Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Robbie Dean is known for his unique pop R&B sound, poetic lyrics, smooth vocal delivery and impressive range. I got the chance to talk to him about how he first got into music, his experience with the Off The Strip singing competition in LA, whether he has plans for more music any time soon and more. Keep reading to see what he had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you first got into making and performing music.
I was always singing and creative as a child. When I wasn’t playing baseball, I was usually making funny iMovie films with friends or forcing my friends to learn a choreographed song medley [laughs]. Eventually the baseball field became my first stage when I was asked to sing the National Anthem at a little league closing ceremony at the age of 11. At that moment, I traded a glove for a microphone when someone saw me and invited me to be the lead singer in a kid band. Shortly after that, I picked up my dad’s guitar and wrote my first song, “Green Light”.
Everything that followed was always the next music thing: from entering singing competitions, to playing Aladdin in my 8th grade musical, to performing in the school talent show, to making finals at my first singing competition called OC Icon, to landing on the first season of X-Factor, to going to high school at the Orange County School of the arts, to landing a job as a music producer/songwriter at the first studio I ever recorded with OC Hit Factory. There are very few days since when I haven’t picked up my guitar to sing or write.
Was there a specific moment or person that made you realize that music is what you wanted to pursue professionally?
It was a combination of people and events. My first band manager who “discovered” me at the baseball field was always so supportive, believed in me 100% and gave me my first opportunities to take music and performing seriously. My parents never questioned my desire to pursue music as a career and supported me 100%. Then when I got to the boot camp at X Factor, which [meant I] was probably in the top 200 of thousands [of people who auditioned], that gave me confidence.
There was a moment at a concert when I FELT that this was what I was made to do. It was dark and I remember everyone with neon light sticks all over the amphitheater. I was so mesmerized by the audience and said to myself, “I’m going to perform for an audience like this one day!”
I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey with their music. Your sound would typically be classified as pop/R&B, but if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe it?
It’s hard to classify my music in one genre. My sound is unique. I don’t stick to the typical song formula. I like a warm, melancholic, melodic sound that causes me to emote and be raw and authentic.
Going off of that, who are some of your musical influences?
Daniel Caesar, Mac Aryes and Allen Stone are my musical inspirations because they each found a way to develop a unique R&B sound. They inspire me to find my own unique way. I got to see Daniel Caesar at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles this week. Man, I get inspired to write just listening to him in my car! My mind is spinning now!
You just won the Off The Strip singing competition out in LA, which was an 8-week elimination style contest. First, congratulations! Second, what made you want to sign up for the competition?
Thank you! It was such a fun 8 weeks performing with 11 other really cool artists at Roccos WEHO, which is a new restaurant/nightclub owned by Lance Bass. This all started after I was invited to interview on the live stream talk show, Females Unfiltered with Chrissy Carpenter. Chrissy sent me the tip about the competition and said she thought I could win! She had so much confidence in me that I felt I had to go for it! I will be performing live again on FemalesUnfiltered the first week of September. Watch for it at www.femalesunfiltered.com.
What went into selecting your songs for each week of the contest?
Each week was a different decade of music. We found out the next day and had to send in our song choice. I had more creative license than most of the contestants because I played guitar rather than singing to a track. I picked songs that fit my voice, then rearranged them to fit my vibe and made them my own. I spent hours each week creating a “Robbie Dean” version of each song.
Did you have a favorite song you performed in that contest and why?
I thought my cover twist on Kanye West’s “Heartless” was cool. I liked how I changed up Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. My favorite was on finale night when Off The Strip let us play with band members. Some of my best friends are amazing musicians, so I asked them to perform Ariana Grande’s “God is a Woman” with me. We practiced for three nights before the show. It came together so well and I’m pretty sure we nailed it! Nick Stone (keys), Matt Isaac (back-up vocals and egg) and Matisse Pasillas (drums) are three members of Undecided Future. Go see em. You won’t regret it.
You also just recently released your single, “Angel”. What’s the story behind this song
It’s about a special girl in my life who is amazing and sometimes I have to pinch myself because she is so good to me.
I always love hearing about the songwriting process so I was wondering if you could give me a glimpse into what it was like specifically for this song.
I like to be true to myself and my feelings. I guess you could say I’m not afraid to be vulnerable. For this song, and a lot of them, I’m feeling something so deeply that the lyrics just come to me. Then I pick up my guitar or keys and begin to emote what I’m feeling through melodies and sounds.
Were there any major changes made to “Angel” once you got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?
I’m a perfectionist with my music and sometimes I second guess myself and spend too much time on small details. I wrote “Angel” in one day and it was just right.
I know this single just came out, but are there any plans to release another single or a new EP/full length project anytime this year?
Yes! Not soon enough, but these things take time. I’m collaborating with some really talented artists and producers and I’m planning to release an EP by early next year. You may hear a single before then though! I’m impatient.
You’re still relatively new to the music game. What are some music industry-related goals or benchmarks that you’re aiming to reach in the next couple of years?
I just turned 22. I feel like this is my prime time. Ideally, I would like to have an independent hit that catches like wildfire and gets me noticed by the major labels. I imagine myself opening up for big name artists that help me eventually headline, and planning on writing music with and for industry pros.
Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
Joggers. Do I roll up or keep down?