Song: “Soon I Was Sleeping”

Duet with Rose Cousins
Directed by Ryan Newman

ROBBY HECHT Web-Exclusive Interview

with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher, Merlin David

How did the idea of “Soon I Was Sleeping” come to you?

I actually wrote this song over the course of about six years. I had the “put that bottle of whiskey right where she used to kiss me” hook for a long time. A while later I finished the whole chorus, and then a couple years after that I mapped out and finished the verses. It’s a country song and it just didn’t fit my 2011 album Last of the Long Days, so it was three more years before I included it on my most recent full-length self-titled album in 2014, Robby Hecht.


How did you choose Rose Cousins for the duet?

I had her sing all the harmonies on the record. I’ve known her for 10 years, and have loved her voice forever. I met her at a NERFA (Folk Alliance) conference—one of the first singer-songwriter people I met—didn’t know there were so many people who do the same thing I do.

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What is your creative process for writing songs?

I wouldn’t say I have a specific process. Usually I’ll start with a couple of lines of words and melody, and build up from there. For me, the words and music are equally important, so I try not to force one to dictate the other. Part of the enjoyment of writing with someone else is that they come in with their own process and their own truths, so you get to learn from them as you write while finding a shared creative place.


What songwriting tip would you like to offer?

You can get song ideas from anywhere: observing others, TV shows, other songs, reading articles, etc. When you’re in active songwriting mode, you start to notice metaphorical connections and things you might have complained about or been frustrated with can become productive material for new songs.


Tell us one experience where something unique inspired you to write a song that is still a personal favorite.

When I was 20 years old, there was a short period of time during which my sister left home for college and my maternal grandmother died. I could tell it was a tough time for my mom, and it inspired me to try and write a song that would be ambiguous enough to capture the feeling of letting go in both of those situations. I worked for weeks on it, and it ended up being the title track of my first album Late Last Night. It’s the oldest song of mine that I still play.



How do you keep song ideas fresh—and continue to think of new ideas?

At some point, we all have to stop writing the same song about the experience of love and heartbreak. There are tons of ways to stay creative. Co-writing is one way, though you have to make sure you’re really talking and working through the subject, or you’ll both end up falling back on a formula. You have twice as much material to work with if you let each other dig into your real shared experiences. This applies to solo writing as well. If you don’t give yourself the time and focus to get into a deep internal space, you’ll never be able to mine out the best ideas. In regular speech, we communicate best by using a shared language made up of familiar phrases and clichés. In songwriting, we communicate best by expressing our observations in the most original way possible.


How does where you geographically live or travel influence your music?

I live in Nashville for the songwriters. I spent years falling in love with the art of songwriting, but until I moved here in 2005, I never realized how many others there are who feel the same exhilaration that I do about songs. There are loads of Nashville writers who are chasing hits and learning to write to a formula, but there are also poets here for whom songwriting is a religious obsession. They are an ongoing inspiration for me.


Nashville is a great place to co-write. How has co-writing shaped your music?

I’ve been doing quite a bit of co-writing over the past few years. It’s a completely different experience from writing alone because it forces you to keep moving through the song. This can be a negative if it’s preventing you from breaking through the surface of what you’re really trying to say. But if you stay patient and focused and keep communicating with each other, sometimes you can really nail a song that neither of you would have found on your own.


Who influenced you to pick up an instrument and write? How old were you?

I tried to take guitar lessons when I was a kid, but I quit because I hated practicing. When I was 18, I made a conscious decision to be a singer-songwriter and knew that in order to do that, I had to get better at guitar. I used the few chords I’d learned in my lessons, a capo and the internet—and started teaching myself how to play.

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Do you play any other instruments?

The guitar is it for now. I’m starting to mess around with piano—pretty excited about it.


First lines and titles of songs are so important. Give us an example of each—of someone’s song that inspired you.

I’m having a hard time with this—it’s like trying to drive a steering wheel without the rest of the car. One of my favorite writers John Elliott has a beautiful song that by all accounts should be called “I Know I’m Not the Only One.” Instead, he used half of a line from the second verse and titled it “Concerning the Lincoln and Douglas Debates.” The song has nothing to do with the Lincoln and Douglas Debates. I love that.

Oh, and Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You”:
Just before our love got lost you said
“I am as constant as a northern star”
And I said, “Constantly in the darkness
Where’s that at?
If you want me I’ll be in the bar”


In your own writing, give an example of first lines and titles—that still amazes you when you think back on how each story unfolded.

I’ve got an older song called “Freight Train Lady” that started with just the title. I sat on it for a couple of years trying to figure out what the hell I was talking about before I finally started writing the song, and I’m really proud of the end result. It ended up being about a young man and an older woman, and while it doesn’t have my favorite first line I’ve ever written, it does have one of my favorite second verses:

She can’t wait to kiss me
Whiskey on her breath
Moaning about that old husband
He scares her half to death
He won’t give her nothing
Hits her when she steals
I’ve got me a father
So I know how that feels

Tell us about any other revenue streams for songwriters/musicians that have helped you continue your career in music.

It’s a slow build but the most consistent way I’ve found to stay afloat is to play shows and sell your stuff at the shows like they did in the old days. Besides that, there are loads of small revenue streams that trickle in as you put more music out there. There are film and TV placements—and hit songs of course, but to make either of those your one practical goal, you really have to commit to writing as a full time day job and/or get good enough at engineering and craft that you can write and record a song overnight if you need to. It’s really just about what you want to create and how you choose to spend your time creating and sharing it.

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Top 5 Musicians or Songwriters who inspired you to become a musician?

I’ve always struggled with this question. I’ve discussed this with some fellow writers and for me and others I know, I’m drawn to songs rather than their authors. I know it sounds like a technicality, but there are so many times where one inspired song just kills me—and then I don’t end up worshipping the writer’s entire catalog. That said, here are a few exceptions:

Paul Simon
Jim Croce
Anais Mitchell
Devon Sproule
Bruce Springsteen


What instrument/equipment can you not live without—that helps you write, record or perform?

I’ve had my favorite Martin guitar for the past ten years. I spent about a year seeking out the perfect vintage Gibson (I bought and sold three of them) before messing around with a friend’s Martin OM18V at a show we played together. I got one of my own pretty soon after. Other than that, I have a beautiful custom Shanti guitar that I won in the Telluride Troubadour Contest. It lives on the wall and I write with it sometimes or have others use it when we’re co-writing at the house. I have no idea what I’m doing in a recording studio, so between a USB mic, GarageBand, and my phone—that’s pretty much my whole arsenal.


album-cover-evergreen album-cover-last-of-the-long-daysFor someone who is only now discovering your music, what one other album should they listen to—to get valued perspective on their new ROBBY HECHT journey?

I’m proud of all three of my full-length albums, so it’s difficult to recommend just one. Obviously, my self-titled album that I described represents what I’ve been doing most recently, but I also love and would recommend my previous album Last of the Long Days. Some of my best-written songs are on there, and it’s probably tied together a little bit more sonically as a collection. I also released an EP in 2015 called Evergreen that I’m really proud of. It’s the five songs that didn’t feel like they fit on my Long Days album, so we recorded them with just me, my guitar and some backing vocals. They are very folky, lyric-heavy songs. If you’re into a more solo acoustic performance style, that might be a good place to start.


What PRO are you with—and how do they help a songwriter/artist you?

I’m with SESAC. They’re a great resource, especially if you are proactive.


What are your Top 5 favorite albums of all time?

Closing Time (1973) – Tom Waits

Studio/Living Room (2008) – Sarah Siskind

One Night (1982) – Greg Brown

Rites of Passage (1992) – Indigo Girls

The Hell You Say (2002) – Cory Branan



Tell us about your most recent album, Robby Hecht.

My third and most recent full-length album is self-titled and came out in 2014. It’s more of a collection of songs than something with an overarching concept, but I did try to keep the subject matter varied. There are some very personal songs, some about others’ experiences that I observed, and some that are straight up fictional stories. It falls somewhere between folk and singer/songwriter pop—depending on the song. But probably the thing that ties it together the most is that it’s very lyric-driven.

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Tell us about working with producer Lex Price.

He is a wonderful producer. He’s produced Mindy Smith, Michael McDermott, Peter Bradley Adams, and so many others. And he’s the best mandolin player I’ve ever met. Plays bass lately—he can play anything! It’s just great working with him. With his long beard, he’s like a Zen Wizard and stays calm—the Buddhist thing. He is always patient, and not in a rush to move to the next part—I trust him with my songs.


What’s next for you? New album? When?

I’ve spent most of the past year just writing a ton. I’m in the beginning stages of putting together the next album concept—so stay tuned.


For more info and to stay updated:

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