Q&A with Teddy Robb — the Kent State alumnus forging his own path in country music

Teddy Robb photo 1

Maria McGinnis

Teddy Robb is an Akron native and a Kent State alumnus (He graduated with a business administration degree.) He’s finding success in the country music scene with his debut song “Lead Me On,” which reached more than 2 million streams worldwide since its Aug. 24 release. Robb spoke with KentWired and The Kent Stater on his music journey.

Q: So you studied at Kent State. Did that have anything to do with music?

TR: Not at all. I did take some music courses, though. I was kind of working on a music minor; I think I took about 20 to 25 classes for music, but I was mainly doing that because I was having fun with it. I was just learning some guitar and taking some voice lessons. I wasn’t really planning on “doing” music. I planned on just getting a business job someday.

Q: Country music is typically considered feel-good music that tells stories. Is that the vibe you’re going for? What draws you to that?

TR: Absolutely. I think you nailed it with country music — it’s all about the story. And that’s really why I started doing country music. I listened to some songs that made me feel a certain way, and I couldn’t explain why it was making me feel that way at the time, but I knew I was feeling something, and I wanted to recreate that. From the drinking songs all the way to the ones that really tug at your heartstrings, I love getting a feeling across, whether that’s happy or emotional. … I try to write my songs to tell stories about things that have happened to me. Those are my favorite ones to write.

Q: What pushed you to move from the Akron/Kent area to Nashville, Tennessee? Did you have a job offer or some kind of plan?

TR: It was pretty random, to be honest. I finished school and was just serving tables and playing music in the evenings. One morning I just woke up and was like, “OK, ready or not, I’m gonna move to Nashville.” I remember calling my parents and telling them, “Hey, I’m heading down today.” My dad was out of town and was like, “Do you want to wait for me to get back? I’ll help you pack.” I remember saying, “Nope, I’m leaving today.” I woke up that morning and 100 percent just packed my stuff up and moved down to Nashville.

Q: Looking back, do you think the move was the best thing you could’ve done?

TR: Absolutely. It was terrifying and exciting, and I knew I had a lot of work to do, but I was ready, and I was inspired. There’s nothing cooler than moving to a new town and being like, “I have to figure this out one day at a time.” I didn’t know a single person down here; I didn’t have a job; I didn’t have a place to live.

Q: How did you build yourself up from the ground once you got to Nashville?

TR: I started playing on Broadway at a place called Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. I auditioned to be a singer and started playing country songs and learning the ropes of what country music is all about. I really had no idea about what the industry was like. I just knew there was this place where I could play country songs and get paid to do it while I figured it out. … It’s tough down there. You’re playing four-hour gigs, and you’re doing it five to six nights a week. It can be really hard on your voice and attitude, but I just kept doing it. Eventually, I got an opportunity to move out to Colorado, where I kind of defined myself even more. … (In Colorado), I started being requested for this whole new genre, doing a more folky thing. I was being requested (to play) Bob Dylan and James Taylor, and I started learning (their) songs. Combining them with country music is really where I feel like I defined myself and my sound.

Q: Do you think growing up in Ohio influenced on your music and career?

TR: Absolutely. I grew up in Portage Lakes, and that’s where I started playing bar gigs. And believe it or not, Northeast Ohio is a huge country market. I lived a little south of Akron in a rural area, so I grew up fishing, hunting, being outdoors. … Even though I’m from Northeast Ohio, I’ve still skinned a buck and gone fishing, so when I started listening to country, it was like, “Oh, these songs are about my life.”

Q: Your debut single, “Lead Me On,” has really made a big splash and received a lot of recognition. How does that feel?

TR: It feels awesome. It feels like what we’re doing is connecting with people. I’m so excited because this is just a taste of where we’re going. It’s really inspiring to see this is connecting because I’ve never put a song out. So, to see what we’re doing is working, it’s an awesome feeling.

Q: Do you have an album in the works?

TR:  I think we’ll start with an EP. We’re recording and getting things ready. We’re definitely going to release another song soon. I just don’t know the exact dates yet.

Q: So, seeing where you are now and where you’re headed, did you ever think you’d get to this point?

TR: Wow. That’s a great, interesting question because ultimately, yes, I believed in it. I had to before anyone else would. Deep down, I believed I could do this and be here. That being said, there were a lot of moments where it was hard and discouraging, and sometimes you wonder if you’re ever going to get a break or if anyone is ever going to pay attention. … Those were the moments I’m most thankful for now, … when bills were tight and I didn’t have gigs coming in, and you have to go to bed at night and wake up tomorrow and say, “I’m going to keep pushing no matter what.” You never really know if it’s gonna happen or not, but here I am, and I’m so thankful that it has.

Q: Considering those rough moments, what’s the best advice you ever received?

TR: That I can work a regular job the rest of my life, but I can only pursue this right now. So put your boots on and go to work and keep doing it, because the second you give up on your dream to do something that is not exactly what you wanted, that’s what you’re going to be doing. I was probably 24 or 25 when I really made the decision to give this everything I had, and I remember watching my friends get their dream jobs and doing well in their careers. … Meanwhile, I was still playing bar gigs. That’s when someone really close to me told me, “You know what? You can get a job when you’re 30, but if you don’t pursue this now, you’ll never get to again.”

Q: With that being said, and thinking about the experience you’ve gained so far, what kind of advice would you give to aspiring young musicians?

TR: I would say in those moments where you think people don’t believe in you or it’s not going to work out, to really dig deep and just focus on the music and being great. … I would just dig down and practice and work hard and get my 10,000 hours in and eventually become great. That was always my mentality when I got a “no” or had a tough moment. So that would be my advice — to just keep working on what you love. If you really love it, master your craft.

“Lead Me On” is available here, and to stream on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube.

For more information and to keep up with Teddy Robb, visit his website or follow him on Instagram and Twitter @TeddyRobb and on Facebook.

Maria McGinnis is a features writer. Contact her at [email protected].