Rob Kendt

Rob Kendt


I'm a singer/songwriter a la Elvis Costello/Tom Waits/Rufus Wainwright. I write character songs on piano and guitar, and I'm often told I should write a musical. I think I already have, in a way: My new record features a wide range of characters and sounds, from lounge to country to indie rock


Rob Kendt's day job has been as a theater critic for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, Time Out New York, Newsday, Variety, Back Stage West, and That may be why Rob Kendt's music, even at its most cooking, has a narrative and theatrical sensibility that has earned him comparisons to Elvis Costello, Rufus Wainwright, and Randy Newman.

"I grew up listening to Broadway cast albums, then went through the obligatory Beatles phase," says Kendt, who lives in Brooklyn and regularly plays clubs both in his home borough and in Manhattan. "Then I got sidetracked by folk and Elvis Costello, and finally Kurt Weill, which I guess sort of brings it all full circle."

These diverse influences help explain Kendt's eclectic sound. "Some people find it hard to classify," he admits.

"There's some country and Americana in there, some indie rock and power pop, and of course when I'm on the piano I guess I sound a bit like a lounge singer or a cabaret guy."

Indeed, if Kendt's varying styles seem like a roster of roles he's playing, that’s not too far off the mark. "I've always been fascinated by the ways pop music can work as drama," he explains, "and I've always been more interested in writing characters, like Randy Newman or David Byrne, than in plumbing my own soul—though, as any playwright or actor could tell you, that exploration happens anyway. Even when writing about killers or cads or freaks, you can't write anything but your own story, ultimately."

Kendt's first solo album, I Hope It's Me (Ruby, 2002), captured his work with the L.A. pub rock quartet Millhouse, which performed regularly at such venues as 14 Below and The Gig and opened for Dave Wakeling, Mike Watt, and Dread Zeppelin. As an L.A.-based solo artist, he played at The Mint (opening for Louise Goffin and Brother), Fais Do-Do, Les Freres Taix, and Highland Grounds. Since relocating to Brooklyn he's played the Zipper Theatre, Pete's Candy Store, Bar Nine, Night & Day, and Birdland. He's also had a thriving side career composing and performing music for theater at such venues as the Evidence Room, The Mark Taper Forum, Pacific Resident Theatre, The Globe Theatre, and the Metropolitan Playhouse. He's also an active member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop.

His new record, I'm Not Sentimental, recorded in L.A., New York, Chicago, and Nashville, includes the exuberant piano stomp of the title track, featuring Tommy Morgan of Pet Sounds and Rockford Files fame on harmonica; the sleek bossa "Quiet Girl," featuring Bebel Gilberto sideman Danny Frankel on percussion; the country shuffle "Pick Me" and a lounge mash-up of Britney and the Beatles, "Oops I Did Bungalow Bill," both featuring Lyle Lovett and Bill Frisell's bassist, Viktor Krauss; the sprawling "Graded on a Curve," featuring L.A. guitar madman Carey Fosse, and a French-café rendition of The Motels' "Only the Lonely," featuring J’Anna Jacoby, the fiddler for Rod Stewart, and diva Abby Travis.

Produced by drummer extraordinaire Matt North (Hail the Size, Andy Prieboy, Mink Stole) and mastered by Mike Hagler (Wilco, The New Pornographers, Neko Case), I'm Not Sentimental is eclectic in scope but consistent in its production sound and authorial voice. Like an anthology of short stories, Rob Kendt's new record reads as well as it rocks.


Graded on a Curve

Written By: Rob Kendt

That's how it ends
The fork in the road bends
Unexpected truth reflected
Shames your eyes

Ask not for whom
The bell rang the wrong room
Don't mistake a lucky break
For blessing in disguise

We all get what we deserve
Unless we miss the call serve
I guess we're graded on a curve

You fill your plate
But don't feel the dead weight
The air and room that you consume
Is who you are
The thoughts you think
While sipping a tall drink
Won't betray your class or take away
Your house and car

If that's more than you deserve
You cope and steel your one good nerve
And hope you're graded on a curve

You may call it fate
But the cost is great
To forsake all you take for granted
Ah, but heaven knows
How your garden grows
For it bleeds from the seeds you planted

While the jury's out
You can soak your doubt
In a wash of the poshest liquor
If you're out to dry
They may hang you high
So why not take the shot that's quicker?

You'll know it's done
When the past makes an end run
When you regret the things
You've yet to do, you're through

A change may come
A tempest and then some
When justice rides
You can't change sides
To save your ocean view

It takes a lot of nerve
To share with all as they deserve
My prayer is that we can square the curve

Pick Me

Written By: Rob Kendt

Must I wait
Till he leaves the scene
Or leaves the state
In his limousine
But I know there’ll always be
Another bastard on the make
While I sit here
Available and sensitive
Invisible and tentative
When will they pick me?


Written By: Rob Kendt

Go to sleep until the morning
Close your eyes and rest your head
Leave all your troubles behind you
None of them will come to bed

May your dreams be free and easy
Don't hold on to them too tight
The sirens have sounded the all-clear
Put down your book
Turn out the light

I guess I took for granted
Life in the country
The seasons, the sunsets, the squirrels
Now I live by the freeway
In a bare little room
By the light of a sign that reads
"Girls Girls Girls"
Why did I come here?
I don't remember
Or my reason has changed
Yes, I'm certain my reason has changed

Go to sleep, and in the morning
Everything will be all right
The sirens have sounded the all-clear
Put down your book
Turn out the light


Written By: Rob Kendt

I’m a stray dog rustlin’ through cans in the alley
I’m the ghost of the shadow
That walks through the valley of death
I’m gonna catch your breath
I’m the snake you step on
I’m a chemical weapon
I’m the semiautomatic in the attic
That Junior will find
I’m gonna blow his mind
I’m the evil that speaks your name
And my justice is blind

I’m a boy band singing, I’m a cell phone ringing
I’m the war that you swore
That you’d never be asked to fight
Yeah I’m Crystal Light
You can’t quite believe in me
But you know that I’m right

I’m a nightmare walking
I’m a psychopath talking
I’m the reason for the season
In the winter of your discontent
I take ten percent
I’m a freedom fighter
With a cigarette lighter
And a Molotov cocktail
Aimed at the right of return
First your city will burn
You ask why I come for you
I guess it’s your turn

I’m the books on your shelf
That you owe it to yourself
To read for a lead on the speed
Of the history train
Cause I can’t explain
I won’t loose a thunderbolt
But I’ll send you some rain


i hope it's me (Ruby Records, 2002)

I'm Not Sentimental (Ruby Records, Oct., 2007)

Set List

I perform regularly for about an hour at a time. I'm mostly promoting songs from my new record, including:

I'm Not Sentimental
Suspicious Parties
Pick Me
Oops I Did Bungalow Bill (a lounge mashup of Britney and the Beatles)
Summer Is Coming
Shelter From the Storm
My Life in Pants
Only the Lonely/Je Te Veux (a Motels/Satie mash-up in a French-cafe style)