Rob Flax

Tell us your real names, country of birth, date of birth and childhood experience.

Real name: Rob Flax; Born in the USA; 4/03/1988. I grew up in Evanston, IL, just north of Chicago.

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Tell us about your music career, your band name, musical background, experience and skills.

I’ve been studying music for 20 years, and attended New England Conservatory for my master’s degree. Classically trained on the violin from age 8, I got into jazz and improvisation in middle school, then other styles of music as I grew older (rock, bluegrass, folk and country, Indian raga…).

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Tell us about your genre, concept and idea behind your music video and the song.

This song is a melding of several genres. Definitely a hip-hop influence to the beat production, but the drums are me playing live. I wrote the arrangement using my live looping rig, and wanted the studio version to reflect that process. There’s a rock element, plus classical strings, and a sort of jazz fusion electric violin solo as well. Not sure where the vocal melody comes from, but probably from classical music.

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Tell us everything that we need to know about you as a musician and the ups and downs you have faced in the music business.

I started playing violin when I was 8 years old, and I’ve been playing ever since. I sang in choir, and starred in school musicals. I got into jazz in middle school, then bluegrass in high school and college, which led me to singing and then songwriting. Coupled with middle school rap battles and an obsession with rockers like Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa, and you get the mish-mosh I am today.

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Tell us about other members of your band, music producer, crew or music video director, how the song was recorded and how the music video was shot.

For this song (and most of my debut record) I wrote the song, sang lead and harmony vocals, and played every single instrument. Much of the album was recorded in my home studio, but this track was done in a single day at House of Blues Studios in Nashville, and was recorded and mixed by Leland Elliott.

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Tell us how long you have been in the music industry, your experience and your future goal.

I’ve been making music since childhood, but started gigging professionally in high school with a family band called the Grass Stains, then touring in undergrad in Ohio, with a group called Katty Whomp Us. That road experience, plus some amazing teachers and mentors and an award from the American String Teachers Association in 2009 convinced me that music should be my full-time thing. I attended grad school at the New England Conservatory from 2010 to 2012. My goal is to master as many instruments as possible by the time I’m ninety years old, and to perform for millions of people by the time I’m that old.

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Tell us what inspires you to write, compose and sing.

I can’t help but make music! I’m an improviser, and melodies flow out of me like sweat. I tap on every household object—anything’s a drum. The process of sitting still and finishing a song though usually involves a deadline, often self-imposed. I like to book lots of shows and then use those as an excuse to finish something I’m working on.

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Tell us the secret behind making a hit song.

My secret is my life philosophy: Continuous Outward Growth In All Directions (COGIAD for short). I acknowledge I’m easily distracted—I might have an undiagnosed case of ADD or ADHD—but I’ve chosen to embrace that and practice whatever strikes my fancy. As long as I circle back to everything I’ll keep growing, and my wide set of skills gives me a deeper understanding of all the elements of music. Otherwise the best advice is “build a raft, not a boat” (that is, whatever the fastest thing you can do to get into the water and start flowing downstream). To quote something that I’ve heard from the folks at Facebook: “Done is better than perfect.”

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Tell us the message you will like to pass to your fans out there.

A message for fans: music education is the most important thing we can give a child. If you have kids, enroll them in a music program. There are so many benefits for a developing mind, far beyond just being musical… This should be a core subject with math and languages… It’s just as valuable (and in fact makes you better at both). Also: life is long! It takes 10,000 hours to master something, which means that we all will live long enough to become masters of at least six different things in our lifetimes. Whatever it is you want to do but are afraid to start, just start it, and ten years from now you’ll be pretty good. It’s not too late.

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Tell the kind of advice you will give to an upcoming artist.

Advice for an upcoming artist: develop friendships as much as your music. Buy your friends a beer, even the stingy ones that will never buy you one back. It’s better to be generous in the long term, because eventually you’ll need favors and people will trust you. Not everything needs to be an ask… just help people!

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Elaborate on your music careers, albums, songs, tours, recognition or awards you might have obtained.

My bio has a good summary (robflax.com/about), but some highlights: I’ve toured the world with multiple bands and played hundreds of shows on many different instruments. I’ve opened for B.B. King and Tower of Power, played on a James Franco film score and in the soundtrack to an Anthony Bourdain web series. I’ve collaborated with modern dancers, writing scores for finished works and improvising entire performances with small groups. I’ve released an EP of original instrumentals, as well as a collaborative instrumental record with cello and tabla, before this solo debut (Distractible Boy).

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List Radio or TV Stations that are airing your songs and blogs that have featured you as well and send message to them via this platform.

My music has appeared on radio stations like WNUR, WERS, WUMB, and more (working on sending it to more). I was just recently featured in the CD Baby DIY Musician blog, along with a live video filmed by YouTube as part of their pop-up Nashville Sessions (link: diymusician.cdbaby.com/youtube/music-business-works-time/)

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Tell us how you write your lyrics, compose, sing and record in the studio.

If I start with instrumental parts, I end up writing an instrumental—that’s years of classical and jazz training—so for songwriting purposes I almost always start from the words. From there the melody comes quickly, and then I find the right harmonies (though from song to song this process changes). Sometimes I imagine the whole song from start to finish, and other times I use my live rig—a looper pedal—as the basis for the structure of the song.

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Name five biggest artists that you like.

Five big artists I like: Many of my heroes are singular, idiosyncratic multi-instrumentalists: Rahsaan Roland Kirk, John Hartford, Tim O’Brien, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney. Tough to stop at five… If I could sneak in a sixth it’d be Mister Rogers, who wrote all the music for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

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Name the artists you have collaborated with before in your songs or artists you are willing to collaborate with in the future if you have the chance to do so.

Previous artist collars include Rajesh Bhandari, Joy Adams, Dan Baker, the tango group Orquesta Sin Trabajo, and currently working with the band Billy Wylder. There are so many people I’d like to collaborate with, but I’ve been obsessed with St. Vincent and Blake Mills recently. If either of them is reading this, give me a shout!

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Give us the links to your website and your entire social network.

http://www.robflax.com/

 

http://facebook.com/RobFlaxOfficial

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Give us the links to your various stores for fans to buy your music.
Buy my new record on BandCamp, CD Baby, iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, more… here’s a redirect page with all of them in one place: hyperurl.co/distractibleboy

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Tell us about your happiest day and saddest day.

The happiest and saddest day was at Ran Blake’s 75th Birthday Concert in NEC’s Jordan Hall. Ran’s an incredible musician and human being, and that concert left me stunned. I was so moved by the outpouring of love from all those who know him, and his music left me weeping, alone, in the theater long after everyone else had left. I’ve never been so devastated by solo piano.

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Tell us how you will spend a million dollars.

If I had a million dollars (cue Barenaked Ladies song in the background), I’d probably invest it so I could live comfortably for the rest of my life without worrying about bills. Then I’d keep doing what I’m doing: making music, teaching children, and spreading the gospel about how important music is in the lives of every human being.

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