Skinner is a self-taught producer, learning out of necessity the same way he did guitar. He started on GarageBand as a tween, using preset sounds. He managed to upgrade when his dad gave him an important Christmas present (though not without a patented dad joke). “He did that classic thing where you put loads of boxes in each other to make it seem like a big present. And I kept opening it and eventually it was a brick and I was like, ‘Dad, why would you…’ And then taped to the brick was the receipt for [music production software] Logic.”
Today, Skinner is most self-critical about his producing, aware that if it sounds too professional or clean, he might lose some of the rawness he’s trying to convey. To that extent, he aims for more of a “homemade” vibe. “[That] adds something really unique and genuine to it,” he says. “It's endearing almost...it feels down-to-earth, [like,] ‘This is just a person who's just making this.’ It doesn't need to sound perfect to be a good song.”
No matter where Skinner is -- on stage, backstage, with the Cave Club, in an interview -- he makes whoever is in the room feel like his guest. He’s comfortable and practiced when performing or speaking about his music, and he never, ever shies away from feeling. After the last show of his fall North American tour, he says he “just kept hugging everyone [in the crew], going around in a circle and hugging again. Because I didn't want to say goodbye. I started crying in front of them, went upstairs, and just sobbed all over my boyfriend, and just snotted everywhere.”
He isn’t any different around his fans. Skinner has always talked to his audience on a deeply personal level, whether via vlog or at the meet and greet table. “It still feels pretty much the same. They're all so sweet and I've hardly got any hate, which is quite incredible and confusing to me,” he says. “You can't say anything mean to me. I'll cry.”
Skinner met his manager Zack Zarrillo in January 2018. Again, an emotional connection was vital. “He made me feel really protected and safe and he really cared about what I wanted to do,” Skinner says. “That’s when it truly felt like, ‘Oh, this is my job now.’” He played his first major concert in London in May 2018, and caught the ear of Sire Records president Rani Hancock. “I was talking to some of the parents [at the show], and they were telling stories about how they’d flown in from Stockholm and Prague and all these places -- because their children just would not leave them alone -- to see Robin live,” Hancock remembers. “It was just amazingly inspirational to see this beautiful community of kids coming together.” Instantly drawn to Skinner’s fantastical world, Hancock made landing Cavetown a priority.
In about a year, Skinner went from playing New York's 575-capacity Bowery Ballroom to selling out two nights at the 1,400-cap Webster Hall. With every show, he becomes more comfortable in his performing skin, with the help, as always, from his fans. Skinner gets very animated when this is mentioned about halfway through the interview. “The audience plays like 50% of the role in making it a fun time,” he says. “If there's people in the front just going crazy and screaming all the words, I'm like, ‘Hell yeah.’ And it feels like I'm a rock star and it just goes really well.” Whenever he can, Skinner tries to impart some advice, giving back to the audience who has taught him so much. “You are the most important person in your life,” he reminds the passionate Webster Hall crowd that first night, “So be kind to yourself.”