Rich Robinson was ready to make an album when he hit Applehead Recording studio in Woodstock, N.Y., to make his third solo set, “The Ceaseless Sight.” The Black Crowes guitarist and co-founder just didn’t have an album ready to make.
“On the last record (2011’s ‘Through a Crooked Sun’), I went up to Woodstock and had a more solid bunch of finished songs,” Robinson tells Billboard. “This time I was like, ‘Fuck it, let’s just see what happens,’ that kind of attitude. A lot of the songs it was like, ‘Oh, I need kind of a rock song’ or an uptempo song or this or that and I had a part or two and just needed to finish it. It was a pretty free way of making a record. I really enjoyed it.”
Listen to new track “In Comes the Night”:
And, Robinson adds, he had plenty of faith the songs would come.
“Absolutely. The record always dictates itself anyway, like how the songs turnout and what they’re doing and how they are,” explains Robinson, who produced the set, recording primarily with a trio of drummer Joe Magistro and keyboardist Marco Benevento (Amy Helm sings on two tracks). “I had a couple songs that WERE done that were used and were kind of a springboard to the rest, ‘Standing on the Surface of the Sun’ and ‘Hey Fear.’ Even with the Crows records it was like that; ‘Amorica’ had ‘Non Fiction’ and ‘Wiser for the Time,’ and ‘Southern Harmony’ I remember ‘Thorn in My Pride’ was finished, so I’ve always kind of made records that way. As long as I have one or two things it’s cool, and then it’s really interesting for me to see where it goes from there.”
Despite a lack of preconception, “The Ceaseless Sight” — due out June 3 via The End Records — does have a bit of a theme running through its 12 tracks. And a personal one at that; Robinson says that while ‘Through a Crooked Sun’ was impacted by his then-impending move from New York to Atlanta to help care for his ailing father Stan Robinson (who passed away in September), “The Ceaseless Sight” took some inspiration from another then-upcoming move with his wife and younger sons to Los Angeles in order to be closer to her family and not far from Robinson’s brother and Crowes mate Chris Robinson, though the two seldom see each other.
“You can say that ‘Through a Crooked Sun’ was a grounding record — I was going home,” Robinson explains. “Being at home for those two years, I really did feel that completion. And then on this record, I’m moving to California, moving to a foreign place — not foreign but different, complete different from my context because I’d never lived there before. Living in a place means something different than visiting, even if I’ve visited a thousand times. So it’s interesting to bring those two concepts into play.”
Robinson says he didn’t lose any sleep over the move, but the track “In Comes the Night” is about insomnia. “It’s more about staying up and thinking and just laying there, almost in the twilight and what that might mean,” he says. “It could be a good thing or a bad thing — like, ‘In comes the night, what’s the night gonna be this time?’ So you have these two chords going in and out that sound slightly ominous, but then the chorus is uplifting and feels good. But it’s that concept of always having something going on in your head.”
Robinson has already started playing dates, including at this year’s South By Southwest, with his current five-piece Rich Robinson Band. The group starts off again in earnest on May 24 and has a pair of Woodstock Sessions May 31-June 1, as well as some shows with fellow Crowes guitarist Jackie Greene and his band. Robinson’s troupe will be in Europe during June, with more North American shows planned for later in the summer. As for the Crowes, he echoes his brother’s sentiments that, “I don’t think we’re doing anything. Nothing’s planned. That’s all up to Chris, ’cause he’s not really interested in any of that, so right now I’m just focusing on what we’re doing with this album and this band until I hear differently.”