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"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Robin McKelle

robin mckelleSmitty: I am so excited to introduce my next guest, a great singer.  She’s just put together a project of great standards.  It is called Introducing Robin McKelle.  She has a voice to live for and, trust me, you will love this project.  Please give a very warm welcome for the incomparable Ms. Robin McKelle.  Robin, how are you?

Robin McKelle (RM): I’m doing great, I’m doing very, very well, very excited about the CD and what’s to come, so thanks.

Smitty:  Yes, you should be because this is a wonderful project.  When I first listened to it, I said “Oh, this is different” and I just love the accompaniment of the band, just a great mix of wonderful standards and the whole production is really nice, I loved it.

RM:  Oh, well, thank you so much. A lot of thanks should go to my producer as well, a very good friend of mine, Willie Murillo, who put the band together for us and just did a great job.

Smitty:  Yes, he did. He’s a wonderful talent himself.

RM:  Yes, he is.

Smitty:  So, now, you’ve had music in your family growing up too, did you not?

RM:  Oh yes, my mother is a singer and she plays guitar and piano. When I was younger….I grew up in the Catholic church and she was the liturgical music coordinator, she did the music in church, so I had music in my family from a very young age.

Smitty:  How did that impact your life as you were growing up? Was that something that was just a part of growing up and it influenced your decisions or was it just sort of subliminal but you were still taking it in?

RM:  I think it was subliminal, but my mother never pushed music on me or anything.  She wasn’t that kind of like stage mom at all.  It really resonated with me and I have two sisters who are both extremely musically talented as well, but they chose different paths for careers but our whole family is very musical. It was something that I was just drawn to and music has always been a part of my life since I was very young.

Smitty:  When did you start to think about doing this professionally?

RM: I never thought about anything else. I always just knew that it was what I was going to do.  There was never any question about if I would or would not pursue music.  It was such a huge part of my life, but that’s really kinda all I did. When you get to the point in high school when you decide what your path is going to be, your career and college choices, I never even thought twice about it.  I just knew “Okay, I’m gonna find a school to go to for music,” you know?  It was just something that I knew I was always going to do. I knew I was going to pursue it, yeah.

Smitty: The reason why I ask is because I’m always curious about decision-making at a young age, at high school age. There’s so many things that you could do other than music, and I often wonder how young people stick with there decisions because you have your own set of friends that may be choosing other paths and may be a little influential, saying “Hey, you should be a nurse or you should be this or choose a different career.” How do you stay the path with your decisions when your friends are perhaps choosing a different direction?

RM:  Yeah, well, it’s funny because I had quite an eclectic mix of friends in high school, but most of my friends, like myself, were so involved in the music department at my school. We were all musicians, so we all kind of hung out together and we had the same dreams and aspirations, and when I wasn’t doing something with the high school music groups, I was always singing. I would sing on the weekends with this funk R&B band, and when I was 17 we would tour around and travel and I was singing R&B, Aretha Franklin stuff, and then I’d study my classical repertoire during the week and music theater. I was just completely surrounded by musicians. If it wasn’t in school, it was in a band on the outside, gigging. I don’t think you would be able to influence me to do anything else. This is all I know how to do. (Both laughing.)  Although I’m very good at arts and crafts. If anything were to happen, I don’t know, Martha Stewart better watch out.

Smitty:  (Laughs.)

RM:  That’s the joke in my family. “Well, you know, if it doesn’t work out for you singing, you could always be the next Martha Stewart.”

Smitty:  (Laughs.) That’s funny. 

RM:  Yeah.

Smitty: I think that’s very important to have the encouragement and influence of your peers as well as family members to help you pursue your dreams. I think that’s great and it seems like that’s what happened with you.

RM:  Yeah, my family has been so supportive. My parents, my whole family, my sisters and my even my extended family….they come to every gig that they can come to. My dad will drive up from Rochester, New York if I’ve got a show in Boston. He’ll get in the car and drive up to come see the show and then drive the next day home. My family has been there from the beginning, from the start.

Smitty:  Oh, that’s cool.

RM: They have been so supportive emotionally, and financially they’ve helped me to be able to do what I wanna do. I could not have finished this project without my parents

Smitty:  You must hug them well. (Laughs.)

RM:  I do, I do, and they’re so excited now with what’s happening. They’re just like….it’s the best gift you could give because it’s out there to finally, and seeing that things are starting to really come together and everybody’s very excited.

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