Justin Robinett lights up when he’s asked about numbers. In his case, the statistics are pretty amazing. Over the past few years, the Texas native has become a YouTube sensation, with well over 70 million views and 400,000 subscribers for his musical performances. “It’s the biggest blessing in the world,” he says. “I decided to post a couple of videos on YouTube. One by one, people started to pass it along and I’m just so blessed and lucky that people are enjoying what we are doing.”
What makes a song cover worthy? “That’s a process,” he says. “At the beginning of putting videos on YouTube, I had to do a lot of covers of what were popular songs at the time. That’s what we were trying to do — take something that was popular on the radio and try to be one of the first people to put a cover out on it. The charts kind of drove what we chose. But the more we did that, the more we decided that we loved doing the classic songs. That inspired me to find songs that were timeless.”
Recently, Robinett released a brand-new album, On Top of the Covers, which comprises many of the performances that launched his YouTube career. Produced by Nashville’s Mark Carman, the set includes such classic songs as “In The Air Tonight” and “Isn’t She Lovely.” He said that putting his spin on such beloved compositions was something he loves doing, but it’s not the easiest task in the world. “It’s so hard to follow a Stevie Wonder or a Michael Jackson song or something like that. But those songs have stuck with me for so long that we just wanted to try to make them our own. It was fun to do, but definitely a challenge.”
In terms of musical influence, Robinett says that his parents helped to shape him. “I grew up — and still live — in Texas, so there was a lot of country, which was what my mom and dad were listening to, and Dad also listened to a lot of rock. I went to college and found out about the Beatles for the first time. I was kind of sheltered, growing up in a country area. Country was the roots, but I have definitely branched out of it. I’m always learning new music, you’ve gotta have open ears in this industry.”
Having his first album out “feels surreal,” he says. “It’s amazing that it’s here, because I ended up recording the entire album at my studio here in Lubbock. So, I was unaffiliated with any other groups. I was doing it all by myself. To have Sony Red reach out for the distribution on the album, it’s just so exciting.”
Among the tracks, Robinett covered Maroon 5‘s “Secret,” which he says is “one of my favorite Maroon 5 songs. I remember that album came out about ten years ago and I just fell in love with the vibe of the song. It was just so groovy and funky in a different way and I knew it had to be on the album. It’s a lot of fun and it spoke to me musically.” Watch his sultry live performance of “Secret” below.
Many of the artists whom he has covered have gotten behind Robinett, including one of pop’s biggest stars. “We’ve been very fortunate over the years to have lots of artists support what we’re doing and promote it on their own agenda for us. We were real fortunate that, at one point, we did a cover that Justin Bieber retweeted and actually making a tweet in a conversation with a Backstreet Boy. We were doing ‘As Long As You Love Me.’ I was very excited.”
From the looks of it, 2015 should be very bright for the singer, with tour dates being added to his schedule and the opportunity to showcase his own music as well. “We play all the time. I’ll be posting videos on You Tube, having more shows with full bands and also a few acoustic shows, as well,” says Robinett. “I’m already planning on following up with my first original album later in the year. What I’ve done so far is cover material for YouTube, using that as a platform. I’m excited to start promoting original material that is all mine.”