Lindy Robbins has penned huge songs for Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, One Direction and Faith Hill amongst others. She talks exclusively to the Looking List about how she started in the entertainment business, the creative process, what a typical day is like and reveals one thing nobody knows about her!
Q. Tell us about the early years (including where you were born & early childhood memories) and how you got started in the Entertainment Business?
A. I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley…my dad played piano, banjo , ukulele and sang, and music was a constant in my house. I started singing with him from as early as I can remember. I was raised on Musicals and the great American Songbook, and I still love that music today. When I burn out on KIIS FM, I turn to the Sinatra Station.
I went to college a while in SF but was too impatient for the school of life, so came back to LA and did comedy improv and local theatre as well as performing in clubs and cabarets.Songwriting wasn’t even on my dreamlist yet. I moved to NYC to try to get in musicals on Broadway and had a lot of doors slammed in my face. I got a job waitressing and singing at the Improv in NYC and couldn’t find funny songs to sing and that’s when I started experimenting with writing my own songs. I was in a vocal quartet for 7 years called the Tonics and that’s when I really started to fall in love with songwriting, and slowly was realizing what I loved most about our shows was performing the original songs we sometimes performed.
At this point I was getting known in NYC as a lyricist (I always had melodies in my head but in the early days I wrote mostly lyrics) and I was writing songs for some well known theatre and cabaret artists , but it was still art songs, cabaret songs, theatre songs. I got my first pub deal at Rodgers and Hammerstein, and I am grateful to them for getting me out of the waitressing business but they didn’t really know what to do with me, cause all along I wanted to write pop songs- because that’s what I’ve always loved at heart – singer/songwriter, rock, punk, boy band/ girl group, soul, dance-you name it-mainstream pop. So in 1997, I decided to quit performing. I quit the vocal group, I quit New York, I moved back to L.A. without a dollar in my pocket. At this point my dreams were all about songwriting. I moved to a little apt. in Hollywood without a clue of how to break into the pop world.
A few months later I read about a songwriting contest , Alan Roy Scott’s Music Bridges Unisong contest, and it was the last night before the deadline, and I sent one song, thinking nothing of it. I remember walking to the mailbox and thinking “I don’t even know if I will make the postmark.” Then I won! It was a song with my friend Tanya Leah, A great writer. And that song won not only Best Country Song, which is ironic, because I’m not a country writer, but it won thegrand prize of the whole contest. The prize was to go to a castle in Ireland and write with all these top writers and artists. This was five months after I moved back. It just launched everything. Roanna Gillespie was there and that led to her signingme to my publishing deal with Polygram about a year later which became Universal and I was there for 10 years. It was still a long uphill battle but the contest is what launched me into the lap of opportunities.
Q. Who did you look up to/admire (artist & non-artist wise) when you were growing up?
A. Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, The Beatles, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Suzanne Vega, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Ella Fitzgerald, Rodgers and Hart/Hammerstein/The Gershwins, Billy Joel, Elton John, Leonard Cohen, Diane Keaton, Woody Allen, Lucille Ball, (I guess I’ve always been an entertainment junkie).
Q. We know you are a Topliner, (lyrics & melody) but do you play/write on any instruments
A. I don’t, but I am very musical and I can guide a producer or co-writer to a chord or sound or mood. I never had the patience to learn an instrument and then I came to wonder if it would be a detriment when I work with such accomplished musicians
Q. Who is on your team and how important are they to your overall success?
A. AAM (Advanced Alternative Media) with regards to management and Kobalt Publishing and they are very important in every aspect. I still make the final decisions in regards to my career and co-writes, and I also do alot of my own pitching as I think every songwriter should do, but they help to guide me, counsel me, hook me up with artists and co-writes, to keep me organized and to cheer me on as well as landing placements and organizing writing trips. They don’t push me to work more, they encourage me to work less but smarter and this works better for me.
Q. Do you write to tracks, organically, or both, also, do you ever sing on your own demos?
A. I much prefer writing organically in the room. I sometimes write to tracks, especially in the dance genre, but usually still in the room with the producer so we can still move parts around and have an organic experience. I very rarely sit in a room without the producer present and write to a track. Once in a while I sing my own demo’s but I wouldn’t hire me
Q. Take us through the writing process, and how does it effect you physically, mentally, & emotionally?
A. it’s not a thinking process, it’s a flow, the music inspires me, or an emotion, or a lyrical idea, or an artist’s experience, having a conversation with an artist or co-writer or an emotion or experience I am going through or have been affected by and seeing where it takes us -every time is different, every co-write is different- it’s not really something I can easily describe. Though some days it’s a gift that flows easily and some days it’s a craft that’s hard work.
Q. What is a typical day like for you? Walk us through a 24 hour period/day?
A. Always different. I like it that way. I travel to London and Nashville and NYC to mix it up. But I am not a late night writing person, so usually I write 4-5 days a week during the day with occasional evening writes..There are emails and administrative and pitching stuff to handle from London, Japan, Germany etc at all hours that I need to handle, and I try to take care of those first thing in the morning or last thing at night. I am a big believer that no one pitches one’s songs better than the songwriter and am also a big believer in thinking worldwide and taking advantage of opportunities outside the US . But working too hard is not good for me or my creative process, I need time for life and my family and my boyfriend and for myself to relax and walk and ponder and rest, and also to read and see movies, travel and get idea’s…I need input as well as output- every day is different and my goal for 2014 is to work less but smarter and make more time for loved ones and just enjoying life and perfecting the art of doing nothing. At this moment I am actually overworked and not succeeding in my goal but then again I also believe in taking advantage of opportunities as they come and this has been an unusually busy end of the year so am plowing through.
Q. Do you always focus on writing a Hit Song, and do you ever write with a specific artist in mind, or do you just try to write a great song & then see where it will get placed?
A. All of the above, depending on the situation.
Q. You have had a lot of success as a writer! Can you tells us about some of your most successful songs & what success has meant to you?
A. “Incomplete” was a huge one for me cuz it was my first hit-up till then I’d had some big cuts with Faith Hill, Anastasia, Clay Aiken, etc..but just couldn’t seem to get a single till then, 8 years after I’d been writing in LA…hearing a song of mine on the radio for the first time was unforgettable and emotional and I still really love that song. Also ”What’s Left of Me” because it took such big leaps musically and I still get a thrill when I hear it. ”Tonight, Tonight” was a big one for me, and unexpected because we just wrote it just having fun and it was silly and hooky and it snuck up the charts over a year, and was a huge surprise -breaking a new artist is always a tough one. “It Girl”by Jason DeRulo was a fun one that I don’t think people expected from me.. My current Selena Gomez single “Slow Down” is important to me cause it shows a different side . I’ve always loved dance and have written many songs in the genre and have had dance cuts outside the US, so having a hit here shows my versatility which is very important in this business as it’s very easy to get pigeon holed . The song I’m most proud of is“Skyscraper” because many people have told me what it means to them and that is the biggest compliment of all-to be able to move someone, and that song moves me still cuz it came from a real place.
Q. Are You currently involved in any charities?
A. I hope in the future to give more time to charities, but I have contributed monetarily to many including: Kids Rock, , Music Cares, Write Girl, various pet charities, homeless shelters, Meals On Wheels, American Cancer Sociery , UNICEF Operation Smile, Red Cross , Doctors Without Borders and Birthright
Q. Out of all the artists in the world, who is currently on your “short list” to work with (artist that you have not yet worked with)?
A. Adele, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Lady Gaga, U2, Paul McCartney (a girl can still dream)
Q. Tell us one thing about you that no one else knows?
A. I still want to be an actress or a writer for Saturday Night Live. I also may try to write a book someday, kooky chick lit. Oops that was 3 things.
Q. You have worked with some of the biggest names in the business (including 1D, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Faith Hill, & Hot Chelle Rae) but one name really stands out which is One Direction (considered to be the Biggest Boy Band in the world selling over 35 million combine records, singles, downloads, etc.). How did you get involved with them & what is it like to be involved in the Biggest Group in the world?
A. A mix of being in the right place at the right time, getting involved early on, and luck I think. Especially as very few woman are writers on their records and I guess my lyrical and melodic sensibility was a good fit. The first record no one had any idea they would be this massive band. Toby Gad, one of my longtime collaborators asked me if I wanted to write with a boyband from the UK who had come in 3rd on X Factor and I thought why not? We wrote ”Taken” with the band from those first sessions which landed on the 1st record .The label was loyal to us so they came back around when they began looking for the 2nd record and asked for more, so Toby and I wrote a song with Trevor Dahl “Truly Madly Deeply” that was on the Target bonus from the 2nd record, and that summer I happened to be in London writing at the perfect time and got in with Steve Robson and Wayne Hector who were set to be working with the band soon after, so we wrote part of“Summer Love” and luckily the band loved it and finished it in London and that song ended up on the main 2nd record. This current record was really a stroke of kismet-I was in London again last Dec working with Steve Robson and another band 5 Seconds of Summer (who coincidentally opened for 1D on their worldwide tour) and one night on a whim Steve and I wrote with Ed Drewitt and came up with “Half a Heart” which was one of the first songs the boys cut for “Midnight Memories” and it made the deluxe version.I feel incredibly grateful to be on all three records.
Q. Do you ever hang out or support the artist that you have worked with?
A. I always see them in concert if I can, tweet about their records and performances and do whatever I can to support them
Q. Do you have any hobbies & what do you like to do in your spare time?
A I love to travel, I have major wanderlust and love anything from a trip to Europe to a weekend getaway to Cambria, I love to walk, to see movies and plays and read and hangwithfriendsandfamilyand my boyfriendandmy cats and sit in cafe’s and observe the world going by.
Q. What is “Next” for Lindy Robbins
A. I want to keep evolving as a writer and human, to never become complacent. Every session I feel like I am starting all over again, every song a new adventure never to be taken for granted. I also want to show the deeper side of what i have to say lyrically if I get the chance, and to stay humble and grateful.
Music Publisher: Kobalt
Management: AAM (Advanced Alternative Media)
Legal/Attorney: Matt Greenberg
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