Robin Renee is a merging of sound and soul, East and West, earthly and ethereal, just like her music. I have attended kirtans at which she has made offerings to the Divine in the form of chanting and percussive infusions and her style is both fun/funkified and reverential, that even the novice to this art form, can’t help but sing along.
How do you live your Bliss?
I feel like I am on a journey of moving continually closer to living my Bliss. I don’t exactly think I always have it right, but I suppose that is the human condition. Living in Bliss is about noticing- paying attention to those moments when I feel out of step with being in love with life and making the little correction right there, so I stay honest about where my truest happiness lies. Bliss happens for me when I am lost in dancing. Bliss comes while I’m chanting. I find it when I create a personal retreat and enter into deep silence. Bliss can happen when I am engrossed somewhere in the center of a new poem or song. Whenever I am somewhere I can run naked in the sun, I am blissful and feeling profoundly connected to Spirit.
How did music discover you as an instrument for its expression?
I don’t think music had much trouble finding me. I grew up with a piano in the house and naturally gravitated toward it. When my parents noticed, they thought piano lessons would be a good idea. I started playing at age 7, and my first song followed fairly shortly after that (It was a little tune about Billie Jean King). I started a band when I was about 10 years old, and pretty much haven’t stopped since. I have really come to appreciate the support of my parents around music. My mom had a real appreciation for lyrics—Bob Dylan especially, and I am grateful for having had that influence.
You call your music style ‘Mantra-Pop’. How did you come to use that term and what does it mean to you?
The short answer is that Mantra-Pop is a simple way of answering the perpetual question, “What kind of music do you do?” The media and people in general tend to like a simple description. I don’t really resist labels; I am happy to find (or create) words that have some resonance with what is going on in my work.
The more complex answer is that when kirtan chanting became an incredibly important part of my spiritual path, there was a long while in which I immersed myself in it completely. I listened almost exclusively to mantra, and had no real desire or even ability to write songs in the way I had since the beginning. When the experience of the chanting began to become a more integrated experience, I noticed that the songwriter part and the kirtan chanter part needed to coexist and flourish together in some way. Telling the stories of the emotions and life experiences showed up as very much still part of my path, along with this new way of connecting to Divine energy directly through music. Some of my songs began to blend the two. ‘Mantra-Pop’ became the shorthand I use to describe all my music – whether or not any particular song features chanting. Everything that I am and do is spiritual, so all the music must hold that connection and intention.
Since we know that they aren’t mutually exclusive, how do spirituality and sexuality merge in your work?
My spiritual practices, music, and sexuality are all part of the same river, all channels through which I experience the energy of Oneness, the Divine, God/Goddess, whichever term you prefer. I really wanted to speak to this recognition when I put out the compilation CD, so I called it spirit.rocks.sexy. When it was released, I did some writing about how that title came to be and said “So much of what I do, who I am, who I’ve been and am becoming lies at the intersection of spirit.rocks.sexy. The Divine is music is erotic is utterly holy.” I try to neither shy from nor obsess about sexuality in my work, and the same winds up being true of spirituality. By just giving myself permission to write and sing what shows up, sex and spirit are naturally part of the mix.
How does music speak to you and how do you then translate what you hear into what so delights your listeners?
I most often just hear it- words, music, or both- in the midst of my day. I jot something down, record a bit of a melody or an idea in the memo pad on my cell phone, or whatever I can do to capture the idea in the moment. Then I come back to those things later when a combination of the craft of songwriting and what feels like continuing to channel the song’s essence come together. I love the recording aspect. It feels like sculpting. In regard to delighting listeners, I mostly move toward what is sonically pleasing to me, and hope other people agree!
Who are your musical inspirations?
There are many. In terms of overall genres, new wave, punk, and the classic singer-songwriter stuff continues to hold the most enduring place in my heart. A few of my favorite artists are Steve Forbert, Steely Dan, Elvis Costello, Joan Armatrading, Gary Wilson, and Devo. I’ve been immersed in an electronica feel lately- Imogen Heap and Mantra Girl are in heavy rotation. George Harrison is a spiritual inspiration most of all, but it is the placing of his spirituality so clearly present in rock and pop that was so important.
If you could live your ‘rock star dream’, what would it look like?
I have many, many details in my head about the expanded multimedia stage show and other aspects I’d like to manifest. I would be on the road with the full band productions, with enough time off in the year for rest and writing. I’d follow the sun. I’d have a wide audience, though a specific one that really ‘gets’ the blend of music, sexuality, and spirit that drives my work. For a long time, I’ve had a very strong feeling that I should be famous in Sweden . I have no idea why, but it is a thought that shows up for me fairly often. With my extra money, I’d help people to have food, shelter, and art in their lives. I’d probably establish an alternative lifestyles spiritual retreat center. During my downtime, I’d find a city where I wouldn’t be bothered by fans and I’d walk for miles. I could go on with this vision, but I’ll stop here (just before driving off in my custom-painted deep purple Honda to join my brilliant, gorgeous, conscious friends in the hot tub).