I first met the man known as Some Guy Named Robb while skateboarding in Russellville, Arkansas. If I remember correctly (it has been a long time now), Robb was wearing a The Cure t-shirt and we talked about music. As the years went on, we both joined bands and began expressing ourselves through music. While music was a phase for me, it has become Robb's life work. His new album, "The Folkster," recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis, has just been released. Here are the questions I recently asked of Robb.
Q1. What was the deciding factor to keep you located in Russellville? Why didn't you opt to move to a place with a larger population?
Q1. What was the deciding factor to keep you located in Russellville? Why didn't you opt to move to a place with a larger population?
A: Growing up, most kids wanted to get out of Russellville. I always felt a strong sense of community in our small hometown so I wasn’t dead set on leaving. But what I have always loved to do is travel. And since I play between 200-300 dates a year, I found myself always leaving Russellville and exploring new places. Traveling as far as England and France with my music and all over the states,coast to coast. Music has taken me further than I ever thought it would and it’s shown me people and places I would probably have never seen. I’m grateful to have been able, not only to visit, but share my music with them along the way. Unbelievably, I’ve been doing this job, Some Guy Named Robb, now for 20 years, come October. I’m thankful to have this career and I daily recognize what a privilege it is.
(This kind of answers number 4!)
Q2. You are active in your Christian community. Do you play at any particular church functions?
A: I do play at a few of our local (and within an hour of Russellville) churches and church functions. My home church is the Fellowship of Christians, but the elders and leaders are always encouraging me to go out and engage with our community and to help other churches.
Some churches don’t have as large as a music team as we do so in those cases, we send out musicians to help! I love it, because it reminds us we are all under the same King. It’s not about denominations. It’s about Jesus.
I often find myself involved benefits and charities. I would encourage any beginning musicians to get involved in the art of giving back. Not only does it introduce you to a ton of people but it also satisfies a deep-seeded longing within us all to help our community.
Q3. What artists influenced you the most in the past? Who influences you the most currently?
A: This is another hard question! :D
When I was 12-13 on a family trip to Colorado I found a cassette tape of The Cure, Standing on a Beach: The Singles with the B-sides, and I was hooked. I remember pulling it from the tape bin. It’s like it beckoned me. Around that same time someone gave me some bootlegged U2 albums, The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum.
It was a good year for music. My mom’s gift to me one year on the way to Colorado was The Police, Synchronicity. Years later I asked her why she had chosen such an excellent band. She responded, “Well, they were called The Police. So I figured they couldn’t be too bad.” :D True Story!
When I went to college I found an appreciation for the classics, Rachmaninoff and Chopin, Bach, and Mahler are still faves to this day.
Recently Sting and Shaggy have released a great album of Jamaican-American fused songs I’ve been digging.
The world is more full of recorded music now than it ever has been before (that we know of) The statistics tell us every 60 minutes that goes by 10 more hours of music is uploaded to the internet (roughly 300,000 songs a day). Being a young musician these days would be about avoiding the art of obscurity.
As far as now, I drift from EDM to Singer-Songwriters, Indie-Folk Rock (which is what I tend to categorize myself in) and whole stack of oldies like Elton John, Paul Simon, Tina Turner, Leonard Cohen, Depeche Mode (yes it hurts to put them in the oldies stack) Neil Finn (Crowded House) Natalie Merchant, The Replacements. Peter Gabriel, Sharleen Spiteri from the band Texas, The Ramones, Prince, The Soup Dragons, Sting and The Police, Tom Waits, and always U2.
Newer stuff might include in the past decade:
Alabama 3, The Accidentals, Ryan Adams, Bora York, Devendra Banhart, Elizabeth and the Catapult, Esperanza Spalding, St Vincent, Phosphorescent, Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley, 30 Seconds to Mars, Yael Meyer, and tons of new artist that I’ve met touring. There is so much good music in the world it blows my mind. I Love being a part of it all.
Q4. How much do you travel/tour? How far has music taken you around the globe?
(See Answer #1)
Q5. If you had to pick one song you've written for someone to hear you for the first time, what song would it be?
A: That’s really tough too. I love writing in different styles, from reggae to spoken word to rock pop, folk, indie. I try not to limit myself to writing in one style rather explore whatever I’m feeling that day.
On my Spotify site the statistics tell me these are the most popular songs on there this week. (By the way, everyone please follow me on Spotify! Thanks!) For an Indie-Folk song I like “What Would You Say?” or “What Do You Think, Christine?”
For a reggae feel, “The Innocents”. For a Rock song, “The Songbird” or “King of Nothing”. For an eclectic song, “When The Heart is Gone” or For Spoken Word, “The Common Distance” or “Three Cheers” have been received well. For a Funny song, “Express Lane Love”. Though I have some new songs coming out that will fall into the realm of hilarious. Look out for DING! and Death By Panda… :D
For a song with meditative, reflective, thoughtful lyrics maybe “Random Little Mysteries” or “Ain’t No Love”, or Everybody’s Beautiful But Everybody’s Broken.
It’s so hard to choose favorites when you’re the parent of them all. :D
Q6. Tell us briefly about the new album. Where did you record? Who is helping mix it down? What should we expect musically from this album that might be different from your past work?
A: The Folkster is the name of the new album and we begun recording this at Sun Studios, infamous for recording Elvis Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, U2 and so many more. We worked with Matt Ross-Spang whose very next project earned him a Grammy with Jason Isbell.
We also recorded at Blue Chair Studio in Little Rock with the amazing Darian Stribling. I’ve been part of the entire recording, overseeing, producing, and mixing but I always trust the ears of the sound engineer over mine. They understand placement so much better than I do. There is a sonic landscape and they know how to paint on that canvas far better than me!
I noticed a few years back I was writing a trend of rootsy songs. They had more of a folk flavor to them than their predecessors. The idea with The Folkster was to have an organic album with its roots in folk, but it’s done by me, so naturally, I've screwed it all up. The Folkster is my tongue-in-cheek way of saying, “I’ll do the best I can to make a folk album out of this.”
And when I say “I've screwed it all up”, I mean I couldn’t help but throw in some tunes that will jack with the listener’s heads. From an old western-tinged murder ballad I wrote, to a lullaby for my kids, to a song that ends in 7/8 time, to an almost autobiographical song about my life called “The Stars” which (confusingly) has some12/8 beats mixed with some 6/4 time signatures and trumpets to top it off. It’s a whirlwind of music. 12 songs right now, but I could easily go make another folk album tomorrow. I have twice that many I’d like to invest in down the road.
But, as I have to remind myself so often, one step at a time.
The next album I have planned after this I’m equally excited about is called, The Adventures of IndieBoy, and it’s going to be the exact opposite of The Folkster. Synthesized, EDM-flavored, and not what people will be expecting after a folk-themed album. But then, that’s part of the fun!
Q7. What is your discography and how can people get your previous albums?
A: For those who like to purchase directly from the artist please go to my website, www.sgnrobb.com It has my full library and even some unreleased covers. there is still a pre-order available for The Folkster and the new T-shirts are pretty dope or as the kids say now, “on fleek”.
(If I didn’t have kids, I would no idea what that means) :D
1998 Out-takes and Mistakes: The Irresponsible Demos
1999 The Irresponsible Years
2003 Everything is Nothing
2005 The Pale Session: Everything Matters
2007 Nothing and Everything Else
2008 Previous & Preview (Compilation with 4 new songs)
2010 Up Seems So Down
2012 7 the Album
2018 The Folkster
2019 The Adventures of IndieBoy
2019 ROBB: Two B’s or Not Two B’s
2020 The Folkster Strikes Back
2022 Return of the Folkster
Q8. What closing message do you have for those that will read this?
A: For the young musicians who are entering an over-saturated market, my advice is to stand out. Be excellent, but be humble. Work incredibly hard because no one is going to hustle for you like you’re going to hustle for you. And if you want to succeed in this market, it’s going to have to be intentional. Basically, be a conundrum.
Don’t worry about being famous, concern yourself with are you creating something worthwhile. Fame is a fickle and elusive thing and many a fool has wasted their life chasing after it.
Make something beautiful. Add something of value to this Earth while you’re here.
Thanks for having me as a guest, David! I’m a longtime fan of your writing and poetry.
I have to admit, when I moved to the Cabot/Beebe area, I wondered where I would find good, flavorful Mexican food. The first couple Mexican-style restaurants I tried left me craving seasoning. Then, a work colleague and I tried Casa Mojitos.
I had found my local Mexican eatery.
The first test of a Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant is the quality of salsa brought to the table. If the salsa tastes of canned tomato or, even worse, salsa from a jar, it is a pretty good signal that the food won't be up to par. Luckily, I was very pleased with the salsa brought to our table.
The next text is whether or not the protein served is properly spiced. Too often, in the Cabot/Beebe area, I had been served ground beef lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, and nothing else. The chicken would often be boiled chicken, pulled from the bone with no extra spices. The meats at Casa Mojito didn't have those issues. Proteins are well seasoned and flavorful.
My last visit to Casa Mojito was on "guy's weekend," a three day father/son weekend filled with swimming, sports movies, and local restaurants. That Sunday night (the last night of our bro time), we went to Casa Mojito and I saw my son eat more food than I've ever seen him consume in one sitting. He loved his burrito, rice, and beans. Rarely does he clean a plate, but this plate was clean.
The only downside to Casa Mojito is where it is located. While Beebe is a fine town, it is in White County which is, unfortunately, dry. No Mojitos are served at Casa Mojito. No margaritas. No beer. No big deal on a guy's weekend with the kiddo, but a little disappointing when you're looking for a date night spot with your significant other.
You can find more information on Casa Mojito on their Facebook Page.
I used to frequent Dub's Dairy Bar in London (Arkansas not England) on days when a class at ATU was cancelled (or I was just skipping). I'd stop in, order a burger and fries, and watch the social interactions around me. You could tell the owner of the restaurant knew the vast majority of his patrons, and that little restaurant was a focal point of the community.
It wasn't too long after I graduated college that Dub's closed down. The building housed a couple different restaurants in the following years, but none of them lasted long. In fact, all these years later, it is hard to find places like Dub's. Fast food chains have gobbled up so many of the mom and pop old school burger joints. I couldn't even find Dub's mentioned on Google when I searched for it.
This is exactly why I was excited to see a Tasty Freeze. Sometimes I want a burger that takes me back to those Dub's Dairy Bar days. I want to see the patties sizzling on a flat top grill. I want to watch the locals that all know each other having conversations. I want to watch that same social interaction I used to see at Dub's. And sometimes I don't want my burger to be "gourmet" and topped with fig preserves and goat cheese. Sometimes I don't want to know which keg of local IPA just got tapped. Sometimes I want simplicity. A burger with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo made to order in a place that doesn't look just like any other place in any other town.
All of those things are exactly what I get when I stop by to grab a burger at Tasty Freeze (or is it Tastee Freez, I never can decide). The staff has always been friendly. The cooking takes a little time, but only because it is made to order. The locals have never disappointed either. Happy kids getting ice cream. Couples grabbing a bite and having a conversation. Older Arkansans getting their weekly sweet treat (try the strawberry shake).
I'm glad places like this still exist. In fact, I hope they never go away because they are an integral part of our past. Well, at least my past, and I want to share that past with my children.
What I get:
I'm stuck on the burger, fries, and strawberry shakes.
The Cabot Strawberry Festival was held from April 19th through the 21st in downtown Cabot. If you're not familiar with Cabot, it is the largest town in Lonoke county and is located between Little Rock and Conway. It is a growing community, but retains a smaller town vibe which is why so many people that work in Little Rock make the commute each day.
The Strawberry Festival, for all extents and purposes, was a fair-like gathering of food trucks, carnival rides, and games, with performances on a main stage. The event did block off a small section of downtown, but we could still maneuver around easily, and parking was plentiful when we arrived on Saturday morning.
Now, for events like this, we're always a little leery. We have a special needs child (autism) and crowds, sounds, and noise can be overwhelming. Often, for events like this, we game plan out where we want to go, see what we want to see, and head out before it becomes too much. This time, however, we were able to walk around without the crowds and noise becoming an issue. We played games, rode rides together, checked out the vendor tents, and even visited the food trucks.
The Festival is hosted by The Cabot Junior Auxiliary and was sponsored by:
City of Cabot Parks and Rec
Action Sign and Neon, Inc
Bill's Fence Co
Waste Connections Inc
Cabot Church of Christ
While I didn't see a whole lot of strawberries, the festival itself was a great time for the family and we spent a good three hours at the event before heading back home for the day. Unfortunately, we missed out on the performances and the 5k/Fun run, but overall we had a great time. We're looking forward to next years Strawberry Festival.
Growing up in Russellville, I never really thought about the train depot. It was a dark, lifeless building next to downtown which was almost equally lifeless (except for a record store, music shop, and C & D Drugstore). This was great for us skateboarders. We'd ride around Russellville, making good use of the sidewalks and curbs.
Later, however, after the town took over the depot in 1999, it became the center of the downtown revitalization movement. What a difference a decade or two can make. Not only is downtown a hub of new area businesses, the train depot has become the centerpiece of the town as it now hosts the Main Street Russellville office. The depot has a great museum look and walking inside feels as if you're stepping back in time. It is a wonderful space for event rentals. In fact, my wife and I used this space for our wedding reception in 2015.
The space worked very well for our casual wedding reception. Not big enough to hold hundreds, making use of outside spaces gave our guests enough room to escape music, casually talk, and enjoy enjoy each other's company.
For more information about the Russellville Train Depot go to www.mainstreetrussellville.com/depot-district.html
Photos by Jenkins
As an artsy teenager in the late 80s and early 90s living in the Russellville area, Stoby's was the place to go. In a town made up of predominately fast food and steakhouse options, Stoby's was a shining light. Sure, it was primarily a breakfast/sandwich shop, but the eclectic staff made me feel as if I'd left my small town environment and landed in a cultured world filled with art, music, and theater. This staff, primarily made up of college students from Arkansas Tech (just blocks away), were inspirational to me. They were so inspirational that I ended up working at the restaurant in the late 90's when I was going to graduate school.
Now, nearly two decades later, Stoby's has stayed one of my main stops when passing through Russellville. I'm sure this is partly nostalgia, but it is also the food. After all, a restaurant doesn't stay a vital part of a town's food scene for decades just because of memories of days gone by. It takes good service, good food, and a willingness to change with the times while keeping past favorites available.
Over the years, Stoby's menu has grown. What was once based around The Stoby sandwich and various pita heavy offshoots has become more grill focused. Luckily, while the menu has changed, most of the old options are still available.
My Top Menu Picks:
1. The Philly Cheesesteak: I'm a sucker for a good cheesesteak, and Stoby's is arguably my favorite. Yes, I mean ever. Shaved steak with sauteed mushrooms, onions and bell peppers on a hoagie with their white cheese dip (the spicy version) drizzled on top. This is my number one recommendation.
2. Original Cheese Dip: While I've figured out a pretty close replica of the original recipe to make at home, Stoby's cheese dip is a must whether I'm dining in or going through the drive through when passing through town. However, don't expect it to taste like the cheese dip you get at a Mexican restaurant. This is a decidedly American take on this Arkansas staple. And, no, it is not standard Rotel dip. Here is my tip: Try it with potato chips instead of tortilla chips.
3. The Stoby Sandwich: Choose three meats, two cheeses, and your bread from a wide variety available. They'll heat the meat and cheese, add their special "Stoby sauce," lettuce, and tomato. My personal favorite is turkey, salami, and summer sausage with Cheddar and jalapeno cheeses stuffed inside pita bread. I've been eating this sandwich for two decades and it has always been great.
4. Stoby's Breakfast Pita: I've always veered from their menu on this. Instead of how they serve it I've always gotten scrambled eggs with sausage and cheese stuffed into a pita. Add a little mayo and some River Valley Hot Sauce. So good.
5. Reuben: This is both my father and my son's favorite on the menu. A standard Reuben, but done right.
To learn more about Stoby's visit their website at www.stobys.com/
David Thornton is a two time national award winning writer, chef, husband, father, and fitness enthusiast.