Jon Redwine & Robby Blackwell
“Music is breath. It’s the air that you breathe in. It reflects everything, all human existence because people revert to music. It’s the most primal”.
Jon Redwine leans back in his chair surrounded by top of the line recording equipment and enough guitars to make Jimi Hendrix bow down. This is his lair. A dim studio in the heart of Santa Monica. A windowless room in which the musician spends days even weeks at a time creating his breath…our breath.
Jon Redwine is an experience. He is too big for words so this article is an attempt to downsize his genius. His passion oozes from him with every word he speaks and his excitement for his art comes across every time he reaches over to play another track for me. In this room, where he paints his passion, we sit. Although it’s the middle of the day in California everything about this room makes it feel like a dark night in an inner city. It’s raw and uninviting. Utterly different from it’s inhabitants but not far removed from the invasive sounds that Redwine creates. With him is singer and writer Robby Blackwell; a tall, slender and handsome funny man who “lives in the sexy” and brings poetry to Redwines’ tracks. Both from Dallas, TX the pair come together to create a new sound for a generation caught up in shortcuts and insta-art.
The music they design calls an ear to full attention. The same can be said of the relationship between these two artists that obviously bleeds into the art they give birth to. “When me and Red come together, we make good music”, Blackwell says over the background music, “a lot of people work with so many different people but it’s nothing like forming that bond in the creative process when you work with someone for as long as I’ve worked with him”. That ease is what music lovers can appreciate about a Redwine/Robby Blackwell track. Nothing feels forced, so there is a part of you that releases into what you’re hearing. It’s their natural and honest love for music that takes over and as a listener you feel right at home. Their broad musical influences stem from their upbringings in Texas, both saying that jazz; country and African influence seep into their tracks. But there is also present an honest purging that pushes boundaries. “Music is an avenue that allows you to go a little bit further. It’s all entertainment at the end of the day whereas you might say certain things or have to act a certain way in your day to day, when you’re in the booth you can go to another level, express your creativity”, Robby explains. Redwine adds “to me it’s the ultimate passion. I don’t communicate well my emotions but when it comes to my music I can paint an entire picture of an emotion and how it feels…the way I build the track or I may have a guitar going the entire time. Redwine gets all the passion, Jon is dealing with life.”
Living the life of young artists has its ups and downs. The depths of which both admittedly have seen, days when the music was not just an avenue of self expression but the only way to survive. We as listeners often times watch the “sell out” of our favorite artist or producer and we criticize. We look down on them with no real recollection of the way the business works, without the knowledge that the lows go millions and millions of dollars away from the highs and that often times these “sell outs” are out of desperation not desire. It can happen to the biggest artists in the world, so for up and comers, the desperation is sometimes all too real. “I look back on the songs where I was financially unstable, where I just HAD to make this if I wanted to eat and I can hear it in the music. I forced that out of me and that’s not even who I am. That’s my survival animalistic instinct but maybe it was also just a reflection of that moment in my life”, Redwine says. And isn’t that what art seeks to be: an open book for the artist to express who they are in the moment. Those moments that define us all and allow us to connect to music on a deeply visceral level usually translate themselves into times of extreme solitude for the creators.
Both Redwine and Robby, neither pushing 30, have already begun to accept the loneliness that comes with being enveloped by a passion that can demand more than it gives back. An artist learns to live with it all, taking in only what they need to put back into their craft. But before we cue the violins for the tragedy of l’artiste solitare, there are areas in the life of a young male musician that greatly benefit from the levels of self-discovery.
When we switch gears to talk about how music has improved their love lives, both Red and Blackwell take a minute to chuckle mischievously. Robby steps up to the plate first, being the self-proclaimed love doctor of the two; he quickly credits music with the boost in his female relationships. “It’s definitely made me more aware. Music helped me further understand the ins and outs of women knowing what they want mentally, emotionally and sexually”, he says with a smirk. But in his mysteriously intriguing way, Redwine describes his lessons of love on a more revealing level. “The way I function is weird. The first song I ever wrote was because of a girl. That’s just the way I express myself…romantically I’m extremely passionate to the point where I really enthrall myself in the situation and I try to capture all the little nuisances, every little detail and then music gives the ability to leave it for the higher good. If I’m in something that’s not good for my situation I’m able to just cut it off. I’m able to throw myself into someone and really experience all those emotions but then when I get to a certain point where I’m done…I’m just DONE with that. I can send them a song and never talk to them again and I’m cool with that”. Harsh but real in a life where music is the way you eat, the way you live, there’s very little time to waste wallowing over lost love.
But although open about music’s influence on their love lives, neither of the men name “being in love” as the best time to create music. In fact, the very idea of it makes Redwine turn away from me and give his full attention to the videos playing on the TVs in front of him.
“I’ll take that as a no”, I say, a little disturbed by his response, I must admit.
But in perfect timing he turns around to face me, big brown exciting eyes stunningly serious and says “No. Not for me. Best times? When I’m extremely upset because then everything is really sad and that’s the easiest emotion to show and when I first wake up my brain’s fresh so I can just go in”, a small smirk comes across his face, he seems to be proud of how successful he’s been at putting me on alert. I look over at Robby expecting the same seriousness but he simply says, “I just like to delve into the emotion. I don’t feel like I need to be in a certain mood to make music, it just kinda comes.” The mystery in Redwine coupled with the transparency of Robby is enough to keep the whole room on its toes. Yet to one another it’s simply what makes their working relationship unbreakable and gives them the confidence they feel they need to be unstoppable.
Well enough for Redwine to go on record naming himself the best producer in the game and for Robby to name Redwine as the next Quincy Jones with himself picking up where greats like Michael Jackson and R. Kelly left off. No lie. I even asked again to see if maybe they’d budge from such a tall order but they only went on to elaborate further with no sign of relenting. “ You can say I’m on my Kanye but I think I can get ANY producer in the game right now, I really grasp what I’m doing so I can take it to any level. I can score 30 piece orchestras with no problem.” says Redwine. Robby adds, “music is the expression of people’s innermost desires, that’s what I do, I get that, I don’t even write…I just go up and get in front of the mic and it just comes out, the greats get it, the greats just get it.”
Label it. Label it arrogance. Label it naivety. Label it 10,000 different things but don’t write it off. The truth of the matter is these two are working hard to cement their places in music history. And when has history ever been made by those too afraid to foresee their own greatness? Never.
Written By: Iman Milner
Photography By: Ashley B. Nguyen
Hear a snippet of Robby Blackwells Single
Follow Redwine on Twitter @RedTheRockStar
Follow Robby on Twitter @RobbyAOM