Robin Thicke may not be a name you’ve heard too much. With all the gummy, sugary, watered-down pop music out there, it’s rare to find someone who can grab music by the horns and steer it into a place it’s never been.
Someone who has the passion of a soul singer, the lyrics of a hip-hop artist, and the skill of a super producer. Without any professional training, Thicke has become an amazing producer–not only producing his own albums–but also working with such music powerhouses as Mary J Blige, Usher, Christina Aguilera, and Michael Jackson on their projects.
Everything this man touches turns platinum, and you probably didn’t even know who he was! Currently, he’s smashing records with the success of the #1 hit “Lost Without U.” The album sits at #6 this week on the Top 200 Album chart and remains the #1 most played song ever at the Urban Adult Contemporary format. Robin sat down with me and answered a few questions.
Josh Martin: Hi Robin, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Let’s get down to it. Not many people know your father was Alan Thicke of TV fame, and you have a famous mother too. Unlike the Osbournes or Brooke Hogan, your celebrity parents haven’t been exploited to make you a celebrity. Was that intentional?
Robin Thicke: Ever since I was 6 or 7 I loved to sing and dance. I always would find myself singing in the house and dancing. I wanted to be famous myself, and do it my way. Plus I loved MTV, so it just seemed to fit.
Josh: Your music is very different and very special. Who would you consider to be your musical inspirations?
Thicke: Music that makes me feel, which is rare to find nowadays. Music like Michael Jackson, Prince, The Beatles are people who did what they did and didn’t apologize for it. It’s music like that, that I would like to do. Hip-hop is really the only music that inspires me anymore. Everything else seems so packaged and fake. Hip-hop inspires fashion, movies, television. Hip-hop is the most original form of music, and it just makes you feel. To me, Hip-hop is the true inspiration of art.
Josh: People in the media have compared you to people like Justin Timberlake, and Prince? What is your response to that?
Thicke: They’d be so far off, it’s not funny. We don’t write about the same things, we don’t have the same life experiences. If you’ve bought and listened to my album, him and I sound nothing alike. Other than being two white guys that like hip-hop, we aren’t anything alike.
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Josh: You’ve produced, and people don’t realize that. You’ve gone platinum many times over with things you’ve produced. Can you drop a few names as to who you’ve done work with?
Thicke: If it’s not organic, I don’t do it. I don’t attach my name to people just to do that, it’s not me. I’ve worked with Michael Jackson, Mary J Blige, Christina Aguilera just to name a few. All of them were amazing to work with. All the albums I’ve produced on, have gone platinum, or gold.
Josh: Wow. That’s really amazing. So, with all that popularity, your first album got no critical success. Do you think that your image had anything to do with it, or where you were coming from?
Thicke: I cut my hair off, people do it all the time. I used to have super-long hair. Image should have nothing to do with my music or my sound. If people listen to me now and listen to me back then, they should realize that I’m the same guy. Just different spots in my life when I wrote my first album and my second album. I was happy during my first album.
Josh: You’ve had your new sound compared as “neo-soul”, how do you feel about that?
Thicke: That couldn’t be farther from the truth. If anything, I’ve got a real retro sound. I sound much more like someone from the ’70s than some “Neo-Soul.” That says that there is some real soul music out right now. I’m not sure that’s the case.
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Josh: Your second album, The Evolution of Robin Thicke, is signed to Pharrell Williams‘ Star Trak label. How was it with two producers in the studio?
Thicke: Pharrell didn’t want to come in the studio with me. He called me one day, after hearing some music of mine and wanted to sign me. I called him an angel because he really swooped in and saved me from a bad spot in my life. Pharell said I’d change music, and if he touched my sound, it wouldn’t be mine. Pharrell really let me go and do my thing and gave me a chance to put my sound out there. We both just realized that nowadays if Pharrell says I’m cool, people will buy my records. If Pharrell does a remix, people buy the album. We never intended to do those things, but when they happened they happened. I can’t thank Pharrell enough for that.
Josh: What was the inspiration for your new album “The Evolution of Robin Thicke,” and the songs on the album?
Thicke: The last two years of my life have been two of the worst years I’ve had. It’s been rough, waking up every day and feeling like your not good enough, not sexy enough, not smart enough. It can ruin a man, and most of the music on my album talks about that and how hard the struggle was. So my new song “Lost Without U” was about that. Feeling like you aren’t good enough for anything, and turning to your woman and exposing yourself, and telling her that without her you may not have anything left.
Josh: Is there anyone that you’d work with on your next album, or want to work with? Dream collaboration? What about Lil Wayne remixing Shooter?
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Thicke: No one. I don’t want to work with anyone. I feel like I’ve got so much music trying to rip its way out of me, I don’t need someone else to get that out with me. I have done it myself for this long, I feel like I have many more albums to do on my own. Now if someone comes along and it’s organic, and it is hot music. I won’t turn it down, but I won’t go out of my way for it. Unfortunately, though, all the musicians I do want to work with are dead. Ha. Lil Wayne though called me said he heard Shooter off my first album, loved it and wanted to rap on it. I heard the track, it was amazing. So we both put it on our albums. Lil Wayne is one of the most talented in the game right now. People need to pay more attention to him.
Josh: With all that strife, did you ever consider selling out like other celebrities have? Giving yourself up, and letting someone else produce you for a little bit?
Thicke: Many times. I thought about many times selling out because then maybe I could change the game and someone would get to hear my music. If I had to put on that hat, at one point I considered it. I weathered the storm, and now I have my music out there, and I’m proud I’ve done it my way.
Josh: If you have any advice for people who want to do it there way, and not be the next American Idol, what would you say?
Thicke: Go to law school! This business sucks, and it’s not for the weak of heart. I can’t tell you how many nights in the last 4 years I found myself drunk on my living room floor not wanting to get up. The only thing I had to keep me going, to keep me warm was my music and it pushed me through. If you don’t feel like that, then don’t get in. This industry will crush you.
Honestly, I didn’t expect to be lucky enough to get that kind of candid interview with Robin Thicke. You never expect someone to really open up about their craft. He was refreshing in the way he talked, and the brutal honesty he displayed. It may come across as harsh–which was my first reaction–but the truth is that he’s honestly just that passionate about his music.
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Robin displays the same kind of candor in his work as he did in the interview, and it’s refreshing to listen to listen to his music after hearing him speak so openly about the love he has for his craft and the hard work he’s put into it. Do yourself the favor, and to go iTunes, or the nearest store and listen to one of his songs. You won’t be disappointed. iTunes just released a deluxe edition of his cd, and trust me, it’s worth every penny!