Chicago native Chris Rob is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, classically trained pianist, and in-demand producer that can literally do it all.
A bankable touring act and constant on the New York music scene, Chris has worked with and made a fan of such notable artists as Stevie Wonder, Prince, Elton John, The Roots, Barry Manilow, Roberta Flack and more.
His television appearances include Oprah, The Grammys, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Entertainment Tonight, Top of the Pops (Amsterdam, London), and Later…with Jools Holland (London) among others.
Catch Chris as he plays The Armour Agency’s Songs & Stories Chicago series on Sunday September 1 at Davenport’s Piano Bar in Wicker Park.
N’DIGO recently sat down the multi-talented artist to find out more his career, his inspirations, and what he has planned for the near future.
N’DIGO: For those unfamiliar, in your own words, who is Chris Rob?
Chris Rob: I am a performing artist. I’m a singer, pianist, and a songwriter whose most fulfilling passion is lifting people up with my music. Although heavily rooted in the great musical artists from the past like Marvin Gaye, Prince, and others, I’m influenced by the sound of today, and seek clever ways to merge both worlds, all topped off with thought provoking lyrics.
Coming from a musical family, including your mom being the music director of the family church, how much of your experience playing in church would you credit to your musicianship?
So much of it. It was where I first found my passion, my first audience, and started heading in the direction of my life’s ultimate journey.
When did you decide you wanted to pursue music professionally? Did you consider anything else as a career or did you always know it would be music?
I was pretty tuned in to music becoming a major part of my life since I was very young. Actually it was right after I saw Purple Rain. Something really stuck with me after first seeing it. To be honest, I don’t know if I ever truly made a professional choice to do it – I just did it as much as I could and eventually started getting paid for it.
Tell us about your latest release Sound Of Da Struggle: Reimagined.
This project is a follow up to my last EP Sound of The Struggle. It’s basically some really dope remixes of songs from that album produced by myself and some of my favorite deejays/producers, including DJ Spinna, Anthony Nicholson, DJ Lee Farmer, Ian Friday, and a couple of new jams as well!
What can attendees expect from your upcoming performance at Songs & Stories Chicago?
Some sing-alongs, a lot of piano driven music, including some of my original songs that have propelled my career, and a few classics from people I have worked with along the way. Also, some crazy music industry stories I have never shared!
You’ve had the opportunity to perform and work with so many folks. Who are three artists that are still on your wish list?
Off the top of my head, Nas, Erykah Badu & Daft Punk.
As an independent artist, how do you feel about where the music biz is today in terms of how technology has changed it and the absolute need for major label support not being what it was in the past?
I feel like it’s an amazing time for artists to be exposed, and truly the sky is the limit. Look at the success of Lil’ Nas X’s Old Town Road. He never expected that kind of success. A little over half a year after he released it himself, he created Billboard history, and now he’s on the cover of Time! That says so much about the possibilities that an artist has with his/her music that we should all be truly inspired.
Do you have a specific practice routine as far as writing or playing that you employ to help you stay sharp?
I like to sit at my Rhodes piano and play for hours whenever I get a chance. That’s how I usually start my day if I can help it. I constantly get songwriting ideas while doing that.
What’s one album that is an absolute must for you that you can’t do without?
Fantastic Vol. 2 by Slum Village. It’s…wait for it…fantastic!
What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
I am preparing my standup routine behind closed doors. Any day now, I’m going up. And you’re gonna laugh…at the jokes!
Best advice for aspiring artists?
Oh yes. Be yourself, 100 always! Strive to be as true to yourself in your lyrics as you can, and then balance it out with a little imagination. Go see your favorite artists perform and meet them. And release your work! Don’t hold on to it too long; you have more ideas to complete on the way. Never give up. And most importantly, trust God.
Favorite quote or affirmation?
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now, you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee
What’s next for Chris Rob?
Let’s just say, you will most likely see my face on your screen a bit more often, but first, more music for you to rock to. I’m non-stop over here!
For more information on Chris, visit www.chrisrobmusic.com