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JogTunes Interview: Robin McKelle Opens Up Her Soul To Jazz

At Cyber PR®, my team is always looking for ways of connecting artists with media makers in unique and exciting ways. We approached Bob Marcus of JogTunes, a long time supporter of Cyber PR®, to work further with Robin McKelle, whom as he mentions below, recently featured on his JogTunes podcast.

Because Bob’s podcast does not support the interview format, we decided to turn to the Music Think Tank platform as the place to bring the two together. In the interview below, Bob and Robin share their love for jazz, soul and a common upbringing in NY.

About Dr. Bob Marcus:

Bob Marcus is a retired physician who plays jazz drums and piano and likes to exercise to music. While working out, he noted the motivating effect of matching the tempo of his music with his running pace. As a geek, the logical next steps were to design and develop a website (Jog Tunes), a podcast, and iOS/Android apps dedicated to cadence workouts. It wasn’t long before Dr. Bob found that great indie artists and promotion companies, like Cyber PR, provide a perfect music resource for his podcast, aptly named the JogTunes Indie Podcast.

Bob Marcus: I’m very grateful and honored that I was invited to interview Robin McKelle, an outstanding performer, songwriter, and clearly a consummate musician. I featured Robin singing her tune, “So It Goes”, on a recent episode of my run-to-music podcast, The JogTunes Indie Podcast.

We have several things in common. The first is that New York is our hometown. The second is that our experiences in music began with jazz. What specific New York jazz scene highlights do you recall and how did they influence your musical sensibilities?

Robin McKelle: Thanks for sharing my music on jog tunes. I’m a runner myself and I find music to be a great way to push through my tough workouts and runs!

I actually grew up in Upstate/Western NY (Rochester) so I wasn’t close to the city and wasn’t a part of the scene there.

Although I was introduced to jazz in my teenage years, I grew up singing pop music and soul music. I was involved with theater and dance as well. Most of my experience with jazz came while I was studying in Miami and Boston (Berklee College). It was then, I was able to put a band together and get gigs around town. I had a jazz trio and a soul band where I performed mostly original music.

We also share our love for Nina Simone. Please tell me what it is about Nina’s music and performances that most impressed you.

Nina is a unique artist. She is an amazing musician and songwriter. Like most greats, she was somewhat unappreciated because she pushed the boundaries with her music and political views. She was fearless and I think that scares people sometimes. I love how she bridges the gap between the genres of jazz and soul music. She sang what she felt and never stuck to a formula or one thing. I think a true artist has to go with the heart and do what inspires.

BM: Then there’s Ella. Well, yes, Ella your dog, but also the great Ella Fitzgerald, another of my favorite jazz performers. How did Ella contribute to your musical style and persona?

RM: Ella was a singer I could relate to vocally. I have a strong voice with some rasp in my tone. Ella is one of the jazz singers who pushes her voice and uses it more like a soul singer does. I was drawn to her improvisation and her rhythmic feel. When I listen to her sing I feel like she always goes for it! She sings with an ease.

BM: So you played the French horn in your youth. Have you continued to play now and then? Has the horn experience affected your music?

RM: I stopped playing when I went to college. It was helpful to play because I developed a better ear.

BM: I understand many Europeans love American jazz. As an American performer rooted in jazz, what was your experience touring Europe? Is there a difference in European audiences compared to those in the US?

RM: Yes there is a difference in the audiences but I find that when I’m on stage, I have a great response from the audience no matter the country I’m in. Europeans seem to be more open to different styles of music and overall seem more educated about music and the arts. I’ve had much more exposure in Europe so many people who come to my shows either know my music or have heard about what I do.

When your audience knows something about you or the music it’s easier to connect with them. When then audience is unfamiliar with you, you have to “win” them over a bit before they open up to you.

It’s like any relationship… they need to trust you before letting their guard down. When an audience is open, we musicians feel that, and that leads to a better show. It’s a vulnerable situation and the audience plays a huge role in the performance they get!

I have had a difficult time getting the exposure that could lead to more shows here in the US. It takes a team of people and thankfully I have a great team in Europe but I’m missing key elements of that in the US. I can’t say that it doesn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth but I try to stay positive and focus on the things I can control like my music.

BM: Our fourth commonality is an appreciation of the benefits of exercise. My podcast is a niche music show dedicated to motivating people to workout by matching their pace to the tempos of great indie music. Do you work out to music? And if so, have you found that you enjoy moving exactly to the beats-per-minute of the music?

RM: I work out faithfully whether it’s running, circuit training, or biking. I ALWAYS listen to music. It absolutely motivates me to push myself as hard as I can. I also really enjoy spinning and I love when I have a great coach who understands the importance of the BPM as it relates to the stride on the bike. I find it so much easier to get through my workout when the music matches the BPM or at least the intensity of the workout!

BM: And finally, I wish to thank you for making your music available to the podcasting community. Do you envision music podcasting and blogging continuing to contribute effectively to the music scene?

RM: You know, I only know that internet world is changing daily so it’s hard to say. But what I will say it that I am so thankful to have podcasts and bloggers in my life because you help spread the word about my music. Blogging and Podcasts are a form of journalism and I don’t think that’s going anywhere!

Thanks again for sharing my music with your listeners! I’m headed out for a run now!

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