of Jazz and Southern Rock, almost resembling a very valuable painting under form of music. What definition would you give to the record in your own words?

RF - Well, I like your words, quite frankly, because that's the way I see it too. Most of what I do I see it that way; it is very eclectic: there is a blues thread that runs into it, R&B as well for sure and there are many other things that influence my music; jazz certainly does influence my music, sometimes more now than at the time. It could come back around to be more important anytime, you know. So, whatever the music and the inspiration is, I just turn on the tap and let it flow; I don't think too much about it anymore, I just let it run as it comes. 

Gio - We had numerous reports of your Italian Fans loving so much seeing you performing in our country earlier this month. Any chance to see you live in Italy perhaps later this year for more dates?

RF - Not this year, I don't think so, apart of the show in Lucca earlier this month (July) in the beautiful city of Lucca in Tuscany. I loved seeing Derek Trucks (Allman Brothers Band), it was a really good show. 

Gio - You have recorded a myriad of solo album, collaborated with the cream of the music establishment, even done Movie Soundtracks; should somebody one day ask you to play a song, either one of yours or someone else's, which would define who you really are, for which one would you go for and why?

RF - Well, you know, that changes, it can be a different song on a different day, it is a bit difficult to do that; one thing I can say is, for me personally, ultimately I feel like I am more of a balladeer than anything else, you know. Just in my heart of hearts, my own personal expression, would be something along the line of, like from the Bringing It Back Home record, a song called Fool's Paradise; the song contains this 30's-'40's blues and jazz combination, a slow tempo number but with changes of chords, with some harmonica, a combination I really like. I also find very comfortable singing with that kind of tempo, you know, I am not the greatest singer in the world but given the time, you know...Not too loud on volume, that is the territory in which I am really able to present myself.  

Gio - Robben, we are in England right now, therefore a mention to your collaboration with George Harrison from the Beatles back in 1974 is almost inevitable; is there any curious anecdote or a secret you can reveal about the man himself out of your personal experience about meeting him?

RF - I don't think so. I mean, how more stories you can tell about The Beatles? Everybody seems to know everything about them. All I can say is that he was very kind to me and very cool with me; I really liked him as a person, he was a really good guy. The more you find out about him, the more human he becomes; almost always the good parts of him is what shine for the most and quite frankly, I can't think about anything negative about George. We were never close, in terms of friendship; we worked together for two months, I stayed in his house a couple of times and was around him, but I wouldn't say we were really close.

Gio - How many guitars have you brought with you on this Tour, out of your personal collection?

RF - Just two; I always travel just with two guitars. I cannot travel with more than a couple of guitars for practical reasons.

Gio- Robben, you have been anything but predictable in your long and glorious music career; does any career and personal life get any better than yours?

RF - Oh, plenty! (chuckles). You know, I have been a very hard working musician all my life, it has not been certainly all fun and games. Certainly a wonderful experience, with plenty of difficulties and ups and downs and very hard roads in many many ways. I also have seen that had to work not as hard as myself to reach their goals but the one thing that has happened, very interestingly to me, is the people I have been played with have all been the best in their field. First of all, Jimmy Witherspoon, the blues singer, you know he was my favorite one and I was working with him when I was 20! Then Joni Mitchell; I mean, she is The Queen, you know! A fantastic singer-songwriter that transcends everybody else and then Miles Davis, my ultimate music hero; I have got to play with the guy and he was good to me, he liked me. Then, as we were saying before, working with one of The Beatles is kind of preposterous... So I feel I was very fortunate in my career to be able work with the people I worked with. Some other people, they don't even think to work with other people; take for example Eric Johnson, for instance; his whole career he has been Eric Johnson, straight out. It's a whole different life and there is no selfishness at all in it but just not much of variety of experiences. He could have done any number of things but he decided to follow his path in his own way, which, don't get me wrong, I admire completely. But to get the chance to work with, as I did, the cream of the crop of three-four different genres, that's kind of awesome in terms of how you develop as a musician, so I feel blessed with that, that was able to have these experiences with these really wonderful artists and be enriched by that. For that, I am truly thankful for!  

Robben, many thanks for being on the shows, we want to see you walking away with a Grammy this time around, the album certainly deserves it and so you :-).

RF - Well, you know, at this stage of my career I don't really care about the Grammy, but thank you for the thought!

gioAbout Our Author: Giovanni "Gio" Pilato is Italian music writer, who has been living in UK since 2002. With an enormous passion for music, and life in general, his interest in the communications began at 11 years old. He worked briefly for local radios in his youth and did a one-off radio show on 2007 on the glorious BBC 6 Music Radio station. Gio started his freelance journalist career in 2012, with Italian artists, and is now mainly focusing on blues artists. To follow Gio Pilato and his all cool radio show, Visit: (RTL 102.5 Cool (Webradio)):