Last Tuesday I spoke with American soul / r&b singer Robin McKelle via Skype. Robin is currently on tour in France performing a series of concerts and also played at the Jazz Café in London for the first time; a gig I attended and thoroughly enjoyed. The French connection is not an insignificant one; Robin more or less got her break in France where her records really got the most airplay initially and she has been able to build up quite a following there. Ironically the first time I heard Robin’s music was on Paris station FIP on satellite radio (in the days before internet streaming took off).
Robin has an interesting backstory; born in upstate New York but acquired a love for soul and r&b music mainly associated with the South of the United States. Robin’s most recent album entitled “Heart of Memphis” was released in 2013 and is a definite nod to that genre with Robin penning eleven originals. This is the music Robin has always wanted to make; her first few releases were far from soul / r&b or rock but what we would call classic jazz from the era of the big bands and the jazz orchestras. Those recordings from the 2000s show a different side to Robin’s vocals but judging by what I saw at the Jazz Café I am sure pleased she made the switch.
The Robin McKelle sound today is much more raw and passionate; and with her band the Flytones really knows how to put on a show. From the first song to the last, Robiin really gripped the audience and one highlight for me in particular was towards the end of the tune “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” Robin let out the most incredible vocal scream which she held for what seemed like 30 seconds! The audience loved it and I felt there was a real connection for the rest of the performance; I would hope Robin gets her own tour of the UK soon.
Check out our chat about Robin’s career, influences and upcoming projects: