Composer Spotlight: Rob Fleming
Mar 25, 2018
Recently we had the time to catch up with Denver based artist/composer Rob Fleming and asked him about his story and latest record. Rob is a super gracious human being and Soundstripe is proud to have him on board.
1. What’s your story? Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a Texan living in Colorado and like my Twitter handle says: “Devoted husband and incredibly proud father.” That pretty much sums it up for me. Family comes first but I’m also ridiculously passionate about creating music. I write, record and produce instrumental music for TV/Film with the occasional public release. I describe it as instrumental alternative with hints of electronic and post-rock … resulting in a cinematic vibe.
2. What brought you to music?
Music has always been a part of my life. At an early age, I quickly grew weary of structured piano lessons and began to explore music freely without rules and without knowing how to read music. I would always be “composing” on the piano while my parents and family would probably refer to it more as “banging.” I would always hear melodies run through my head and then I would play them back on the piano and I got such enjoyment out of that. In fact, I still write that way today … every track I write starts simply on the piano or acoustic guitar.
Growing up in the 80’s, I lived with older brothers and sisters who all had different musical tastes … Everything from Alabama to The Cure! Not to mention the videos played on MTV at that time. (I will never forget the first time I saw U2’s New Years Day video.) I appreciated it all, but really gravitated to the new wave stuff coming out of the UK and Ireland at the time. In listening to the stuff I’m writing today, I can’t deny the influence and inspiration of bands like Duran Duran, The Fixx, Joy Division, The Cure, New Order, The Smiths, The Alarm, Echo and the Bunnymen, Simple Minds, Tears for Fears, early U2, etc! I think there was a lot of rich melody and just great chording used in that style of music that I gravitated to. As I got older, I dodged the whole hair metal thing and got more into U2 (huge impact), Peter Gabriel, synth-era Rush and beyond, and other non-mainstream alternative bands.
As soon as I had access to recording equipment/software, that sealed the deal for me. It blew my mind that I could capture and fine tune my ideas. I also found that the production and engineering part of the creative process was just as inspiring as the composition part. From there, I was hooked on writing, composing, arranging, engineering, etc.. That changed everything for me.
Outside of my family, music is the one thing that moves me, inspires me and gives me the most enjoyment in life.
3. Your music is Instrumental but its as if you tell a story with your music. Do your songs tell stories?
That is the single best compliment I can get. Thank you! Let’s put it this way, I TRY to tell stories with the music and I can only hope it connects with the listener. When I’m writing, I often picture a scene or try to articulate an emotion. I’m not thinking … “What does this need to sound like?” Rather, I’m thinking “Where is this place? What am I seeing? What am I feeling?” This was especially the case with my debut record, Chasing Light.
The themes and stories for this record came from a very tough, emotional year. The album is all about resiliency, resolve, determination to thrive, and the quest for “good” despite all the negative things around us. It’s about dealing with and responding to adversity. While I have my own personal story and connection to each track, my hope is that folks who hear this record can relate to the themes and apply it to something they’re going through in life. The tracks are sequenced in a way that take the listener on a journey and there’s a real flow to it all … Innocence, hope, heartbreak, darkness, resilience, and triumph all play a part in telling the story.
4. In the making of your latest record, what were some of your favorite moments? Any challenges?
My favorite moments came when I was able to really capture the essence of the emotion I was trying to convey through the music and did not have to work very hard at all to write the part and record it. I loved it when I would be working on an idea and before I knew it, it was 3 AM and I didn’t even notice … just getting lost in it all. I also love it when random mistakes turn into big ideas.
The most challenging part of the process was working alone. I would have loved to been able to collaborate with folks or at the very least get some feedback on whether or not something sucked. As a result of doing everything myself (writing to engineering), I released something that is probably 10–15 minutes too long! Oh well. Hopefully, I will be able to collaborate with awesome and talented people in the future. I think it would be really cool to do a hybrid vocal/instrumental project at some point.
Another challenge … At times, I found myself trying to mimic stuff that I had heard that I felt was just awesome or way better than what I was doing. Or I would hear something on the radio or in a movie and say “I should do something like that.” There came a time though where I was able to push all of that aside and just go with what came to me. Once that happened, the whole thing became much more enjoyable. I was trying way too hard. I also streamlined my gear and workflow and quit going on endless patch and tone quests! Self discipline was a big part of the project.
5. Music can have such a powerful effect on film. Why do you think that is?
I think the marriage of music and film is just so natural. I’m especially moved by scenes with no dialog. Give me a gut wrenching emotional scene in slow motion, drop an Am isolated chord on the piano with some strings and I’ll start crying. For me, music provides the emotive energy that the film alone can’t fully provide. Sure … there are many films/scenes that can stand up on their own artist merit but when you add the right music, the sum of the parts is just so much greater. There are so many examples of this its impossible to list my favorites, but the one score recently that has me in a complete funk is “Lone Survivor” by Explosions in the Sky and Steve Jablonksy. I can listen to that music and can’t help but re-play the scenes vividly in my head. That’s why I think music has such a powerful effect. It takes you places and re-ignites memories providing a soundtrack to our lives.
6. The Music Business is a challenge to say the least. What inspires you to keep going?
I will always create music. For as long as I’m able, I’ll create new music … even if I don’t make any money at it. I’m really not concerned about where my music fits in the industry. Sure, recognition and respect for your work is great and if that comes in the form of money, even better. What inspires me to keep going is the feeling I get in the middle of the night, in my car with the stereo cranked, listening to a mix of something I just created. Something that moves me and that I really enjoy listening to. I’m also inspired by the idea of working with good, honest, cool and talented people who I can share the journey with … folks like my new friends at Soundstripe!
7. Anything special coming up? Where should we find more about you and your music?
Since, finishing my record in October 2014, I’ve been writing a lot! I’ve stockpiled a ton of new ideas and have recently started arranging them into proper tracks. I’m shooting for an EP mid-year and another full-length toward the end of 2015. I don’t perform live so my efforts remain in the studio which is fantastic for me. Very excited and fired up to be recording again!