Five Questions: Robby Hecht
Even though the singer-songwriter genre is chock full of amazingly talented artists, very few of them are as consistently wonderful as Robby Hecht. With his eponymous third release, he proves this fact yet again. Many of the tunes on this and previous sets warrant “instant classic” status, such is Hecht’s gift. He just has a knack for crafting timeless observations of life, love, and loss. One listen to “The Sea and the Shore” or “Soon I Was Sleeping” makes that perfectly clear. If the devil is in the details, then so is its opposite. And that’s where Hecht’s careful attention to the little things — both in his life and in his music — makes all the difference.
In your estimation, what does it take to be a working, professional singer/songwriter these days? And how — if, at all — has that evolved over the course of your career?
That’s a big question! I think the short answer is that it takes a lot of work in a lot of different disciplines. Beyond the long and ever-evolving process of working on becoming a better writer and performer, I’ve learned a ton about so many aspects of the business, some of which include booking, marketing, sales, management, distribution, accounting, and recording. In the long run, though, even now that I have others filling some of those roles, it’s extremely helpful to know how those facets of the industry function and ways in which they can be effectively run. The goal, of course, is to understand all that stuff well enough that you can confidently hand it off and go back to focusing on writing and performing.
You’re 35 now, and married. How much harder is life on the road at this phase of your life?
I’d say it’s actually gotten easier, in a lot of ways, as my wife and I have adapted to my being gone. Sometimes she comes along, if her work schedule allows, and we can find a kind temporary home for our dog. And I’m sleeping in my car less and less, which is always a good thing! We both have adventurous spirits, so that makes traveling more appealing to us.
You’ve talked some in recent interviews about your struggle with being bi-polar. How did you decide to reveal that? And how has the realization and reality affected your writing?
I’ve wanted to talk openly about being bi-polar for a long time. It’s far more common than most people know, but it’s extremely stigmatized. Bi-polar has always been an integral part of my life and personality, but I never knew the roller coaster had a name until hearing others with bi-polar talk about it in public. Hopefully, I’m doing the same for other people.
Understanding and getting treatment has affected my writing in a number of ways. I do sometimes feel like I’ve lost the manic moments when everything felt connected and metaphorical and I’d race to find a piece of paper to write everything down. The song “Feeling it Now” is largely inspired by the mindset that accompanies mania — it’s fleeting, but it’s wonderful when it’s happening. I recognize, though, that those moments were few and far between, and that they’ve been replaced with a consistency that has allowed me to write with others on a regular schedule, set up tours in advance knowing that I won’t want to run and hide at showtime, and stay focused on songs to their conclusion. So far, the song ideas haven’t stopped coming, either. In the end, though, it’s a personal choice whether or not to get treatment for bi-polar. For me, it gave me the perspective I needed to make the conscious choice to continue down that path.
You’ve also mentioned a theme of inconsistency that runs through the songs on the new album — as well as your life. And, yet, you are one of the most consistent singer/songwriters out there, in terms of the quality of your work. Does that come from the practice of patience or a search for perfection or somewhere else?
Good Lord, you should see the notebooks and voice memos filled with ideas, snippets, couplets, and songs that are finished but not recorded. I’m definitely a perfectionist when it comes to writing — if there’s a line in a song that I don’t think is just right, it keeps me up at night. I majored in English in college so, while my songwriting heroes are people like Paul Simon and Tom Waits, I’m also a huge fanboy of Salinger and Dostoyevsky. When I approach songwriting, I try to be as prepared and consistent as possible in order to tell the story completely and as well as I can.
To address another startling confession you recently made… what is this obsession with GIRLS that you have fallen into?
There was a period of a few weeks when I was experimenting with writing songs inspired by TV shows. I’d watch an episode of a show and, as soon as it ended, I’d start playing my guitar and writing a song. I started with Dexter and that was okay, but it turns out GIRLS is quite inspirational, in fact it was the catalyst that inspired my song “New York City.”