Santa Fe singer and songwriter Robby Rothschild could usually be found touring the world with other artists. In March, that all changed.
Rothschild was on tour with musician Kip Winger in Australia when the news of the COVID pandemic hit. He made it back to the United States only to go home and quarantine. He decided to use the time to write and record music, which resulted in Rothschild completing his first solo album. It is scheduled for release on Friday, Jan. 15, on most streaming platforms.
“It was actually during that time that some of the songs got written when I was back home and sitting in my little quarantine bubble with, thankfully, the recording gear to commit some of these ideas to tape,” Rothschild said. “It was really just for the sake of doing the tunes that were coming to me. I didn’t have the intention to make an EP. necessarily. … I always knew that I wanted to do my own tunes, but it was almost like the moment was in my lap before I even recognized it.”
The solo album delves deep into Rothschild’s personal life.
“It’s definitely an autobiographical sort of tracing of the last couple of years, which have been such a big shift in my life,” he said. “It’s a breakup album, and there’s no way you can listen to it and not register that. It’s got a pretty profound melancholy to it, which I am happy that I could release through writing the songs.”
Putting it all out there for the world to hear was slightly intimidating but therapeutic for Rothschild.
“I don’t know how to do anything else, honestly,” he said. “It’s like the music has got to come out, and I guess it’s a little scary at points because people have come to expect only the sweet and lighter side of the story from me that suddenly here I am singing stuff that’s more melancholy. And on the other hand, I think there was already a certain built in emotional melancholy to even the sweet stuff, so it isn’t that different. I feel like I’ve had to just tell myself, ‘This is who I am, and this is how I do it.’ Musicians write ethereal all the time about their own story, so I’m just thankful to have the music, and I hope to offer it in a good spirit.”
Rothschild played guitar, percussion and drums on his solo album as well as the West African kora and djembe, which he learned to play while living in the West African country of Mali. The kora is a 21-string harp and has a “very deep tradition” in west African culture. The djembe is a percussion instrument and is featured on the song “Untie Me.”
The influence of West African music naturally finds its way into Rothschild’s music.
“That music really shaped not only who I am as a musician, but it also I feel it works its way completely through you and shapes who you are as a person to love that music and to hear it internally,” he said. “I don’t claim to be a master of any of those traditions, but I am a student who loves them and who has been transformed by them.”
Several of Rothschild’s friends and fellow musicians contributed to his six-track solo EP, including Kip Winger, who offered to produce the album, and renowned guitarist Ottmar Liebert, who is featured on the song “Bead of Glass.”
“There wasn’t really a central studio where it was all compiled,” Rothschild said. “I had my own studio, which was essentially a couple of mics and a Mac and an interface. But you know, a lot of my friends also, in fact, it kind of ranged from people with their own quality recording gear to people who could actually make it work with a USB mic or a laptop. It was very much varied necessarily depending on what was available, but my thought was to try to make it authentic to the moment by reflecting that variation. Obviously it wasn’t going to be this is the $100,000 budget big release it was more like, let’s see what we can do with just what we’ve got.”