Rob Roth Talks His Debut EP “Sink or Swim”
Hailing from Long Island and now residing in New York City, pop/rock singer Rob Roth has only been in the music industry for a few years primarily focusing on more athletic endeavors. After facing multiple injuries due to basketball, Rob decided to pick up the guitar that he played in his high school days and started expressing himself through music. His sound and lyrics discuss such universal messages alongside catchy and rhythmic beats melding pop, rock, and EDM that music lovers can’t shy away from. His new EP “Sink or Swim” centers around the essential but difficult task of simply being human and learning to thrive in the most unlikely circumstances and environments.
Q. How did you get into the music industry? Especially with no prior experience?
A. My story’s kinda crazy. I learned how to play guitar in high school. Dave Matthews is kinda my biggest influence and John Mayer and all those other 90’s and 2000s singer/songwriters. I went through a period of 8-ish years of a lot of injuries and a lot of depression and music kinda came back into my lap.
I tore my second ACL in 2015 and I waited 3 years to get the surgery when I got it in November of 2018 I decided to make mental lifestyle changes for myself. It kinda led me on the path of the summer of 2019 where I reconnected with the guitar and then in the fall I had a new roommate in the city and he barged into my room one day and was like, “Oh my god you’re so amazing”. Some of my friends listened to me play and were like “Yeah you’re really good dude”. So at that point, I was investing myself and took my first vocal lesson two months before the pandemic hit. Actually, because of the pandemic, I had the time to just dive into it and start learning how to sing and learning more songs.
One of the big motivators was this chance encounter at a Dave [Matthews] concert. I met Dave’s vocal coach when I was in the stands and I followed him on Instagram and reached out to him in the summer of 2020 to see if I could get a vocal lesson. I started working with him that fall. After a couple of lessons, I asked him how he thought I was doing and if this was worth pursuing and he had a lot of enthusiasm about how good he thought I could be. I had never written an original song and I never really thought of myself as a songwriter so on Thanksgiving weekend of 2020 I sat down and just wrote for hours upon hours. The first two songs I actually released on my own came from that weekend. 2021 was kind of a trampoline for the music. My old friend from little league Robbie Rosen who was an American Idol finalist helped me finish a lot of my music and through him, I pitched to a bunch of producers and yeah that’s what inspired me to make my EP.
Q. You’ve been compared to the late alt-rock legend, Chester Bennington. How do you feel about this statement and would you say you take inspiration from him?
A. I think a lot of what I write about draws a comparison to the emotions and the darker places that Chester used to write about. It was kind of a shock to go into my first vocal lesson and my vocal coach compared me to Chester Bennington. I think that Linkin Park is probably one of the top three influences for me. I used to listen to them before Dave [Matthew} came into the picture. Linkin Park was my number one kind of music. Whenever you watch a video of Chester live especially, even though he was showing such emotion it was kind of effortless. He hit all of the belting notes but also came back to the tender, light tone that he had. I’m really trying to get to that place where I can have that level of control. It was definitely a big push and motivator when someone compared us.
Having somebody compare you to someone is a good thing just in general cause it shows that they hear something in your voice. A lot of what I hear at open mics and shows is that [my voice] is unique. That was a big motivator for me because you can be a really great singer, you could be a really great songwriter but something that you can’t teach is the tone of your voice you’re just born with it. So for someone to say that it was unique was a really profound thing.
Q. How have you used Spotify and other platforms to grow your audience?
A. Everything that I’ve released so far has been on all the DSPs’ and so when it comes to Spotify I think it was really great last year when I had a lot of collaborations and had some of the songs released through labels. It really gave legitimacy to me and brought more people to the page who wanted an opportunity to listen to it. I’ve only been doing this for just over a year and to have that level of success and getting to 35,000 listeners is a really cool opportunity. I have a lot of higher aspirations and bigger things that I wanna accomplish. It’s interesting to talk about Spotify because I feel like the industry might be falling away from Spotify a little bit even though it’s like the main place people can look to for numbers and data. It was all a learning experience for me. I learned about Spotify and the different DSPs’ and I’m still learning how to grow my audience. A big part of it is getting more music out, getting my EP out, and getting more people to relate to it.
Q. How did the pandemic affect your music especially because you started maneuvering the industry as it started?
A. The pandemic was key for me to really dive into it. It kind of evolved over time when I first had my first vocal lesson. I thought oh this is cool. Maybe I could do this as a side hustle and make some extra money doing gigs on weekends but because the pandemic hit I was able to work from home. I went home to Long Island with my parents for 9 months and even though over the summer I was playing golf music became my priority. It was what I did almost all the time.
Being home with your parents when you’re 27 is an interesting thing to happen but it happened to everybody around the world. I think that let the pressure off and just encouraged me to just do it. A lot of people during the pandemic didn’t know what to do and got stuck in a cycle. But ever since I had that last surgery trying to better myself and be more positive combined with the time that I had, really allowed me to do a lot of internal work. I didn’t ever have a doubt.
The pandemic didn’t allow me to have FOMO or any worries about what other people were doing because most people were working or doing things virtually. It allowed me to have focus and dedicate my time and it led me down a good path. I think a lot of people out there would look at the pandemic in a good way. I think a lot of people changed what they were doing whether it be professionally or in relationships and it definitely kept me going down this path in a more expeditious way than before.
Q. You’re from Long Island. What is the community like there? How have they supported you?
A. I’m from Long Island but my parents actually moved in August so I don’t go back there much anymore but I have my home friends who support me. There’s a group of people from playing golf that is supportive. I think one of the things a lot of artists go through is expectation vs reality and outcome. I think a lot of people, especially me put so much weight on what people say. You put so much weight on hearing something one time from somebody that gives you validation and one of the things I’ve been working on is not relying on that validation. Don’t worry if one person doesn’t like your stuff consistently or doesn’t come to the shows. I think I’ve actually built more of a community in New York City rather than from Long Island at least for the music.
Right before the pandemic, I did my first open mic, and the guy who ran it started doing virtual open mics during the pandemic so I started doing those every week. I wanted the practice and an outlet to do my thing and through that, I met a lot of people from artists, to poets. When we started doing the open mics in person we really started to build a community on top of what we had. A lot of where it started for the music expanded from that community.
Q. Your music melds a lot of influences. How would you describe your production process?
A. I did a lot of learning last year. I had never written music, I had never produced music or anything so it was a lot of learning. In terms of this EP, the process was really scattered. I wrote “Torn” last April and I wrote “Breathe Into My Heart” last March with Robbie [Rosen] actually. “Breathe Into My Heart” kinda sat there for a little bit and “Torn” was originally produced in more of a dance way. I didn’t want that to be the structure like if you listen to my older songs like “Stuck On You” or “Every time I Think of Summer ” they have big drops they’re in the EDM world. The way I look at those songs and the way that I wrote them is they have storylines. They’re written with a story that has emotions that a lot of people can relate to.
That’s what I try to do in the process of writing I try to make sure the lyrics connect to the verses and the choruses and make sure that if you really wanna capture the emotion of a phrase you have to make sure it sings well. When it came to the production of the EP I really wanted to have that electronic bass. I didn’t necessarily want to have the rawness of live drums other than the acoustic guitar that I play. I kind of decided to take the bass of the song and produce them with electronic sounds and then each individual song on the EP draws inspiration from a different artist or genre.
You’ll hear “Torn” which is the first song off the EP has a little bit of that Linkin Park vibe. It has raw emotion with emo, punk, and electronic sounds. “Breathe Into My Heart” was a little bit like The Chainsmokers where it has that EDM structure but it’s not as hard-hitting it’s a little more chill type of EDM. “Sink Or Swim” pulls off a little more of that 90s like Dave Matthews, Matchbox 20, Goo Goo Dolls that pop/rock vibe. “Headlines” is more of a pop feel and “29” is more influenced by Ed Sheeran. You’ll hear that different style of sound across the board on the EP but it all glues together. The way I set the EP up, the storylines express the moment I started to better myself and do a lot more introspective thinking. Especially in “Torn” it’s the realization of the lack of self-awareness I had had and who I’d hurt even though I didn’t realize I was hurting and from there it brings you to this point of I’m 29 now cause “29” is the last song of EP.
A lot of people think once you hit 30 if you don’t know what you’re doing for your life or if you don’t have it all together that you’re falling behind. According to society and all your friends, you feel like you’re behind and you feel like you’re gonna be there forever. That is where I’m at right now. “29” is about not being stuck and no matter where you are you can always make today and tomorrow better. You’re never behind it’s where you’re supposed to be.
Q. What do you want your listeners and fans to gain from your new EP? What can you share about the behind-the-scenes process?
A. I touch upon emotions that a lot of people feel. A lot of people go through depression or periods where they feel like they’re behind or stuck, or they don’t know what they’re doing with their life. I just want people to relate to it to listen to the EP and listen to it in full because it’s meant to be a full story. I really hope [the music] can really get people on the right track or if they’re on the right track to kind of remember what they had to fight through and that they’re on the other side and that things are gonna be better. One of the lyrics in “Sink Or Swim” which is the title track of the EP is “nothing lasts forever”. “Sink Or Swim” is about depression and how you only have one choice sinking or swimming. Those feelings that everybody shares even though the triggers and experiences are different, it won’t last forever. Even if it lasts for 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, you’re gonna grow and learn and become a better person. It’s just a natural progression. I want people to really relate to it and feel something.
Whether it’s one song or the whole EP. If I can touch somebody from it, I feel like it would succeed. In terms of the behind-the-scenes, I have a bunch of videos that I’ve been sharing and will share. For “Sink Or Swim” I actually only went into a quote-unquote once.
I went to Adam Clark’s home studio and the rest of the songs I recorded in my closet (laughs). It was all virtual which is an interesting thing for me cause I feel like the more opportunities I get to go into a studio with really talented artists and producers the more I’m gonna grow as an artist and person. I decided to co-produce the EP with Adam and he co-produced “Headlines”. What I do is I self-produce the songs and I don’t know everything about producing but I know the structure and sound I want for the songs. So I light produce it and then collaborated with Adam on getting them where they needed to be and he’s a really talented up-and-coming producer. He’s a really positive person and definitely someone I look to as a mentor. There’s more stuff I’m gonna be doing for [The EP].
I’m actually gonna be releasing a music video for “Breathe Into My Heart” and I’m doing this collaboration with a recording studio out in Brooklyn. They do this series called “live to vinyl” so I’m doing that in a couple of weeks. You basically go in there and you try to get people to pre-order the vinyl and then you live record unique versions of each song depending on what songs they choose. I also have a couple of shows upcoming so I’m really excited.