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Bruce Robison tells stories

By Dan MacIntosh, June 2006

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Robison's biggest hits, such as "Traveling Soldier," have all been for other artists. He also wrote "Angry All the Time," a hit for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and "Desperately" for George Strait. Robison is probably best known as a songwriter, but he's okay with that. "That's my goal," he admits. "I'm a songwriter; that's what I do. The rest of it's kind of cake. I like to perform, but I'm a songwriter. My songwriting career makes everything possible. I don't think I would be a singer. I don't think anybody would want to hear me sing if I wasn't a songwriter. I have that going for me that luckily some people want to hear songs the way the writer does it."

Robison knew from the very start that he had a gift. "About 15 years ago, when I first started writing songs, I felt good at it," he recalls. "And I realized that I didn't feel good at any of the other stuff that I'd been doing. And that was a wonderful day. And I called myself a songwriter for 10 years before I made a penny at it, and I loved it. And I've felt fortunate ever since then. That's what I hope for my kids...that someday they find something that they're good at, regardless if they ever make any money at it or not."

Although he knows he's a good songwriter, this knowledge doesn't hold him back from constantly improving his craft. "It does come easy to me in that I understand the vernacular of it and that it wasn't a struggle," he explains. "I feel like I'm always trying to get better, and it's difficult to write a good song. And it's difficult to be a good songwriter. But I think you can say that about anything that's worthwhile. Nothing's easy. And it's easy to be crappy at anything. The minute I started doing it, I felt right, and I felt like I had a talent at it, so that's about as easy as it gets."

"Eleven Stories" was released on Sustain Records, Robison's new self-owned label. He's excited about the opportunity to have his own label, as well as the unknown potential offered by the emerging internet. "I haven't done much work on that," says Robison of this new business venture. "I think that there are a lot of possibilities, and I think that the music business is all upside-down and being reinvented. It's like the Fifties again, and I want to be part of it. I don't know how I feel about it, and I don't know how it's going to shake out. I think it's going to be good for the people who have - whatever you want to call it - the songs, the intellectual property, the content. Anything they need to fill up that crazy internet out there. The people that make it happen are going to be in a better spot."

In a previous musical life, Robison recorded a few albums for Lucky Dog, an edgy Sony Records subsidiary, also including brother Charlie and Jack Ingram.

Oddly enough, Robison might become even more famous for a Claritin-D allergy medication commercial he and his wife recently appeared in. It wasn't something he sought out. Nevertheless, it's a venture that made sense for both Robison and Willis. "I think somebody on the creative side of it, like the producer, was sort of a fan of me and Kelly's," he says. "And I think they had that whole treatment going. And then he said, 'Bruce and Kelly are perfect for this whole little set piece.' So they asked us to do it, and we said yes. It happened really fast, so I'm not sure if they had somebody else in mind, or they just fit us into it or not. But it was, like, 'Hey, we're shooting this commercial on Tuesday. Do y'all wanna do it?' We were happy to. It's kind of hard to get your name and face out there these days; there's kind of million records coming out on any given day."

Just for the record: Both Bruce and Kelly use this medicine. "It's a product I use, so I was able to do it with a clear conscience," he says.

Who knows, maybe Robison's next album will include 11 songs all about allergy medications. That's doubtful, but he's a fine songwriter who does what Willie also does well: He writes great songs.

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