With Songbird Sings, rocker Robin Lane helps trauma survivors find their voices — and record them.
by Scott McLennan | Boston Globe | February 18th, 2012
For as long as she could remember, Jerri Higgins wanted to sing, but all the single mother and survivor of physical abuse heard from others was, “No, you can’t do that.’’ Then an icon of both the Boston music scene and nascent MTV era told Higgins otherwise.
Robin Lane found success and critical praise in the late ’70s with her band the Chartbusters, whose signature hit was “When Things Go Wrong.’’ Lyrics from that song – “Your deep emotions inside yourself/ They’re hard to face/ But you must try’’ – proved prescient as Lane, in a surprising second act of life, is helping people write and record songs as a means of healing the pains of various traumas.
With Lane’s guidance, Higgins painstakingly pieced together her first song nearly a decade ago and today is not only still singing and writing, but also acting in theatrical productions around her Greenfield home. Yet, these artistic endeavors are not about finding fame or fortune. Instead, Higgins simply wanted to feel better.
“Before I walked in there, I felt worthless,’’ she says.
Lane shares that goal of healing not just with Higgins but with countless other women and children in various states of crisis. Lane began casually working with trauma survivors after moving to the Pioneer Valley in 2001, and is now ready to introduce a more formalized nonprofit organization known as Songbird Sings.
I've been carrying the burden of getting Songbird Sings off the ground, myself and we need to go beyond this. Up until now, Lane has been funding the songwriting workshops and recording sessions by applying for grants and performing house concerts (which she will continue to do).
Lane’s work, especially with children, caught the attention of two music-minded philanthropies – Theo and Paul Epstein’s Foundation to Be Named Later and Ernie Boch Jr.’s Music Drives Us – which further spurred her work into the public eye. Lane and a group from the Home for Little Wanderers, for example, earlier this month wowed an audience at the Hot Stove Cool Music concert that raises money for the FTBNL with their original composition “Be You.’’ Lane’s performance with the Del Fuegos on Wednesday at the Paradise Rock Club and her own concert March 24 at the Bull Run in Shirley are also raising money for Songbird Sings.
As Songbird Sings sits poised to soar, Lane is happily surprised by how this endeavor of hers has grown, especially since she basically made it up as she went along.
Lane’s music career began with her appearance on Neil Young’s 1969 album “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.’’ Lane left the Laurel Canyon scene and headed to Boston in the 1970s. She formed Robin Lane and the Chartbusters with a couple of members of the Modern Lovers, and the band caught traction with the hits “When Things Go Wrong’’ and “Why Do You Tell Lies.’’ The group disbanded in 1983, and Lane made a few solo albums and wrote for other artists. (Chartbusters drummer Tim Jackson is at work on a Robin Lane film documentary called “When Things Go Wrong: Robin Lane's Story.’’)
Lane began her instructional workshops in the 1990s, first working with kids and teens. After a bitter divorce, Lane moved to the Pioneer Valley in 2001. That’s when she happened into the Turners Falls Women’s Center.
“I just walked in looking for some information about health services in the area. There was a writing group going on and they asked if I wanted to participate. I said sure,’’ Lane recalls.
The writing group was a tool women were using use to work through issues brought on by physical abuse. When the other women learned of Lane’s background and her work with the youth songwriting groups, they asked if a songwriting workshop could start at the center.Trauma – be it from abuse, sickness, or loss – was the common thread among Lane and her new songwriting collaborators.
“They are stuck. They are shut down,’’ says Lane of the women entering the workshops. “I start by letting them talk. Then I play songs by Tori Amos and Laura Nyro. I tell them to feel the music, to open up, to be ready for their own emotions.’’
Lane works through several drafts of a song to make it pass her professional muster. She’ll record the song on a portable recording device – usually singing and playing the instruments, though sometimes sharing the microphone with her writing partners – and flesh out the results in friends’ studios, typically yielding a good, polished song. Lane has gathered some of the songs on a series of CDs.
A group of incarcerated women created the Neil Young-ish rocker “Everything Changes.’’ Another woman saw a thick folder of notes transformed into the hard-edged, liberating “False Memory Syndrome.’’ Higgins demonstrates how she found her voice through the song “Rock of Gibraltar.’’
And then there’s “Journey Girl.’’“That’s my story,’’ says Deb McGranaghan of the jangle-pop tune about finding home.
McGranaghan’s story begins in New York, where she was working in advertising. While pregnant, she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I felt lost,’’ she says. “I had nowhere to go with the experience, and it was hard to talk about.’’McGranaghan relocated to Massachusetts and found one of Lane’s songwriting workshops.“Robin creates the conditions for people to find their own paths into healing,’’ says McGranaghan, who went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from Springfield College and now works at the Brattleboro Retreat, where she advocates music therapies. She is also part of the organizing effort to grow Songbird Sings.
Lane does not pass herself off as a therapist, but she has participated in various workshops about using art for healing and learned how to mitigate problems that can occur once raw emotional nerves come exposed.
The success of songwriting as a therapeutic tool has been borne out in clinical studies and with the results Lane and her supporters see firsthand. The need for such a tool rests in statistics. Looking at just one source of trauma – domestic abuse – Figures generated by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence shows that in Massachusetts, 33,000 women and children in 2005 were served by community-based programs addressing violence and sexual assault.
Those programs dot the state in locally based women’s centers, well-known agencies such Jane Doe, Inc., and other community resources such as YMCAs, any of which would be suitable partners for Songbird Sings.
“This is about long-term healing. It’s a key for participants. I’ve seen how the songwriting lets people tell their stories. The music somehow gets it untrapped,’’ says Maria Tarajano Rodman of the Western Massachusetts Training Consortium. Rodman has worked at the women’s center and maintains a relationship there through the umbrella social-services agency where she currently works. Rodman believes in Lane’s project to the point where she joined the fledgling Songbird Sings organization in the role of treasurer.
When Lane’s workshops caught the attention of Hot Stove Cool Music and the Foundation to Be Named Later, it brought the artist deeper into Boston, and she was encouraged to do more with teens and young adults overcoming problems brought on by poverty and abuse. In addition to writing and recording with teens involved with the Home for Little Wanderers, Lane also cut a couple of tracks with young women at Roxbury Youth Works.
“Everybody was outside of their comfort zone,’’ recalls Lane of the sessions that produced the hip-hop tracks “Stronger’’ and “Survive.’’
But Katie Carlson of Roxbury Youth Works calls the workshops a triumph.
“I saw how nervous they were the first day and how their confidence grew as they worked with Robin,’’ Carlson says of the teens who participated in the workshop. “It was really something special for them to be treated like professional songwriters. Robin turned our conference room into a recording studio. It was exciting for everybody who was watching it happen, too.’’
For those who believe in the mission of Songbird Sings, the goal now is to make it financially sustainable and create a framework that allows other musicians to share their know-how as facilitators, though it may be tough to do it exactly as Lane does it.“Robin has a gift with this,’’ Rodman says. “It’s her calling, not her job.’’
I know why the songbird sings: A conversation with Robin Lane
Published by Carla DeSantis on October 7, 2013 in Artist Features, News
A lot of great artists have influenced me over the years, but none so profoundly that I wanted to start a non-profit with them. In the past year, however, meeting singer/songwriter/educator Robin Lane has changed the course of my career and my life. And as you will soon see, Robin is responsible for changing a lot of lives
Check out this trailer from a film being made about her life: http://www.whenthingsgowrongmovie.com/ Robin Lane's Story
Robin’s band, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, was a phenomenon in the northeast in the early ’80s, but never became as well known on the national scene. Wondering what Robin was up to these days, a quick Google search revealed that Robin has been facilitating A Woman’s Voice, songwriting and recording workshops with trauma survivors and at-risk youth since 2001.
I had just been through a harrowing experience helping a friend deal with abuse in her own life, and was devastated to see firsthand how little help was available to her in both resources and family or public support. I immediately shot off an e-mail to Robin and we became fast friends.
It’s a little more than a year later, and Robin and I have started up a non-profit, Songbird Sings, to bring her programs to those who can benefit across the country. Watching the recent media firestorms around sexual abuse survivors Mackenzie Phillips, Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard, and Samantha Geimer (Roman Polanski’s victim )—and the public skepticism victims endure—shows me just how shame plays a huge role in keeping people from coming forward. Through Robin’s programs, however, many women are re-claiming their lives.
Robin's first experience on record was singing with Neil Young—Robin’s life was rooted in music early on. Her father (Ken Lane) was Dean Martin’s musical director and wrote the theme, “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometimes.” She was also briefly married to Police guitarist Andy Summers before the band was a glint in anyone’s eye.
Since October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk to Robin about the way she is using music and her personal experience to heal so many lives scarred by trauma. If your life is haunted by similar experiences, there is help. Click on the link above to learn how you can help to Break The Silence.
Carla DeSantis: What was your first professional music recording and how did it come about?
Robin Lane: It was singing on the song, “Round and Round” with Neil Young. I knew Neil from The Rocket House, later the Crazy Horse band. Everyone used to sit around smoking pot and playing music. Neil and I sang the song together. Later, when Neil was recording his second solo album, my good friend Danny Whitten (Rockets, Crazy Horse) thought we should all record the song together. Or maybe Neil thought this was a good idea. I went into the studio with Neil and Danny and some others and the three of us ran through it, oh, maybe two times at the most. Then it was recorded and it was a take. I said, “Don’t you want to fix anything?” But Neil was probably the first person where less is more in the studio. Just get it down. Later the punk bands did the same thing.
Carla: How did your video get on MTV the very first day that the network launched?
Robin: I’m sure Warner Brothers just put it on. That was the good part about being on a major label. Who’s going to argue with Warner Brothers?
Carla: What has been your best gig ever?
Robin: I don’t remember most of them. Probably gigs at The Rat or The Paradise in Boston when we were in our prime and everyone loved us. Definitely the worst ones were playing on the west coast with The Undertones. They were a great band, but they hated us. They thought we were too pop and their fans hated us. It was always a double and equal bill, but it became the mods and the rockers. Big fights broke out with ice cubes and lemons being thrown at us on stage. A guy grabbed the mic from me at the Whiskey and yelled, “You suck! You suck!” while all of Warner Brothers was there. I grabbed it back and yelled at him. I guess I can remember the bad rather than the good. The best shows now are house concerts or other solo shows, with other musicians or with my old band. Now I am much more appreciative.
Carla: How did you meet Andy Summers?
Robin: He was going out with my girlfriend and I was babysitting at her house. Andy rang the bell (I didn’t know him) and asked if Della was there. I said no but come on in and I’ll play you my songs. I didn’t know he was a musician or anything. He fell in love on the spot. But he loved the music more than the girl. Of course that’s what music does to you.
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This interview continues to focus on Lane’s own experiences of abuse. Reader discretion is advised.
Carla: Can you discuss the nature of your abuse?
Robin: Uh, oh. I didn’t know you’d be asking this question. Jeez. For one thing, my brother and I brought ourselves up. I used to think my mother was just neglectful and that it wasn’t such an abuse issue as I never felt abuse. But the nature of neglect is that you can’t name it, so it is the most confusing thing ever trying to figure out, “Where did my lack of confidence, no self esteem and self-sabotage traits come from?” This was a big part of my own abuse because it was my whole upbringing.
I don’t think my mother ever asked me one question about school, me, my day or anything like that. Nor did she ever say I love you. She thought the fact that I told my own daughter “I love you” every minute was going to spoil her. But then, because of the way I developed, I constantly put myself in very, very scary situations in my later teens. I was raped at gun-point with a silencer on it because I fell for a scam, hook, line and sinker. I was panhandling in front of Schwab’s Drugstore on the strip in LA. I got into this car and drove to what could have been my doom, but it was a rape instead. That’s not such a good thing either and with a gun no less. I wasn’t afraid at the time, just mad. But later, of course, the yucky stuff came out. I never told anyone so I guess I was keeping it underground. Later I did talk about it a humorous way, totally out of touch with my own emotions.
Then there’s Daddy dearest. This is the hardest part to talk about. When I was 19 or so and a lovely young lady who didn’t know I was a lovely young lady, I spent some time with my father who I had always wanted to love me. My parents were divorced so I only saw him maybe three times a year. There were a couple of really awful incidents that make me sick to talk about. Later I told his fourth wife about it because she was pouring out all the sex details of my Dad’s life with showgirls and it was triggering everything for me. I said to her, “Please stop. He did that to me too.” She flipped out and said she was going to tell him I told her this. I ended up telling my father in the most conciliatory way, saying I forgave him (this was 16 or so years later). But he looked in my eyes and said, “How could you say that, Rob? Everybody knows you’re crazy. You’ve been in the bin. I want you out of my house.” He lived up on Lake Tahoe, and all I wanted to do was pull a Virginia Woolf in the lake. But something kept me from doing that. It was my daughter, of course. I needed to be there for her and I knew this deep down.
My father made his feelings about me pretty clear when he changed his will leaving everything to his fourth wife and nothing to me or to my brother. So I was the bearer of the bad tidings. This is what happens in the families of the abused. If the victim tells then she/he is ostracized by the rest. My stepmother said, “Get over it, Rob.” OK. I’ll just do that. It is such a betrayal when parents do this to their own children. It is such a betrayal when anyone does it to any child. But there is still much good in people, and that is the core of what you have to get to.
Carla: How did you come up with the idea for “A Woman’s Voice?”
Robin: When I moved out to western Massachusetts, about nine years ago, either by chance or synchronicity, I just happened to be walking by a storefront in Turners Falls. It was just about the most down-trodden town around, except that it’s really beautiful too with all these old factories on the Connecticut River. It has little bridges crossing over and there are a few leftover mansions on the hill. But this town has had much crime due to low economics and no available jobs.
Anyway, I was looking for the community health center and I saw an open door and some women inside. I walked in and asked them if they were the community center. They said no, but that they were having a writing group and would I care to join? I wasn’t doing much so I said yes. When they found out what I did, and that I had been working with youth-at-risk and teaching Julia Cameron’s course for artists, “The Artist’s Way”, they asked me if I would do both at their Women’s Center. So I did. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
The first group of women to join my songwriting workshop all had some kind of life trauma: domestic abuse, childhood abuse, addictions and most assuredly mental health issues. I didn’t know this or understand at all who these women were. However, I began to see that as the lyrics got written, I was going, ‘Whoa! This is incredible!’
Then we started talking about the details. It wasn’t so much the bare bones, but enough to know that I was working with some serious abuse survivors. I called the workshops ‘A Woman’s Voice’ and one led to the next. Through the process, my own stuff started to be revealed. I took many trainings and healing workshops from other people in the area and learned about being ‘Trauma Informed.’ That means we have to understand that people who come in for cures and are in need can often times have abuse in their lives. That is what is causing them to either act out, go insane, become abusers themselves, be the abused in domestic violence situations. These are people who become addicted, never have money or self esteem. They have no way of getting better. Usually health centers and doctors and even psychiatrists can drop bombs on you without even knowing this because they are not aware of the PTSD that you may be living with. This is occurring right now in many mental health hospitals. They are not treating or listening to the stories that people need to tell in order to heal. This awful stuff that happens to some of us is not a pretty topic and people are just not inclined to talk about it or listen to it. Health professionals become dismissive at just the time they should be paying attention to what has really brought these people into their clinics. Not just the stuff that’s showing up. This is a complicated fix.
I had no idea that my own trauma mattered. The abuse I went through, the rape, the father who was a bastard to me and the betrayal of my trust as a young woman is hideous stuff but not as hideous as some of the stories I have heard. But it sure came out in other ways. I had awful rage for awhile and I didn’t have a clue that it was repression.
Carla: Can you talk about the pivotal moment when you realized how important ‘A Woman’s Voice’ is?
Robin: The ‘aha’ moment. Yes. One day, one of the women I was recording flipped out as I was playing guitar to a click track for her song. She threw her headphones off and ran out of the room. The other women sat there stunned. I was thinking, ‘Drat, that was a good take.’ A few of the women followed her out into the hall and I thought I’d better see what was going on. This was my program after all. The women were soothing her while she was crying and shaking. I just stood there listening to what she said.
Later she told me the whole scoop. She had been taken out of her family’s home because of the abuse that was occurring there and placed with a foster family. The foster family was a Satanic cult. They would all get together, about 30-40 people, and use this woman, who was girl at the time, for the ritual each week. She was placed in a casket and then nails were hammered in. I don’t know what they did with her after that or with the casket (as if this part isn’t bad enough), but the sound of the click track triggered the sound of the nails being hammered in and that is why she flipped.
This illustrates why everyone working with abuse needs to be trauma informed. This is just one story but it was pivotal in my realizing afterward that these songs were bringing up a lot for these women and that I had to be careful and learn about boundaries. From then on, I always checked with the women as to how they were in their recovery, if they could handle their own stories and other participants peer stories.
Ninety percent of the women I have worked with have begun healing through writing their songs, through the sea of tears that are shed. This one woman has graduated from UMass with a Masters in Music Therapy. The healing power of music is phenomenal in itself. Add the potency of your story, the music takes it outside of yourself and you can look at it from a distance, not so much in harms way. This is not a cure but surely it’s a beginning.
If you are suffering from any kind of abuse, there is help available to you. Visit the resource page of Songbird Sings for more information. You can heal when you begin to Break the Silence.
On the wings of a songbird
This article first appeared in the Spring 2007 edition of Many Hands: A Magazine of Holistic Health
Alan Lecker: You deal with people who have experienced different kinds of trauma. Are people in various states of recovery when you first meet them?
Robin Lane: Yes, there are different degrees of recovery for each of the women that participate in A Woman’s Voice. I’ve never had someone who was in the midst of experiencing the trauma. Usually the women I work with are somewhat into their recovery and have dealt with the heavier issues, but not always. Post-traumatic stress disorder is prevalent, though, and we have to be careful nothing is occurring within the workshop that would re-traumatize or trigger a participant.
That being said, you can’t always predict what might set someone off; you just never know. But I am pretty careful and we have agreements at the beginning of each 16-week program. We also have a co-facilitator in the group now who is supposed to help anyone who may be having a difficult time.
The first Woman’s Voice I taught, I really didn’t have a clue about the repercussions of trauma even though I have experienced my own. I was facilitating the program by myself with maybe 12 participants in a room. We all had headphones on and I was recording one of the women’s songs to a click track, which helps me keep in time, like a metronome. The woman whose song I was trying to record was triggered by the “click, click click.” For her, it was the hammering of the nails on the coffin she was put into as a child by her foster parents and others for their occult rituals. This poor woman freaked. At the time I didn’t know how to respond to her, but other women in the workshop who had had more training than I knew to follow her out of the room and comfort her so that she would feel safe enough to rejoin the group and recording of her song.
Later, when she told me what had happened to her, I was overjoyed that she was alive and healing herself through therapy, school, singing and songwriting. Since that time I have been trained in various ways to be more trauma-informed, but at the same time set boundaries and be able to do what I do best, which is bring out the story via song from those who have experienced trauma — and so many of us have experienced trauma to one degree or another.
Alan: What kinds of issues do they face as a result of their trauma?
Robin: Most assuredly mental health issues, low self-esteem, the inability to take good and nurturing care of themselves or believe that they and their stories matter. Poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, more violence. Usually those who have suffered from childhood abuse later find themselves in domestic situations that are far from healthy. Until we deal with our own histories and heal from the original trauma, it is often very hard to imagine yourself having a meaningful life.
Trauma is a complicated fix. Peer-run creative workshops and support groups with others who have experienced similar situations help to validate the truth of these women. By sharing our stories in a safe place, we can begin to heal. Being silent about the abuse and pretending it didn’t happen will only have it come out in other ways.Keeping it silent is what kills us or others and destroys lives. Being allowed to tell our stories and break the silence is key to healing and taking control of our lives for trauma survivors. As Carl Jung said: “The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their own stories.”
Childhood and domestic abuse are in epidemic proportions. Violence against women and children goes unreported. We have to break the silence, or it eats you alive. The time is now. Survivors of violence are everywhere. Whether you know it or not, you know someone who was a victim of abuse.
Alan: How do they come to the point where they decide to begin healing?
Robin: This, of course, is different for each person. I would think it’s when you just can’t stand the way you’re living anymore. Sometimes it takes falling flat on your face to realize you need to ask for help. To heal we do need help
Alan: That alone must require a lot of strength and courage.
Robin: Well, either strength and courage, or no alternative. One of the songs I play for the women is “Strength, Courage and Wisdom” by India Arie. Certainly we all must choose to live our lives, to be or not to be, as the bard said. Do we want to continue living in the dark, miserable but not being able to name what caused the misery? Sometimes it begins as desperation — hitting rock bottom. The strength and courage come in the process of dealing with what happened to you, exposing it to the light of day, illuminating the abuse rather than allowing it to fester. But it takes a community or a village. I’m not sure you can heal alone. Each person comes to the need for healing in so many different ways and some don’t come at all.
Alan: How does the process work during the 16-week sessions? How do you get them to open up, and then take part in the songwriting and singing?
Robin: A lot of time during the first session is spent listening to songs from other artists, always with lyrics that speak of deeper issues, sometimes politics, healing, anger, sadness — all the emotions. On that first day, the women are already writing lyrics, having spent 40 minutes or so immersed in the songs of the various songwriters. You can’t help but come up with at least a couple lines. Quite often the beginning of one or two songs is born on that first day.
As the weeks go by. a sense of camaraderie is established — “Hey, we’re doing something powerful and unique here.” They feel safe and acknowledged for their own sake. Most of them have never felt this inclusive welcoming before. As the 16 weeks go by they are immersed in the creative process, writing and singing their songs and listening to all the songs as they are recorded.
Alan: How much do you have to coach them on their singing?
Robin: Some of the women are shy about singing but have sweet voices. I simply encourage them and it usually works out. There have only been a few that come to the program believing they can sing. One of the women went to Julliard and is already a great musician and songwriter. Another woman grew up in a cult around here and was told that she couldn’t sing at all. If a woman doesn’t want to sing her own song we get one of the other women to sing or I sing it. This is a songwriting workshop primarily.
Alan: On the CDs, it sounds as if many of them adapt to it quite naturally; they display a real talent for singing.
Robin: Oh yes. There is so much creativity in all of us that may have been schooled out or never acknowledged.
Alan: The participants seem to emerge with a sense of group unity. How soon do they start coalescing as a group?
Robin: Usually by the third or fourth week a level of trust develops as each of us watches the others taking risks, either by singing their song or working with me on their song in front of the others. Another thing I do that is great for this sense of unity and community and shared experience is to have all contribute to a group song. We have group songs on most of the Woman’s Voice CD’s.
Alan: How does the experience of these workshops affect you personally? Is it rewarding, satisfying, or is it ever emotionally draining?
Robin: Oh boy! I came to this with no idea what I was getting into. As far as I knew I was teaching some women how to write songs. As time went on and more workshops happened I heard from the women and from others who listened to the songs that there was a great need, a universal spirit of healing. I am so thankful that I have the ability to do this. I never knew I could do this and learn so much about myself at the same time. So for me it’s an amazing blessing and a spiritual gift not only to give it away but to get so much back.
Alan: How did you first learn about this kind of healing process, and how did you decide you wanted to conduct these kinds of workshops?
Robin: Magic. Actually it does feel like that. Synchronicity to be sure. I was walking around Turners Falls one day and walked in the door of the Turners Falls Women’s Resource Center, thinking it was the community health center. They were running a writing group and asked me if I wanted to join. I said “OK,” sat down and wrote. When the women got to know me and hear of my background with my band and such, they asked me if I could teach songwriting for the women who came to the center. With the help of a grant from the Western Massachusetts Training Consortium, I was able to do this. So you see, there is serendipity in all this.
I had no idea that it would be as profound as it is. I feel like I’ve been called to do this and that it is a very important thing. Over the last few years I’ve seen the growth in the women involved, the empowerment, the gaining of self-esteem needed to change their own lives and heal from what they couldn’t address or express before they participated in A Woman’s Voice. This has been an educational experience for me and has been deeply healing and transforming, for myself, and those who have participated.
I am grateful that, for some reason, I can tap into the creative potential and help bring it forth. I am moved each time I see how the participants become filled with joy as they realize their gifts for lyric and song. Something occurs in these workshops, each and every one of them, which exceeds anything I have ever felt before, except possibly improvising with like-minded musicians.
Alan: Is there a certain power or magical quality in music that makes it work so well as a form of therapy?
Robin: Yes, music is out of this world. Music is our soul; it floats and you borrow a bit of it here or there. It’s ephemeral and it’s above the struggles of our daily existence — and yet it’s part of everything. Maybe music is God or God is music. You can put notes on paper, you can harness music into a song, but it exists on its own. It’s powerful and it is healing.
Alan: Has songwriting offered a form of healing for you through the years?
Robin: Songwriting has always brought release to me. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have music. I’ve lived in it all of my life……..since I was small. My grandmother said I sang before I talked. Yes that makes sense and my name is Robin……strange…
Alan: You mentioned you would like to expand this program to women in prison. Have you used song therapy with men before, and is it harder to get them to open up?
Robin: I hope to be working with women in the correctional system soon. After that, I would love to do a program for men who are incarcerated. It might be harder to get some of them to open up but I don’t think so, really. There’s a lot of anger there and a lot of pain and sadness, too. We’re all human and have stories to tell.
Alan: Your songs reflect a deep sense of compassion. How would you describe your own spiritual beliefs?
Robin: I still love Jesus but there is too much division and hatred in the name of Jesus today and I just can’t stand it. I hate the divisive tactics that are being used in the name of Christianity. I am sad for who I think Jesus is — the Prince of Peace, a God of Love. I see God in my back yard, which is a golden-hued meadow with deer, coyotes and oh so many birds. I’m still developing all my ideas about what life is and why we’re here. I know that for me the way to joy is through helping others and acceptance of who I am.
Alan: What inspires you?
Robin: Great conversations, clouds, trees, animals, Beethoven, “The Artist’s Way,” Bjork, good poetry, writing songs to poems, studying and learning from an inspired teacher. People who beat the odds. People who give of what they have. People who have compassion and are helping to make the world a better place. Maybe most of all kindness.