Robin Salmon is an anthropologist of sorts. At times living the life of a gypsy, traveling the world, amassing the experiences it would take most several lifetimes to accumulate. From this he has developed an intrinsic understanding of what it means to be human. A base insight that somehow eludes most, perhaps due to lack of awareness or just simple indifference. It is songwriters like Salmon who help us to look at ourselves and this world in which we live with a bit more clarity.
Born in Durban South Africa, Robin Salmon came of age in a disjointed country plagued by violence and political turmoil. His father’s disaccord with the apartheid favoring government led to a pending threat of him becoming a banned person, which at the time carried the sentencing of house arrest that was doggedly enforced. The family fled to America in 1977, settling outside of San Antonio on the largest long horn cattle ranch in the country. Life was reinvented and the way of the rancher instilled in the fabric of young Salmon. Spending the impressionable years of a young man’s life in the Texas hill country in the early 80’s, Salmon’s musical roots were a cross pollination of musical legends Bob Wills, Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins and the contemporaries of punk rock, The Sex Pistols, U2, The Clash and The Ramones. At 15 Salmon got his first guitar, wrote his first song and realized life as a performer was an inescapable dream.
Fresh out of high school Salmon formed the band, See No Evil, which would later prove to be a success for it’s four young members. While the band was living in Austin and playing every obliging hole in the wall, Salmon penned a song for International Youth Year, a festival held by the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York. The opportunity to perform live before the United Nations, and the intoxication of the vitality and grit that was the New York in the 80’s, Salmon and his fellow See No Evil members packed up and moved their outfit to the city. While living in a Greek Community of Queens and surviving on white rice and kool-aid, the band played steady gigs at the infamous CBGB. At one of these late night gigs legendary producer Richard Robinson of Lou Reed and David Johnson notoriety discovered the young musicians. Impressed with the band and particularly Salmon’s songwriting, Robinson secured the band a deal with Epic that would produce two records. See No Evil and Songs, both produced by Robinson, were released to rave reviews. Rolling Stone described See No Evil as having, “memorable melodies and a driving beat”. Details Magazine said they “secrete an intense integrity and emotion that can only be compared to the aura that surrounds U2. Robin has the presence and makings of a cult hero with a message”. Rockpool characterized the band as being “deeply rooted in the sound and sensibility of such seminal bands of the late 70s like Television. Being a gutsy, rough-edged, post 70s new wave punker suits See No Evils honcho Salmon best”. Nominated for 3 prestigious New York Music Awards, the band toured tirelessly until 1992 when Salmon was in a motorcycle accident that nearly ended his life. Faced with months of rehabilitation and an arduous recovery, the New York City winters and brazen population was something Salmon was not eager to endure. A lover of the balmy comforts of the south and her soulful music, he relocated to Atlanta.
The inception of FMG Studios, affectionately named for his dog Fat Muddy George, came from the desire to wear the hat of both recording artists and producer. During FMG studios existence, Salmon produced over 40 records spanning virtually every musical genre from Baptist gospel records to heavy metal. He also released several independent records of his own; a 1994 acoustic album Aiming for the Sun and 1997s High Energy Alternative Power Pop with his then band Christopher Robin. Evolution as an artist is inevitable and Salmon was no exception with his shift from Punk Rock Manhattanite to the roots infused sound of a Bohemian balladeer. Referencing his Texas roots and country influences, Salmon released 2 albums under the name Jack West, Gunslinger and Suicide Alley, both applauded by the critics. Hal Horowitz of Creative Loafing said, “Gunslinger fits comfortably into the current crop of alt-country traditionalists”. Greogory Nicolle described Jack West as “a rollicking honky-tonk ensemble with 10-gallon hats on their heads and enough rockin thunder under their belts to scare Hank Jr. himself straight out of the arena”. This new direction for Salmon proved to be a harmonious marriage between the lawless cowboy and the introspective wordsmith.
Heavily influenced by the work of other respected artists, Salmon references Rodney Crowell’s Houston Kid as being a turning point in his musical direction. The honesty of the human condition and rawness of Crowell’s story telling was something that Salmon responded to and worked to incorporate in his own work. Americana music, undecorated and intelligent, was a genre of music that resonated deeply with a South African refugee raised on a Texas Longhorn ranch. From this came a new body of work and Salmon’s 7th album, Gasoline. Recorded in East Nashville with some of Nashville’s most highly esteemed musicians, Kenny Vaughn, Stuart Duncan, Al Perkins to name a few, Gasoline truly showcases the poignant songwriting and rich melodies that Salmon is known for. In addition, he had the good fortune of drawing upon the services of the afore mentioned artist, Rodney Crowell. Collaborating on the track, Maybe I Do, Salmon and Crowell have a vocal synergy that produces a beautiful, albeit dismal, account of two people broken by the lonesome struggle to find love. In the words of Rodney Crowell himself, “Robin Salmon is smart, funny, poetic and in possession of a melodic wit. Anyone got a problem with that?” Few would dare disagree.