“When he caught me playing his guitar, he had that stare of death,” he recalls, noting you could cut the tension with a knife. “He looked at me and said ‘What are you doing?’ I said ‘I’m playing Bob Dylan, sir.’ He said ‘Playing Bob Dylan, huh? So after I played him one, he said ‘That’s pretty good. Play me another one.”
It proved to be a moment that Armstrong would never forget. With a few lines of Dylan’s 1974 classic “Tangled Up In Blue,” he had his respect. “Two months later, he asked me to join his band, which was a Country band – Willie, Waylon and all the ‘Outlaw Country’ at the time. To be in a band at fourteen, learning the ropes, and doing that kind of music was a blessing.”
Armstrong also considers himself blessed about the release of his full-length, self-titled album featuring his current releases, “Rodeo” and “Birthday Happy.” The album, co-produced by Armstrong and Darrell Brown (LeAnn Rimes, Ty Herndon, Radney Foster), includes 13 tracks, 12 of which were either written or co-written by Armstrong.
In addition to radio airplay, the California native is also excited about the exposure that “Rodeo” and “Birthday Happy” (along with one other song off the album) will soon be receiving in the upcoming October release of the Cameron Diaz – Colin Firth film Gambit. Armstrong will also have an acting cameo in the film.
It’s not the first time that the musician has been heard outside the box. “Rodeo” has also been featured in the video game “The Sims.” He said that gained him respect from his own children. “My kids actually thought I had made it. They were impressed. To me, if they thought I was successful, then that was success. I hit a pinnacle in their hearts and minds, which was very sweet.”
The video game also features music from established stars such as Luke Bryan and Thompson Square,” but it’s “Rodeo” that has gained the most plays. Armstrong admits to being touched by that distinction. “My song was double to all of them. Kids pick from their heart, they don’t pick something because they’ve been spoon-fed this by the media. They pick what they like. That makes me feel good, because there’s no promotion inside the game, they just pick what they like.”
The music of Robby Armstrong takes influence from many different styles. As a teenager, he and his family moved to the isles of Hawaii. He says that Hawaiian music and Country Music are closer than one might think – from a stylistic standpoint. “They are, with the pedal steel and the chord changes. At the time, Country was very big there. When I moved from California to Hawaii, I fit right in with all the Luau bands. I was fortunate. I was doing the same thing I did in California with a slight twist on it. It worked there.”
Though Robby lives in California today, he has made many trips to Nashville – including writing appointments with heavy hitters as Liz Rose and Radney Foster.
“To me, that was one of the greatest eye opening experiences of all, as far as writing goes. I think Liz and Radney have done it for so long, and have been so successful at it, that to get in a room with them, and experiment with them and their formula of writing songs was a real blessing. Everyone has their own way of doing it, and their way is very cool.”
When it comes to the creative vibe he has felt in Music City, he doesn’t mince words. “Nashville is another level. I’ve played everywhere, and the audience has seen the best talent all their life. They expect nothing but the best. The talent level is so high that all the other talent has to rise up. There is a tradition there that has held its’ ground. So many people there have been so great, that all who have come along behind them also had to be good. There’s a saying that people say, ‘Be great or be gone,’ and I really believe that. That’s rightfully so. They’ve got to protect what they’ve built.”
In addition to building his career, Robby’s heart has led him and his wife to help several causes in the Long Beach area – from homeless children to animal adoption. He serves as musical director for a Public Television show in the Seal Beach area, he puts a pet on camera each week, and writes a song on the spot about the animal – usually resulting in an adoption. Armstrong also hosts his own show in the area that has resulted in revealing interviews with such musical notables as writer and producer Darrell Brown and the legendary engineer Niko Bolas (who also engineered Robby’s album). The program was awarded an honor from the WAVE awards, placing in the top three of over 500 entries.
He also produced the musical score for an eBook/app titled, Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore. The project is available on iTunes. Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore was written by Tonia Allen Gould and is partially illustrated by one of the original creators of SpongeBob Square Pants, “Mr. Lawrence” who, incidentally, is also the voice of Plankton from the hit, animated series by Nickelodeon.
His heart also is in full evidence when he is on stage, where just like with his records – he loves mixing it up. “I’m always looking for an angle to make people laugh. The show has a lot of energy, as well as heart and soul. If you took Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar, and Mick Jagger, and they all had a baby…it would be me,” he says with genuine laughter. Armstrong and his band can be found playing each and every weekend of the year, and if that wasn’t enough, he also does acoustic shows at various venues during the week. In addition to his vocals and stage prowess, his instrumental work also dazzles those in the audience on a regular basis.
So, what is success to Robby Armstrong? He says it’s all about shining that light on record and on stage, and being content with where he is at. “It’s all about day by day living, and being happy. A lot of times, we may be trying to get somewhere – and we’re already there. You tend to look to tomorrow or years down the road, but what about liking where you’re at right now?”
Living for the moment. That’s Robby Armstrong.
|June 5, 2014 11:00 am||SAMSUNG GALAXY STAGE – Thursday|