Grammy-Winning Bay Area Musician: Rob Hotchkiss

This show will air Friday June 9, 4–5pm PT on kzsu.stanford.edu/live and on KZSU 90.1 FM. We will add a streaming link here after the show airs.

On this episode of the Bay Area Musician, we had the pleasure of interviewing Rob Hotchkiss, co-founder of the SF Bay Area band “Train.”

The early Train records were a huge influence as I started songwriting in 2002–2003. It’s where I found my love for the raw acoustic, organic rock sound that is again reflected on Rob Hotchkiss’ latest release, “Midnight Ghost”.

In our conversation with Rob, we talk about how Train started, why he left the band, his work since then, and his advice for musicians. What does Rob have to say to musicians whose music may not be the hottest sound on the market? Listen to find out!

Coming up in the Bay Area

In our conversation, Rob tells us about how Train started as a duet with him and Pat Monahan, playing open mics at Hotel Utah and a few other clubs on Haight. The band must have had something special going on because shortly after, they were selling out the Fillmore.

Fast-forward a few years to 2002, past some label rejections and interminable tours in a van that occasionally caught on fire, the band is now playing “Drops of Jupiter” at the Grammy Awards and takes home two of the coveted trophies. According to Rob, there was never really a moment when they became an “overnight success.” It was all very gradual. He even points out that it was more impressive to him that they sold out the Fillmore so quickly than it was to win a Grammy.

Creative Differences

Rob’s musical contributions were instrumental in getting the band signed and can be heard on their albums “Train,” “Drops of Jupiter,” and “My Private Nation.” Their single “Drops of Jupiter” was nominated for 5 Grammy awards and took home Grammys for Best Rock Song and Best Arrangement. This success which catapulted the band to worldwide fame and it was then clear that the band’s sound was irreversibly moving into a pop direction, away from their roots sound that Rob had envisioned. Unwilling to compromise on making the music he loves, Rob left Train, despite the band’s commercial success.

Midnight Ghost

Rob talks about his album and how the title track feels quite special to him as a songwriter. We’re also treated to a very cute story about how his children (aged 2–11 at the time) were featured as guest performers, sometimes with the help of cookie bribes. Making music he loves with the people he loves most. If there’s any better definition of happiness, we can’t think of one.

Try

“I don’t believe in Lennon” — Rob Hotchkiss (Try)

Next we talked about Rob’s music since leaving Train. One of the songs George and I both really enjoyed is “Try.” Rob explains that this line was meant as a tip of the hat to Lennon, but inevitably offended some Lennon fans who didn’t quite get the reference. George was very curious about the instrumentation. Rob was proud to say he played all the instruments, including the slide guitar on this track, and he was particularly pleased with how the acoustic sound cut through the electric feel of “Try.” Definitely one of our favorites on “Midnight Ghost.”

If he could jam with any Bay Area musician…

I believe this answer made George even more of a fan. Both Rob and George are major Beatles fans, and while growing up both had older brothers who loved Creedance Clearwater Revival. But then Rob chose for his “jamming partner” another major Bay Area artist and renowned rhythm guitarist: Steve Miller. He elaborates that rhythm guitarists are often underrated in his opinion. We couldn’t agree more!

What musicians need to succeed

Before ending the conversation, we asked Rob if he had any final advice for budding musicians who are trying to make it. His advice?

Listen to the show to find out :)

Show notes

Rob Hotchkiss’ website
http://www.robhotchkiss.net

Rob Hotchkiss’ Midnight Ghost album
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/midnight-ghost/id41725278

Hotel Utah open mic in San Francisco
http://www.hotelutah.com/event/1465283-hotel-utah-open-mic-host-san-francisco/

The Fillmore
http://thefillmore.com/calendar/

Rob Hotchkiss with Train at the Grammys
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpD1NN9uRT8

Train’s first, self-titled album
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/train/id158908899

Train’s “Drop of Jupiter” album
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/drops-of-jupiter/id311629490

Steve Bowman, original drummer of The Counting Crows
http://stevethedrummer.com

Sparklehorse
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sparklehorse

The Counting Crows
http://countingcrows.com

Steve Miller
http://www.stevemillerband.com

Ryan Hotchkiss
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMJtpSoYIHU

Featured tracks

“Midnight Ghost” by Rob Hotchkiss

“Try” by Rob Hotchkiss

“Rainmaker” by Rob Hotchkiss

“Lost In America” by Rob Hotchkiss

“Drops of Jupiter” by Train (music by Rob Hotchkiss, lyrics by Pat Monahan)

Bay Area Musician highlights the Bay Area’s music and musicians, their insights, their journey, and their opinions on what we can do to ensure a bright future for the Bay Area music scene. The goal is to get listeners and musicians excited about the local scene and inspire the local community to seek out and support local/live music. Please send inquiries to bayareamusician@kzsu.stanford.edu
Bay Area Musician is hosted by Sherry & George from the jazz-pop duet 23rd Hour. Their next live show will be on Saturday July 1st at Angelicas in Redwood City. Click here for more info

Grammy-Winning Bay Area Musician: Rob Hotchkiss was originally published in BayAreaMusician on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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