Thursday, June 9, 2011

Robin Lane: The song does not remain the same

OK, so here’s the dirty little secret: Nobody ever taught Robin Lane, the woman who will be teaching the songwriting class at Whole Music, how to write a song. She hung out with people who were doing the songwriting thing during the laid-back flower-power days on the left coast and Lane just assimilated it. At least that’s how she remembers it. She had always wanted to write songs, and one day they just “started popping out of me,” she says. Just started popping out, you might ask? Um, just like that? Yeah, she knew a few chords and, then as now, had a strong sense of melody and, maybe the crucial thing, things were happening to her, emotional pain being steroids for artists. Whatever the case, she had tapped into something. Soon she was deep in the Los Angeles folk-rock scene, which led to a time when she began informal collaborations with the band Crazy Horse and Danny Whitten, who Lane cites as a critical force in her development as an artist — and which led to her formal debut: Singing on the Neil Young/Crazy Horse album “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.” This was the run-up to her move to Boston, where she met ex-Modern Lovers players Asa Brebner and Leroy Radcliffe, resulting in Robin Lane & The Chartbusters, where the hippie-chick vibe became infused with a garage-y, new wave sensibility, and at the dawn of the MTV era. The band released three albums to critical acclaim — and had one of the first videos on MTV, "When Things Go Wrong." 

 So, presumably, anyone planning on attending Lane's songwriting workshop — and concert — this week at Whole Music, could, at least in theory, belly up to the songwriting bar and do it on their own, and that's true. Sort of. But before you start polishing your Grammy acceptance speech, you should know, just in case you haven't figured this out on your own, that it's not that easy to tap into the creative unconscious — but there are ways of getting there without having to wait for the Muse to shine benevolently on you.

Granted, Lane says, there's still a bit of "magic" involved. Think improvisation, think jazz, she says. The players are up there, on the creative tightrope, ready to do something, but they're not exactly sure what. It's like that with songwriting. Often when she starts writing a tune, "I don't know where I'm going," she says, "but I know how to get there. It's like magic." 

But the real magic, at least when it comes to Lane, is the connection, says E.J. Ouellette, co-owner of Whole Music — and frontman for Crazy Maggy, a high-energy, genre-jumping band that blends ancient melodies and modern dance grooves. Her work is “songwriting at its finest. She sings like she is singing only to you."

But, magic aside, there is a process. And that's where Lane and Whole Music step in. The June 12 workshop is geared to anyone who loves music and wants to create. It will feature an interactive demonstration of the process of songwriting and ways to break free from mental blocks that hold you back. "We will explore exercises for releasing your inner songwriter, including using poems and books for inspiration, how to not have the need to be perfect, knowing when a song is done, and how to let go of obsessing over it and allowing your song to breathe," says Lane, a certified teaching partner for the Massachusetts Cultural Council. "It's vital to create your own musical space so you will be prepared to take creative risks, while letting go of fear." Lane will use the techniques she designed for Songbird Sings, the program that uses songwriting to help at-risk youth and women survivors of domestic violence and emotional and physical trauma, giving them a creative outlet — and a chance to tell their stories and be heard. Lane's own story will be told in "A Woman's Voice: The Robin Lane Story," tracking her long, strange trip from Hollywood wild child to influential singer and songwriter, through the usual rock 'n' roll conflicts about money and managers to her songwriting/healing workshops, a documentary film to be released next week.

After the workshop, Lane will play an informal, intimate living room concert at Whole Music, which is located at 21 Water St., Amesbury. The performance is included in the cost of the workshop, but is open to the public as a separate event.

Whole Music is the former Pine Island Music, the Rowley-based business focused on all things musical, from lessons for all ages to jamshops to artist development. It is co-owned by Ouellette and Mimi Sparrow. It expanded into Amesbury earlier this year. "We want to grow the music community in the Merrimack Valley," says Ouellette. "Bringing such a talented artist and instructor as Robin dovetails with our holistic approach. She is a voice of wisdom. We're thrilled to collaborate with her.”

JUST THE FACTS, MAN:  Robin Lane will lead a songwritng workshop and perform a solo concert June 12 at Whole Music Studio, 21 Water St., Amesbury. The workshop begins at 2 p.m. and costs $25. The cost includes the performance. The concert begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20. Whole Music is located on the second floor of the Carriage Mill Building, just across the street from the parking lot. For more information, call 978.462.9020 or log onto

1 comment:

  1. It is really nice work and excellent posting