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Interview: Rob Green

19 July 13 photos: David Parry
interview: Shariff Ibrahim

Itching to get on stage at Splendour, he explains how he learnt to fly a plane and why Denzel Washington won’t be featuring on his tracks any time soon..

When did you first know you wanted to be a musician?
I actually can’t remember a time when I haven’t been singing. But when I was about eighteen I got a guitar and started teaching myself chords off the internet, then wrote my first song Bad News. I enjoy playing guitar, but I love it when someone else plays because then I can just sing. When I was in Leeds at uni I worked with an amazing woman called Christella who’s done it all, from working with Beverley Knight to Jamiroquai; she’s definitely my mentor and has taught me everything.
What kind of artists have influenced you?
I’m influenced a lot by a guy called Raul Midón, who’s a blind guitar player with an amazing, beautiful voice. Also India Arie, I love her voice. But the actual sound that I’ve always loved singing to is nearer to Sam Cooke. I love that stripped, acoustic vocal. With my EP, Learn to Fly, it was very high production and even though I really enjoyed it, it made me realise that I actually want to have more space to just sing. I get so caught up in all the things I can do - I can add that harmony, or that brass band, I could bring in Denzel Washington flying through the window on a rope, but do I need that? I’d like to just enjoy standing and delivering with only my voice, singing what I want to sing about and writing what I want to be writing.
You recently supported Martha Reeves, but what have been your favourite performances ever?
Splendour last year was definitely one, because that was just a good, all-round day, and there was a real moment of realisation that progress had been made. The only time I’d really performed in Nottingham on a big scale before that was the launch of my first single Cardinal at the Contemporary, then for the Parlour Tricks EP. When I started out there were no fans, no material, nothing apart from my little YouTube channel where I just had a guitar and a webcam in my bedroom. We released the Cardinal music video which did really well, and on the back of that we filled the Contemporary, then had six months of little shows, and then it was Splendour. I was bricking it, I’m not going to lie, but I went on and ran out with so much energy and just felt really Lucozaded up. That was the moment I thought, “this is what I want to do, and how I want to do it.”
Since gigging a lot more, have you found yourself getting recognised?
A little bit in Nottingham, mainly around the Hockley area, and people occasionally do come up and are like, “You’re Rob Green!” I guess it’s nice to have people want to come over and speak to you. Obviously, I’m sure if it was constant and relentless, maybe it would be a different story, but at the moment it’s a good balance. Places like JamCafé, Edin’s and Hartley’s have all got my CD and play it, which does sometimes mean I’ll be meeting my friends, then my music comes on and it looks like I’ve brought them there because I know my CDs going to be on, like “Ooh, who’s this fresh up and coming act?”
Have you got any free rides from cabbies off the back of your Cardinal video?
That would be amazing. When we did the video we did some promotional stickers that said ‘Beware rogue taxi drivers’ and I once got in a taxi on the way home and he had it stuck on his window, and he thought it was like a Nottingham Police awareness sticker. Then loads of them started sticking them in their cars and I was getting free promo.

You called your latest EP Learn to Fly — do you have any superpower wishes?
It would definitely be flying. That was a bit of a joke, because when we first had the meeting about the EP, we wanted to do something that would capture a bit of the energy of the live show. We were talking about superheroes, and what our big dreams are, and for me I said, “I’ve always wanted to fly”, and the song was obviously called Learn to Fly. Then Greg and Jack (Outlaw label bosses) came in for a meeting, grinning at me and were like, “We’ve had a sick idea — what if you learn to fly a plane?” So we went to the Phoenix Flying School who very kindly gave me a free lesson and took us up, and Mick, a really nice guy, made me feel really safe, flew the plane up, and then I was in control, flying around which was amazing. Scary – I mean these guys are in the back regretting their ‘sick idea’ because they were trying to record it. But it was amazing and even better for the fact Greg soiled himself a little bit. Not literally.
What do you think of the other Nottingham acts coming through at the moment?
You know, even after working with Martha Reeves and all the people we’ve worked with this year, I’ve learned most from a lot of Nottingham acts. I think there’s just a real feeling in Nottingham about acts that are coming out at the moment. Harleighblu’s wicked, she’s got a poison voice that’s beyond sick, and then Nina Smith as well who was with me for the launch and I’ve worked with plenty of times. Then there are a lot of other male acts now too like Joel Baker and Ady Suleiman, who I love. It’s a good time for you guys - you’ve got loads of interviews to do now.
Are you looking forward to performing at Splendour again?
Last year’s Splendour for me was mind-blowing. It was sweaty and hayfevery, but incredible. Obviously being on the Jägermeister stage this year is amazing. It’s just going to be really interesting because people don’t generally do two years in a row – they must think we haven’t got anything better to do. But Jake Bugg has come back in an unbelievably massive way: from doing the LeftLion stage, then the main stage early in the day last year, and now he’s headlining it. That’s what it’s all about, and I’m so glad that Splendour is a sort of hub for Nottingham artists.
What else have you got in the pipeline for summer?
We’ve got a project in association with NUSIC and the Outlaw label, doing a schools tour - we’re just spreading the music and bringing a little bit of knowledge of the music scene into schools. There are a lot of young people who want to be involved in the music scene, and I remember being fifteen/sixteen in school and really wanting to know how to get started, and nobody knew. It wasn’t talked about. They could tell me how to apply to Oxbridge and do my CV, but my school didn’t really know where to point me. But people like Mark Del, and people working in Confetti and Antenna, and Nottingham music scene representatives in general, do have that information now and can help and advise and give that opportunity.
Rob Green plays Splendour Festival at Wollaton Park on Saturday 20 July 2013, and Nottingham Pride on Saturday 27 July.

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