Dirt Road to Heaven

Robin Lane

In 1980, Robin Lane went from clubs to the big stage when she exploded onto the music scene in a big way. Fueled by a great debut album and a massive single in the form of "When Things Go Wrong", Robin, along with her band The Chartbusters, climbed the charts around the world. The video for that song was the 11th-ever selection by the fledgling MTV which ensured hefty recognition during the new wave era.

When the band came to an end, Robin continued to release solo records, moving steadily into more Americana, country-tinged territory. Her latest project is Dirt Road to Heaven, an excellent collection of poignant stories set to gorgeous melodies. Not content to mine one particular area, the songs are all part of a tasty buffet with humor sprinkled here and there ("Last Cute Minute") and many compelling moments ("Hurricane Watch", "No Fear" along with the title track).

I had the opportunity to connect with Robin recently to talk about the record. Here's what she had to say:

antiMusic: Dirt Road to Heaven is a great collection of songs that is particularly terrific for long drives in the car. Sometimes records come together slowly, one song at a time. Other times it's like opening a tap and they pour out in bunches. How did this one come together?

Robin: My last album released was in December 2020, Instant Album 16 songs of mine that I'd recorded but had never released. During the time of Covid I put them all together and made an instant album.

But had I already started recording this record at Ringo Studio, Marblehead MA in 2012. I live on the other side of the state. John Pfister who owns the studio also started playing bass with me. We had all the time in the world, as you can see from 2012 to 2022.

Things came up. I had a family emergency for two years then Covid came for 2 years. So we continued on this album until 2022, well, actually earlier but these things take time sometimes, especially since there were other things to tend to.

Some songs on Dirt Road To Heaven came out in a torrent but others had been there or were written more slowly just coming about as we recorded. As I said, we sure did have a lot of time to take our time and do whatever we wanted. I got to fool around and play so many parts on guitar, think of musical ideas, play on weird instruments.

I love the NO pressure... On the other hand, I used to only write songs if I needed to. Maybe I still do that, but at the moment, there is no pressure although I do hope to begin recording another album, follow up to this one.

antiMusic: The title track is excellent. Tell us about the lyrical idea behind it.

Robin: I really am on a dirt road to Heaven, walking in my own direction. There have been moments of golden dust but life had kicked me down into whatever it is I am now, and probably always was. Meaning life has a way of molding you into your best self and though it's oftentimes difficult on a dirt road, this is it and it is perfect.

At this moment I'm not sure if Heaven is a place we go to or do we create it right where we are. We're made up of energy; I'm beginning to think we transform into something else depending on our own individual evolution.

Whatever and wherever it is, this beautiful Heaven, whether it be in my own mind or the source we return to, I am walking in my own direction and I am happy for that. I cannot abide by anyone telling me how I should think or what kind of God I should be believing in.

I think being on a dirt road is pretty apropo to a lot of us. Only thing is I know I'm going somewhere; it could be right here but it's somewhere very wonderful. It can be a long journey and-- oh yes-- a dirt road.

I know people who have been on that golden road and I kind of envy them for the ease they travel, but the dirt is real life and I'm stickin' with that. Wait! If I get to go golden, I will not say no.

antiMusic: "Woman Like That" is an interesting track, and would make a great camp-fire song. Written from personal experience or is this just a good story-teller's yarn?

Robin: Oh no it's a true tale. I can not see it being sung around a campfire. It's too mean. I can't believe I can be this mean, but this woman drove me right out of my mind. Followed me everywhere and each thing I say in this song is pretty much true.

I didn't have to be this gnarly about it but when I wrote it, she was knocking at my door, so to speak. Later I learned she had had much trauma, but I didn't really know about trauma, until my brain cracked open with my own. Camp fire? Hmmmmmmm

antiMusic: "Hard Life" utilizes a jaunty melody to offset someone else's vison of looking at life as a half-empty cup. Tell us how this song came to you.

Robin: I have no idea what to say about this song. It just popped out. I kind of thought the lyrics didn't make sense but in their own way they do. Very interesting to read your interpretation and I'd have to think about it. The words came and I sang them.

I guess, in the end, what I'm saying is life is hard but if you've got someone to help you see it through, or if you believe enough in your own ability to have a wonderful life, then all the rest: let it go. it's about wanting or trying to comfort someone who has been feeling blue from life.

I'm telling them it's ok cause we've got each other. If you've got yourself too, you'll be ok. Unless it's the end of the world we really need to try working on not letting ourselves go to the dark places. If you have someone who tells you good things, then you're golden. If you have yourself to tell you good things, then you're even more golden.

antiMusic: I'm getting a real Led Zep vibe with "No Fear". This is a terrific song. What's the story behind this one?

Robin: Wow thank you so much for that. I have to say and I wish I didn't have to say, the lyrics were written by Danny Hillis who is an inventor, scientist. A friend. He wrote these lyrics and I put them to music.

I love what they are saying, it's all perfect, there's life in every particle that exists on this planet, we are a part of it all. Swollen worlds are contained in each rain drop and that is us, we are a part of the beautiful glorious thing called life. We need to remember this because so often we lose that connection of what's true in the unfortunate circumstances that can take over our lives.

antiMusic: "Hurricane Watch" is simply beautiful. Tell us how you picked the gorgeous melody to counterpoint the bitter-sweet lyrics?

Robin: I have no idea. It's not something I consciously thought about; the whole thing just popped out. When I sing up high in this song I was thinking of Dolly Parton, how she sings all around a song. "Well I'm just sitting here, waiting, watching, and wondering which way it's going to go. When you're out of control the storm can blow a hole right through your soul. I love the songs on this album. They are true songs even "Last Cute Minute."

antiMusic: The up-tempo "Sunshine Blue Skies" written by your ex-Chartbusters bandmate Asa Brebner is a great way to finish off the record. What made you want to include this song?

Robin: I had sung it for an Asa Brebner compilation after he died. We just thought it would be nice to put it on the album

antiMusic: I was managing a record store in Canada in the early '80's and I remember playing the heck out of the first Chartbusters record. Can you tell us a bit about the early days and were you surprised by the sudden burst of recognition, even though you had been at it for a decade previous to that?

Robin: In those days with my great band, getting the love and recognition and support that we did in Boston and then other cities, I was not really surprised. I thought we were good and even really good because others told us we were and there was such camaraderie between us band mates. When you're playing at a club or somewhere and the audience is going ape sh*t, I guess you think you're pretty ok. It made me extremely happy and wow, was I lucky but I didn't think about that because we were doing it.

You think about these things later, especially if it's not happening anymore. I got pregnant-- had a child and that was the end of that, at that time. 1982...Unless you were very successful, I guess the male-dominated music business did not think you could have a child and still rock out.

Kiss of death. Isn't that amazing when you think of it now? Pretty much stopped us dead in our tracks. I was still all set to go, but the music business was not looking at me in the same way. I never stopped writing, never stopped performing. It was just not so much on the world stage. I traveled over to England, Holland, and Germany, and played there with guys from those countries. Very fun.

I love to be on stage and now, I don't let anything get in my way, and there are many more opportunities now for doing things yourself.

I know this is a long-winded answer to a shorter question. So now I've been at it for a bunch of decades and still going strong. It's my job, a very good job. I loved it then and I love it now. Any recognition at this point is like manna from heaven, even on my dirt road.

antiMusic: What was it like to see your video go into high rotation at MTV after being the 11th video played in its history? How much did that change your trajectory.

Robin: The thing is, we didn't really get to see the video at home in Boston. They didn't have MTV in our town yet, so we saw it occasionally on the road in other cities. At first, I was kind of disappointed because it wasn't all hip like some other music videos were, but now, I like it a lot. It stands the test of time. I wish I had been a better actor but, oh well. As far as trajectory, I guess I tried to think about my image, but I never was much good at that. I was more about the music and really didn't understand image.

antiMusic: For the past decade and a bit, you've dedicated a big chunk of your life to an organization called Songbird Sings. Can you tell us how you got involved in founding it and what it's all about?

Robin: I founded Songbird Sings when I began teaching songwriting to domestic violence survivors. This was so organizations could help fund the workshops and no one would have to pay. I witnessed the powerful effect telling their story in song format had on the participants.

Here's from the website: "Songbird Sings workshops provide a safe and inspiring environment for people to work through and recover from traumatic experiences. Our songwriting workshops help to transform those who've been silenced by domestic violence, sexual exploitation, childhood abuse, and the horrors of war. Through songwriting and creative collaboration and group validation, participants find the key to their own healing. It is powerful and it works. Some of these people have truly changed their lives just because they were listened to and of course the music helped to heal."

antiMusic: What's next for Robin Lane?

Robin: I'm planning my next album. I have more songs I want to record and release. Many more. I can't see stopping all this, not for a long time into the future. So, basically more music and more Songbird Sings workshops are on the agenda.

Morley and antMusic thank Robin for taking the time to do this interview.
Preview and purchase this record here.
Visit the official website here

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