Even as a kid, Herbie Robinson was tinkering with electronics and playing the family piano: "Both of my grandfathers played the piano; so, it was important for my parents that I learn. For a while, I took lessons from the minister's wife. I really got interested in keyboards when I started listening to the radio and heard the Beatles." At 14, Herbie was playing in his first band: "We played for dances at a couple of high schools in Northern Duchess County [Upsate New York]. I played my first bar gig at 17 and have been playing ever since."
When asked about how he got started songwriting, Herbie says, "I took a course in poetry writing in high school. I had a good teacher and picked it up quickly: Within months, I was a closet songwriter. I really learned a lot when I studied lyric writing with Pat Pattison. He's been a major influence on my writing." An active member of the Boston Songwriter's Workshop, Herbie continues writing songs, carefully crafting his lyrics and supporting them with innovative and world-beat rhythms. He also loves telling humorous stories, often recounting some of his favorite practical jokes. His keen powers of observation, his inventiveness and wit, are the basis of his songs. Yet songwriting is only one of his many interests.
Herbie's career has been varied and interesting. He's worked on a farms; semitrucks; construction; he fixed up an antique motorcycle; he earned a degree in Electrical Engineering; he learned live sound engineering "on the job" as a sideline to being a musician -- and he co-designed and built his own mobile studio. The studio is a 24-track digital-and-analog professional recording facility in a panel truck. "All of the tracks for our CD [recently released by Towering Pretzels, entitled "Plastic Palms"] were recorded in my truck," Herbie says. His company, Curbside Recording, provides professional, mid-sized, on-site recording services at reasonable rates.
A co-founder of Towering Pretzels, Herbie is always on the move. "I told myself I would record a CD this year, and I did!" Herbie grins. With songwriter and guitarist Margo Granfors, he has produced an 8-song EP of original music. Their sound is based in rhythm and blues, combining elements of rock, folk, and world beat music. The CD features Herbie's distinctive keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, drums, bass, and a couple of instrumental extras. Their sound has been compared to Sheryl Crow and the Crash Test Dummies -- with a touch of the blues. Herbie's technical expertise and "live" sound recording experience is evident throughout the CD, earning the praise and respect of his peers. "I had always done live recording before; so, I learned quite a bit about studio techniques from Huck Bennert [co-producer of the CD]. It was hard work but very rewarding."
What's next for Towering Pretzels? "I really like playing out," Herbie says, "and I'm writing songs and upgrading the studio all the time. That keeps me busy." And judging from listener response and radio airplay, there's plenty to keep Herbie & Towering Pretzels busy!