“We recorded this album all over the place because we did it in so many pieces,” explains Randolph. “The reason for that was we were still on tour and playing shows with Santana at the time. So while on the road, we would book some studio time when hanging with Eric Clapton, and then traveling to Virginia and booking time with Dave Matthews. We got into the studio with a lot of these guys, along with the band, and things would start moving when we would stumble upon something magical. When you got a guy like Eric Clapton guiding, you start and learn from a person who has been down the road already.”
Contributions were also made by Steven Tyler, producer Rick Rubin, and producer Mark Batson.
“We got to work with producer Mark Batson who has worked with everybody,” says Randolph. “He is one of the most talented producers out there. He did the tracks ‘Angel,’ ‘Diane’ and ‘Love Is The Only Way,’ which featured Dave Matthews. Batson is a young hip-hop guy who is so musically inclined. People don’t realize that he is actually a classical musician. So imagine us sitting next to each other in a studio. A classically trained hip- hop producer sitting alongside a black guy from Essex County, NJ, who plays pedal steel, and we are colliding musical minds. We came up with some grooves, it was really a treat.
“Steven Tyler became the main influence for ‘Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That,’ which is the first song on the record. We were listening to an old British rock band called The Pretty Things and Steven [Tyler] said, ‘Man, when you get into the studio I want to create this party vibe with a guitar and just let it flow. Just keep bringing everybody into your world.’ That conversation became the inspiration for us when we went into the studio to record that track,” says Randolph.
Working with rock-n-roll’s most respected elite has helped further broaden Robert Randolph’s perspective in terms of his message in music and the lasting power of soul.
“The word Colorblind is in reference to the mentality of a past generation. Years ago you had Marvin Gaye, Al Green, The Beatles and Sly & The Family Stone who were all into making great music to unify the people,” states Randolph. “Today if you are a black guy, everyone thinks you are into hip-hop, or if you are a white guy with long hair, everyone assumes you are into rock-n-roll. We wanted to make a record that is colorblind and just a celebration of life.
“We set out to show everybody that we have grown from just a jam band or a bar band, and that is what these sessions were all about. We learned from Santana and Clapton. I sat and watched Eric Clapton play a song differently every night for six months straight.
“We learned to separate the studio from our live performances,” explains Randolph. “In the studio it’s not natural for you to go on playing for nine minutes straight without an audience in front of you helping you evolve.”
The balance between the virtuosity of his stage performances with the transcending nature of delivering a concise studio effort is developing slowly for Randolph. But like a fine bottle of wine, age will only deliver increasingly mature results from an artist who is also recognizing the achievements of his younger peers.
“There are some bands out there that are really into bringing different things to music,” says Randolph. “People like Outkast and a guy by the name of John Mayer, who is in the process of sort of reinventing himself. Everybody saw John Mayer as a pop star and as a guitar player who wrote love songs. Everybody wanted him to do just that and now he is really trying something different.”
The truth for Robert Randolph is not so much reinvention but artistic solidification in an industry that at times tends to look over the more masterful performers for the bankrolled glory of a marketable product to the masses.
“The industry will not change and because of that, as an artist, you must do the things which you believe in. Nobody can force you into believing that you are somebody else,” says Randolph. “Clapton used to explain that to me all the time. What it comes down to is, if you are doing something that you believe in and in which you stand for musically then that is ultimately what will help you have a long career rather than being one of these musicians that fades away.”
Robert Randolph & The Family Band will be appearing at Roseland Ballroom in NYC on Nov. 17 and a homecoming New Year’s Eve performance at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, on Dec. 31. For more information including recent news, discography and additional tour dates, visit robertrandolph.net