Robby Hecht
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Robby Hecht

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2006 | SELF

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2006
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"The Song's the Thing: An Interview with Robby Hecht"

Robby Hecht sings like a whisper, like a hesitant truth that simply can’t go unsung anymore. His songs can invoke starry nights and fog rolling in on the beach. Lights turning off. Front porch silences and morning walks alone. Holding hands for the first time, letting go for the last.

Across his three indie releases, Hecht has distinguished himself as the second coming of James Taylor, a gentler Damien Jurado. But, whatever the comparison, it’s hard to miss that his songwriting is distinct and individual. He doesn’t shy from the obvious rhyme (city/pretty, stars/bars/cars), but manages it with a delicate audacity, placing it only where it best serves the story or the mood. And, there’s something about the way he unfurls a line that feels less like trying to work something out and more like just calling it what it is.

On his latest album – self-titled for reasons you can read about below, in our interview – Hecht grapples with loneliness and discovery, fear and epiphany, disappointment and love. But, where dichotomies exist in many releases, as in life, for Hecht, the songs he wound up grouping together for this disc captured elements of his being bipolar. He’s not the first or last to discover hints of his mental health showing through in his songwriting, and the recurring theme was less intentional than some reviews of the album may imply.

Music is, after all, a tool for understanding and redemption. It gives us pathways that workaday language don’t provide, toward our truer selves. That Hecht’s life has led him toward learning to live with bipolar at the same time as his songwriting has allowed him to capture the various ups and downs that come with it, is probably more coincidental than anything. Still, every situation brings with it a flock of varied truths, and the forces that shape a song are subject to the mood and perspective of the songwriter.

That said, what's more moving here is Hecht's ability to step back from it all. In the process, he's created an album that is objective enough to be both honest and compassionate, without losing touch of the intimacy inherent in a shared silence.

Kim Ruehl: When I’ve heard you in the past, even when there’s other instruments in there, it seems like it’s just you and your guitar, singing. These songs, on the other hand, feel fully fleshed-out and arranged, deeply considered. It’s more song-centric and less you-centric. So it’s interesting that it’s self-titled.

Robby Hecht: Yeah, I think it is more song-centric than the other ones. I don’t want to say I’m getting better at writing songs but it’s becoming easier to not write heavy songs [that are] coming from inside of me. I don’t know if part of that is co-writing or how much is just experience. I felt like the album was more varied and representative of the whole range of songwriting that I like to do, as opposed to this little section of it that is songs I write for me. I was a little bit more out-there with it. I’ve always written a lot of different kinds of stuff but, when it came to recording, it was always this one little style of writing I do that would end up on my album. I tried to make it more broad this time, and a lot of that translated into more varied production than we’ve had in the past.

One thing I was fixated on was how totally simple so many of the lyrics are – stars, bars, cars; “Last night I saw you in the stars,” repeated; “There’s no pity in New York City.” All these songs get to the very basic essence of the point of the song. Do you start with 100 words and then whittle it down to the perfect line?

I don’t know. I think maybe I didn’t feel the need to expand as much as I have in the past. I think I started to get to the heart of what I was trying to say a little more than writing a bunch of cool lines. Some of them, there’d be a theme and I’d try to build around it. With “New York City,” there were these consistent themes. Instead of trying to rhyme AA/BB, I had the “it” sound and then I had to come up with a bunch of things that had [that sound], then I had to come up with a bunch of things that had the “ity” rhyme. It built from there. It built from the first two lines of the song, really – “Take my mind off it” and “The girls are witty.” Which started as “the girls are pretty,” but then I thought, oh wait, witty is much better than that. I was watching that show Girls a lot at the time, too.

Witty and pretty are very different things.

Right, exactly. I work the pretty thing back in, though. Later on in the song, I say, “I ain’t so pretty,” which is kind of implying that other people are. Relatively. You walk around New York City and it’s not like everyone is pretty, but that’s where the supermodels go. You’re walking around and then all of the sudden there’s somebody who doesn’t even look like a human, walking around, and you’re kind of like whoa! That’s a different class of… whatever that is.

I was thinking about “Hard Times,” the one cover on the album [originally by Gillian Welch]. I read a quote earlier from Bruce Robison, who was saying how he hates when people use the word “cover” because they’re all just songs. Some you write, some other people write, and it just matters whether they’re true for you or not. It seemed like “Hard Times” fit perfectly on this record. How did you bring that into the fold?

That’s great. That’s the first one we recorded so I’m glad it fits. I think we did that in one take. We got together as a band and were like, what should we do first? I said, “Why don’t we do this cover and see what it sounds like.” If it ended up sounding like crap, we wouldn’t even use it. I loved it at first. It was my favorite thing we did the first couple of days. By the end, it fit right in there. It’s the most live band thing on there. We didn’t add anything to it. Maybe, stylistically, it fits in really well because the core of everything else that’s happening on the album is what that song is, production-wise. Thematically, I don’t know. It’s a pretty amazing song. It’s got a lot of little intricacies but it’s pretty simple too. It’s just a song about time passing, I think. I just love that song.

When Gillian sings it, it sounds more like it’s about the economic state of a lot of people’s lives, whereas when you sing it, it sounds more personal.

It’s more like she’s telling a story?

No, it’s more like she’s singing about not being able to make rent and you’re singing about life in general.

That’s funny. To me, it starts out with a guy farming and ends up with him going to the store. That feels like the central theme in the song, to me. The changing world, where you used to be able to be self-sufficient and create everything you needed in a simple way. Now everything’s tied together a bit more. I actually sing the line wrong, the key line to the whole song. I sing it that “I see him walking down to the cigarette store.” I think 95 percent of people think that’s the line to the song. But I had this epiphany a few months after recording it that I thought maybe it was a Superette store instead. I saw a Superette store somewhere. “Cigarette store” is a great line, but “Superette store” is an even better line. I actually spent months asking around, trying to figure it out. Through a chain of three people, leading to someone who actually knows her, I found out it’s “Superette store,” not “cigarette store,” which even more modernizes the idea of someone in the beginning, plowing a field and in the end he’s going to the supermarket to buy what he needs.

That does change the whole thing.

I wish I could go back and change it, if we didn’t record it live. That’s the one song where we didn’t record the vocal separately.

I wonder if, when we originally set up this Q&A we’re having, Emilee [Hecht’s publicist] asked me to think about the part of the album that tackles themes about being bipolar. I really had to listen for that, because I think the album just comes off as a collection of great songs. But listening more deeply, I could totally catch it. I was thinking maybe my reading of your performance of “Hard Times” was because I was asked to listen for these themes.

Maybe. It’s kind of a subconsciously integral part of who I am in my brain, and what I’m creating. I didn’t really think of that being a theme in the album until we started sequencing the songs. I’ve never really talked about this with anyone, except Annie [his wife] when we were in the car, because we were trying to sequence the tracks. That’s one of my favorite parts of making an album. You’ve got the fast songs and the slow songs. [We were] trying to figure out where everything goes and I realized the best way to sequence the album was to have the upbeat songs and the downbeat songs contrast each other. I realized there might be a connection to bipolar.

I went back into the album the way you did, I think, and realized how much of it was influenced by that part of me. I mean, “Feeling it Now” is the one that does it the most, but there aren’t any songs on the album that are like “This is what bipolar is like.” “Feeling it Now” would be the good part of it – the up part, the part where you feel connected to the world. It’s a positive songs, it’s a happy song. When I put it in the context of bipolar, you get the feeling that maybe this is a temporary feeling, but that’s how I meant it when I was writing the song. You’re isolated in that moment. That was related to it.

I don’t think about [being bipolar] constantly when I’m writing and I don’t know that anybody actually does, unless they’re writing a concept album about something. But there’s that one and then “The Sea and the Shore,” which I wrote with Amy Speace, and that wasn’t something I was thinking about either. The main character is the shore in that song, which is a character longing for stability and finally standing its ground and saying, “Enough! I can’t deal with your inconsistency anymore.” Looking back on that song, I was like oh, I probably identify more with the sea, who’s sure it’s going to work this time and it doesn’t happen, so the sea winds up leaving again. I mean, it happens in the end, but only in reaction to the shore standing its ground. I’m the character who’s sure it’s going to work this time, then disappears, then has a realization and comes back again. That’s how all my relationships were until I met my wife.

Nice. I did want to talk about that song, because Amy’s version with John Fullbright is like a different song, having the two voices singing it, versus having your once voice singing it. It’s an interesting reinterpretation of that tune.

I think maybe her version is less sad than mine. [laughs] I don’t want to say what her version is, but it feels more strong and defiant, whereas looking back on mine, I think it’s a little bit…not negative but just sadder in a trying-to-demonstrate-reality way. That song’s kind of the opposite of the simplicity we were talking about. That song was actually one where we wrote a bunch of stuff and whittled it down. I think we had ten verses at one point. We eliminated entire characters and whittled it down to its essence, I think, which is five really long verses.

You mentioned, in terms of seeing bipolar in this record and it not being a concept record... I think it might be gratuitous for somebody to try to write a concept album about their personal mental health situation. But the fact that it’s self-titled when you’ve already put a couple records out, makes it feel like there is a concept to this album, and that’s Robby Hecht. Who is this Robby Hecht character? Why did you decide to make it a self-titled record?

I don’t have a perfect answer to that, either. There are multiple reasons, which I think is why a lot of things happen. It probably started because we couldn’t think of a good title for the album. I didn’t think any of the songs made a good title track. I could’ve called it Cars and Bars and had a picture like a Tom Waits album on the front, or something. But it didn’t feel like anything worked as a title track, then I went into the songs and there wasn’t really a line that worked as a title. I always wanted to do a self-titled album and felt like I’d lost my chance a little bit when I did my first one. It felt right. Without being able to come up with a title, it felt like a chance to do a self-titled album. It felt like maybe if we can’t find the title track or a line that sums it all up, maybe the only thing holding it all together is that I’m singing and I wrote all the songs. Except for one.

Why did you always want to do a self-titled album?

I don’t know. It felt like a thing I missed that people do. They do an introduction album. I wish I could not name any albums because I think it’s really hard to come up with something that sums up a batch of songs that weren’t written to intentionally make an album . These songs were written in a pretty wide range of time… they weren’t written with the intention of putting them all on an album. I actually came to Rick with 38 songs and said here you go, let me know which ones you like and we’ll whittle it down from there. There was a lot to choose from and, once we were down to the 12 that are on there, it’s hard to say I intended for those 12 songs to be together. It’s hard to group them together and call it anything, really.

Maybe that’s the difference… my first thought I shared with you, about this being more of a song-centric album. It’s not like you just recorded the songs you had to record and put them out, under a title.

You can think about it as, like, I call it the album of my own name, which really is what I was thinking of it as when I did it. It’s almost like not calling it anything, not trying to unify everything together… this is just me. I’m not going to call it anything. Leaving that space blank.

What made you decide to end with “When I’m With You Now”? That’s the most stripped-down song on the whole record. It’s a good period at the end of the sentence.

I don’t know. We played with so many different sequences to the album, but we recorded that song a few years ago. We recorded it pretty soon after the last album. Then we added some stuff to it a year later, but I’ve been sitting on it for a couple years. Part of putting it at the end was that it had a different production. It has different people playing on it and different people singing backing vocals on it. We have Julie Lee and Elizabeth Foster singing on it, as opposed to Rose Cousins, who sings on the rest of the album. It stands out for that reason and that’s part of wanting to separate it, not put it between anything else. The song is an uplifting song. The melody is quiet and the production is quiet, but it’s a song about moving forward in a happy way, in a good relationship with someone. It’s a good note to end on, especially with the second to last song about missing someone. It’s all about missing someone, and then it works its way to “I found someone new.”

-Kim Ruehl - No Depression

"★★★★★ Robby Hecht among a trio of fine Americana albums"

The self-titled album Robby Hecht is a lovely curiosity. It took several listens to get into the album but it was well worth the effort, because the songwriting is of the highest quality. Hecht plays shimmering guitar and sings really well, too, and the arrangements, produced by Lex Price, allow the 12 songs to blossom.
There are upbeat tracks (such as Feeling It Now) but most of the compositions have a wistful melancholy, such as The Light is Gone. The song Soon I was Sleeping (a duet with Rose Cousins), in which Hecht describes the whole arc of a relationship wrecked by alcoholism in just eight lines, is gorgeously morose.
The highlight of the album, however, is The Sea and the Shore (co-written with Amy Speace), which sparkles with simple yet haunting symbolism. Hecht, who was raised by Midwestern Jewish parents, is Nashville-based and says he suffers from a bipolar disorder, and a theme of inconsistency runs through the lyrics.
Hecht clearly puts a lot of work into crafting his lyrics and it shows in clever songs such as New York City and Barrio Moon. There is also a gentle and moving cover version of Gillian Welch's song Hard Times on an album that is an absolute treat. ★★★★★

-Martin Chilton - The Telegraph

"Frankenstein Drunk-Dials In Robby Hecht’s ‘Soon I Was Sleeping’ Video (Premiere)"

Sometimes even monsters grapple with heartbreak, and Frankenstein is in rough shape in the artfully constructed new video for Robby Hecht’s song “Soon I Was Sleeping,” which premieres today on Speakeasy.

Hecht, a Nashville singer and songwriter, had a rough concept for the clip to accompany his pitch-perfect, gutbucket country duet, but his friend Ryan Newman, a video director, went one better.

“We were just going to get a couple actors and do something in a motel room, and Ryan came up to me one day and said, ‘I’ve got the perfect video idea: “Bride of Frankenstein,”’” Hecht told Speakeasy. “It’s really simple: Frankenstein’s drinking and he calls her up and she’s having a relationship with Dracula now.”

Using local actors in Nashville, including Brian T. O’Neill as Frankenstein and Kayla McKenzie Moore as the Bride, Newman shot the video at Hecht’s house while the singer was away on tour.

“My wife was there for the shoot, and it seems like everyone else in the world was there for the shoot,” he said. “It seems like it was a weekend-long party.”

“Soon I Was Sleeping,” which features vocals from Rose Cousins, appears on Hecht’s latest album, a self-titled collection he released in March.

-Eric R. Danton - Wall Street Journal

"Album premiere: Robby Hecht's 'Robby Hecht'"

Nashville singer-songwriter looks inward for his self-titled third album, out March 25.

For his third album, Robby Hecht decided the time had finally come to put his name in the title.

"I feel like maybe the album has a different level of songwriting than I've had on previous albums," the Nashville singer-songwriter says of Robby Hecht, premiering at USA TODAY a week in advance of its March 25 release. "It feels like I've gotten to a place where I wanted to put my name on it.

"I guess this is the first one where it feels like it's a collection of songs I'm really proud of, where I'm in a place where I'm focused on the craft.

The intimate, introspective album is loaded with Nashville talent, including guitarist Will Kimbrough, fiddler Casey Driessen and woodwind player Jeff Coffin. Hecht credits the album's music firepower to producer Lex Price. "A lot of that is his ability to put together an amazing cast of people based on the music he knows he's going to be creating," Hecht says. Several of the tracks also feature members of k.d. lang's road band, the Siss Boom Bang, in which Price plays.

Hecht and Price, who also has worked with Mindy Smith and Peter Bradley Adams, began the album process with 36 guitar-vocal demos Hecht had made. "I said, 'Let's find the best 10 or 12 of these and make a record,' " Hecht says.

Perhaps the most personal part of the album comes in a three-song series that can be heard in the context of Hecht's experiences with bipolar disorder.

Feeling It Now attempts to capture the mood of the manic state. "I kind of wrote that for myself and for other people who deal with the same bipolar issues," he says. "I remember times driving in the car and thinking everything was amazing, or turning on the radio and it doesn't even matter what's playing. Or sometimes you go to a bar and you just feel like everything's perfect and everybody thinks you're hilarious. I don't even know if that's true, but it feels like that."

Hecht says he took a long time to decide whether he should go public with his diagnosis, "because you can't go back one you do it. I guess I thought of it less as I'd be defined by it and more I didn't have to worry about talking with people about it anymore."

Alcohol comes between a couple in Soon I Was Sleeping, the country-ish duet with Rose Cousins, but Hecht recognizes the issues in the relationship.

"Everything's got a little bit of me in it," he says. "When you're a songwriter, you draw from yourself, then you draw from outside stuff. I've never personally had a problem with alcoholism, but I think it was easier to write a country song like that, where a problem that you have in your personal life is something that makes your relationship sort of impossible."

Hecht wrote the song that follows, The Sea and the Shore, with Amy Speace and later realized, "They're kind of the same song. One is this nature thing, where the sea is an inconsistent entity that comes and goes and isn't able to commit. Soon I Was Sleeping has the line, 'You lost your heart to that bottle, and I lost the man I used to be.' This pull away from the relationship ended up being stronger than the two of them."

Barrio Moon is the only murder song Hecht has ever written. "It was fun to write a murder ballad, and really hard," he says. "You have to justify the murder. You have to come up with a reason why somebody would murder somebody else."

Hecht wrote the song as an exercise in a songwriting group run for former Norah Jones guitarist Adam Levy. "You had to write to a title," he says. "I was in the group for one week, and that was the week Barrio Moon was the title."

Another singer-songwriter in that group, A.J. Roach, released his Barrio Moon song on his 2011 album Pleistocene.

"He was smart," Hecht says. "He put his record out more than two years ago. All our friends were, like, 'Why would you write a song with the same title as A.J.?' "

The album includes a cover of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings' Hard Times.

-Brian Mansfield - USA Today

"Another Country: 10 of Summer's Secret Best Country Songs"

An also-unhappy counterpart to Zoe Muth’s “Mama Needs a Margarita,” easily one of my favorite songs of the year, is this drink-yourself-to-sleep bummer from Hecht and Cousins, out a few months back on his self-titled LP. The video’s a weird one, but the song, like heartbreak, sticks around longer than you might expect.

-Duncan Cooper - The Fader

"Robby Hecht Reveals Dual Life on “Soon I Was Sleeping”"

For Robby Hecht, songwriting can be a clarifying experience. On his revealing upcoming album, the Nashville-based artist struggles with the realization that he’s been living with bipolar disorder his whole life. At times, this realization is comforting and, at others, alienating.

On the classic-country-sounding duet, “Soon I Was Sleeping,” Hecht examines the effects of his condition through the lens of an alcoholic and his wife — just to put a little distance between himself and the song.

“This is definitely one of the most difficult songs I’ve ever written,” Hecht confessed in an email exchange with CMT Edge. “I wrote the chorus pretty quickly and loved it, but I sat on it for close to three years before I had the courage to try to come up with verses that would hold up.”

Those verses needed to be short and sweet with no room for sugar-coating.

“I essentially had to describe the whole arc of a relationship ruined by alcoholism in eight lines,” he said.

Featuring a satisfying pedal-steel melody and Rose Cousins’ wounded but resolute vocal, “Soon I Was Sleeping” became a standout on an album full of self-discovery.

“There’s another song on the album called ‘The Sea and the Shore’ (a co-write with Amy Speace) that’s very similar thematically to ‘Soon I Was Sleeping,’” said Hecht. “The songs are very different in their imagery and characters, but both deal with the way inconsistency can ruin a relationship.

“This theme of inconsistency is what I identify with most closely on the record, and that definitely comes from living with bipolar and trying for so many years to figure out why it felt like I was two different people at the same time.”

Hecht’s self-titled album, scheduled for a March 25 release, sounds like he’s feeling complete and content. Pairing perceptive lyrics with a gentle but confident vocal, he slides between hook-driven roots pop and measured moodiness. Like two halves that add up to a whole.

Check out the CMT Edge premiere of Robby Hecht’s “Soon I Was Sleeping.”

-Chris Parton - CMT Edge


Last of the Long Days (2011)
Late Last Night (2008)



A proper artist struggles to influence life’s signal to noise ratio. Under the right kind of concentration, the static grows quiet. The extraneous and the superficial are pared away. And precious human qualities are held still, carefully turned over and inspected for illuminating details. In Robby Hecht’s case, this effort emerges as music that invites and even induces the listener to a similar place of serenity, clarity and patience.

“When I’m writing by myself something can take three years until I get past my own self-editing phase,” says Hecht about his meticulous approach. “Everything I write I’m trying to capture some kind of truth that I haven’t heard anyone say in that way before.”

And that’s what we hear on Hecht’s third album, a self-titled collection of twelve lovely and insightful songs. Those who give it time will be seduced by a quality that fellow songwriter Steve Poltz once compared to “a warm blanket that wraps itself around you.” And Poltz is but one of many peers in the folk music community who’ve testified to the magnitude of Hecht’s talents. Catie Curtis, Anais Mitchell, Julie Lee and others have gushed about the “natural beauty” of Hecht’s tone, the “honey in his voice” and his “authentic gifts” as a lyricist. Prizes from songwriting contests at Kerrville and Telluride have further confirmed Hecht’s stature as a musician’s musician. Now, with several circuits of the nation under his belt and a widening base of support in the songwriter world, Hecht is worthy of wider recognition by fans of observant, immersive music.

Hecht’s debut album Late Last Night, made with notable Nashville friends and colleagues such as singers Mindy Smith and Jill Andrews plus producer Lex Price, was flagged by numerous critics and colleagues as a top release in its genre. Maverick magazine called it “gorgeous” and one blogger flagged it as one of his five favorite discs of all time. The album’s lovelorn tone gave way to a brighter mood on its follow-up, Last Of The Long Days in 2011, which was tapped by CMT as a “mellow and beautiful effort.” The buzz around Hecht was substantial, but the world, as we established earlier, is a noisy place and the path to the top in contemporary folk music is long and steep.

Now comes a third album, self-titled as if to announce a true arrival. Again Hecht turned to Nashville’s Lex Price, a low-key sonic master who’s worked with with k.d. lang, Mindy Smith and others, as producer. The honestly recorded, elegantly mixed record is well positioned to stir the hearts that have been stirred before and more besides.

Some songs here feel chiefly the product of craft, while others the product of heart. Among the former is the allegorical song of impossible love called “The Sea & The Shore,” a co-write with Nashville writer Amy Speace. Working under self-imposed rules about symbolism and rhetoric to maintain a consistent voice, they worked over several sessions and many weeks to compose this finely honed masterpiece. Another craft song is “Soon I Was Sleeping” which has the shape and cunning of Hank Thompson or Harlan Howard and the melancholy honesty of Townes Van Zandt. Steel guitar comes out from the background here to give the record a country ease and sway.

The heart songs include “Feeling It Now,” a deceptively simple profile of that evanescent mood when you’re heading out for a night among friends and all is clicking. It’s a celebration of life and more personally a retrospective of the manic experience. And then there’s “Cars And Bars,” a bittersweet postcard from an encounter that promised romance but which became a mere one-off memory.

There are many moments like that on Robby Hecht – moments that provoke recognition and memories of our own. It’s not a debut album per se, and yet for many, it will introduce an important artist who’s hit his stride and learned a lot about teasing out meaning in a noisy world.

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