Robinson Treacher has never forgotten his first true taste of the music business.
Eight years ago, when the Long Island, New York-based musician was in the studio mixing his debut solo album “Chrome,” a producer told him his habit of jumping between genres would keep him from getting signed.
“He said, ‘You realize this is going nowhere?’ And I said, ‘Why?’” Treacher recalls during an interview ahead of his performance at Fifth & Federal Station this week. “He said, ‘Nobody’s ever going to want you because you don’t fit into one thing.”
While Treacher says he did start to pay more attention to what songs he paired together, the response never stopped him from letting the music take him where he wants to go or bringing his audience along for the journey.
“[His voice] sort of just grabs you and coddles you, makes you feel like you’re in this little blissful cradle of amazing sound,” says Josh Read, co-owner of Fifth & Federal. “But, at the same time, it’s not overwhelming or intense. It’s an extraordinary balance between ... being rustic and, at the same time, refined.”
Born and raised in Long Island, Treacher grew up listening to an eclectic array of musical stylings. His parents sang along to Motown-era soul during long car rides while his older cousins rocked out to Black Sabbath and reflected on tunes by singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell. He then fell into the jam band and blues scene during his college days.
“When I started writing my own stuff, all those years of all that stuff kind of came out [in] the songs I wrote,” says Treacher, who, according to his website, has shared the stage with such artists as Vince Gill and Joan Osborne.
Though the musician has fronted and collaborated with various groups over the years, these days, it’s just him, a guitar and a stool — a vibe he channels to great effect on his 2017 EP “Born,” which earned him an Independent Music Award.
From the driving, rhythmic title track to the slow, mournful “Woman,” the five songs on “Born,” each packed with lyrics that recall the days of classic songwriting, are lifted by the soulful, bluesy grit of Robinson’s charismatic voice.
Filled with an earnestness that seems to pull from the very core, it’s a vocal tone that, while reminiscent of artists such as John Fogerty, Van Morrison, Ray LaMontagne and David Gray, is distinctively Robinson Treacher.
“It [is] a phenomenal, unique rare sort of voice that is just very enriching in spirit,” says Read, who learned about Treacher from the organizers of Lyrics on the Lake, the summer songwriting festival at Smith Mountain Lake, which the musician has been a part of since 2015.
Though Treacher has carved a lane that is well suited for his particular voice and songwriting style, this doesn’t mean he has reined in his expansive approach to music.
Quite the opposite, actually. He’s found ways to create work that explores the many sides of his creative force.
Treacher says he’s currently recording a follow-up to “Born” as well as an Americana-tinged album. He just finished writing a bunch of country songs that he hopes to shop around Nashville, and he has a slew of material for a possible live album that was recorded during a show last year.
If that’s not enough, he also has plans to produce an EP with former Antigone Rising member Cassidy Catanzaro, with whom he will share the stage at Fifth & Federal.
“I do have one dream that I would have a hit in every genre of music,” he says. “... Things are coming out of me, and whatever’s coming out of me, I’m going to go with it. I hope we’re in a place and time where you don’t have to be put in one pigeonhole.”
Before his set, Treacher talked about the importance of good melodies, balancing projects and his ultimate endgame.
On music versus lyrics:
“Always music. Never lyrics; I hate lyrics. I get lucky with lyrics sometimes. I’ve talked about this with a lot of musicians. I can think of 10 R.E.M. songs, 15 Rolling Stones songs that you don’t know any words to except the chorus but they’re huge songs. It doesn’t matter. You think of all these big songs, it’s the melody and the music that makes it.”
On what makes a good melody:
“I think if it’s universally whistle-able. I keep my phone and I keep all these little [recordings]. I have to constantly take 1,000 of them and download them onto my computer. Any ideas I get, if I keep coming back to them over and over again, I know it must mean something. I put every idea down and ... there are like thousands of decent ideas, then there are like 10 or 20 that pop up out of it.”
On having so many projects:
“I’m an Aquarian. I have wanderlust. I can’t do the same thing. My friends are always busting me in the bar because I can’t drink the same drink in a row. I just can’t do it, I lose my mind. I get bored with the exact same thing going on over and over. Not that I won’t go back to it again when I’ve fulfilled something else.”
On his endgame:
“I’m a pragmatist. I’m honest about what my music can do and where it can go. I don’t want to aspire to play Madison Square Garden and sell out 40,000 seats. Sure, I’d love it — I’m not discounting that — but I see myself as the guy who can walk into Irving Plaza or Webster Hall in New York City or the Whiskey [A Go Go] in L.A. and just be like, ‘Robinson Treacher wants to play tonight,’ and they’d be like, ‘Cool.’ That’s what I would love. I want a place where I can get small onstage and the crowd will still get small with me. I don’t want them all screaming and yelling and jumping all over the place. I want them to hear what I’m doing.”
Emma Schkloven covers arts and entertainment for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5489, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @byEmmaSchkloven.