We spoke to Soul-Pop Sensation Rob Green about Masculinity, Music and Mental Health,

Photos: Declan Creffield
Interview: Karl Blakesley
Monday 04 March 2024
reading time: min, words

He is one of Nottingham’s best-loved live performers, whose iconic sets at festivals like Splendour, Hockley Hustle and most recently, Beat The Streets, have become the stuff of local legend. This was confirmed by the fact his upcoming show at Nottingham Central Library completely sold out in less than a week. Ahead of that show and him then hitting the road for The Undercover Tour, we sat down for a chat with soul-pop sensation ROB.GREEN


You released the MANHOOD EP last year – I understand the inspiration for that project came from reading Viola Davis’ book? 
I love autobiographies and I had a list of them by black women that I really look up to that I had been meaning to read for a long time, and Viola Davis’ was one of them.

The first chapter in her book, she says she’s had a certain degree of success, yet she still felt like she was running. So, she went to therapy and her therapist said to her: “I want you to invite your childhood self into the room and introduce her to me.” Viola Davis was shouting: “I don’t want to, I’ve spent my whole life trying to get away from being that girl; I was a mean kid, we didn’t have running water, I used to wet the bed, the kids used to bully me.” Just I don’t want to go back to that time.

And her therapist said, “Tomorrow, I want you to imagine taking this girl to work with you. And you must do that because that girl survived. She didn’t get thanked at the time, but you can thank her now – you can show her that it all works out.” As somebody who grew up closeted in a Catholic school and got physically, verbally and mentally bullied every day, I read that chapter of her book and I wasn’t ready. I suddenly couldn’t get eight-year-old me out of my head, thinking I need to say thank you to that kid.

So, this EP was me finding the words. Manhood, the spoken word track that ended up being the name of the whole thing, that poem came out of me like a dam busting! I just wrote it, I didn’t even edit it – what is on the track is what I wrote. And it’s my favourite song on there, it’s not very long but it’s my favourite.

And the accompanying short film, did you know early on that was something you wanted to do for this project?
The way that I funded the project, I applied for it as a visual EP. At the time, I just knew I wanted to explore masculinity, racial identity, my sexuality – I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I know I love continuous shots. The opportunity to do a nine minute continuous shot that can tell a story both visually and sonically – I love a challenge so that’s a dream come true for me, because it sounds really hard!

And now you’re taking the EP on the road and you’ve chosen to partner with mental health charity Talk Club for this set of shows - how did that collaboration come about?
My project manager for the tour is an incredible person called Hannah Marsland, who – amongst the many things that she does - works for Sofar in Nottingham.

We had a big onboarding conversation where we talked about everything under the sun, and she mentioned Talk Club. What I like about Talk Club is the fact it’s a national organisation built around creating a community of people that can support each other. And it starts by asking, how are you out of ten? It’s so simple, but I tried it with my dad, with my brother - people who I have a great relationship with and speak to all the time – and it was just a great exercise. Honestly advise doing it, even just with yourself. It helps put things into perspective and starts a conversation in a culture where your knee jerk response to ‘how are you?’ is just to say, ‘I’m fine.’

I had this idea to have a wellbeing wall where people can take photos, leave a piece of advice for their younger self, like a word of encouragement or something that they needed to hear. Then they leave it there, and we take the wall to the next venue on the tour. However, for people to add theirs they have to take one off – so then we have this thing that lives and breathes with the tour. Hopefully it can connect people, if they put their social handles on, people can tag each other and be like ‘I really loved your piece of advice!’ Talk Club loved that idea, so we’re doing that together.

‘Those who are strong together, sing together’ is one of my cue lines and Nottingham always just goes full lung!

The venues you’ve chosen for this tour aren't your typical gig venues – what did you look for when choosing these venues?
The venues were a collaboration between me and Hannah. I was just clear with how I wanted the venues to feel, I didn’t want them to feel like music venues. I didn’t want you to go there and know the rules. When an audience walks into a show at Rescue Rooms, they’re walking into every other show at Rescue they’ve ever been to, until your set starts. Whereas their rules in their head for going to a music event at a library, probably don’t exist. Going to a gig in a co-working space, there’s no rules – and that’s what I like about Sofar shows.

The first ‘gigs’ I ever did in my life was in living rooms to my family. So the brief was: they have to be non-traditional music venues and they have to feel cosy or welcoming.

Are there any shows particularly in Nottingham that stand out as some of your favourites?
Nottingham is my favourite city to perform in - not just because I’m from here, but because the love for the show is next level. You don’t need to warm up a Nottingham crowd - AT ALL. ‘Those who are strong together, sing together’ is one of my cue lines and Nottingham always just goes full lung!

How I got through that Hockley Hustle set is a miracle - the string quartet were absolutely sending me, it was unbelievable. I think I’ll Be Around had been out a couple of weeks, and people KNEW the words. To the verses, not even the chorus! I was trying to teach them and they knew it already!

Finally you’ve got the EP done, you’re now taking it on tour – have you started to think about plans beyond that?
The big challenge is that over this next year, I just want to be able to scale up my live performance. This is sort of a tester, if this can work I can add dates and increase venue sizes, which means I can do more with my band.

For me, I always want to be evolving. It’s about stepping up from doing this intimate acoustic thing that’s all about connection in terms of vulnerability and openness, to something that can just be really epic, empowering and fill everybody with rocket fuel! That’s what I want to make next.


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