Robin McAuley, best known as vocalist with the McAuley Schenker Group and latterly Black Swan expands on his singing career and what the future holds with regard to new music and live gigs.
Who were your influences in the early days and have you always wanted to be a singer in a band?
Have to say I never expected to be a singer, and I still question it despite the many years I've spent doing just that. My early influences were always more about the songs as opposed to the singer as such. Motown was my go to listening pleasure for the hook lines and great and memorable lyrics. Still as strong and as timeless to this very day.
When I heard Free for the first time, and of course Paul Rodgers, that Voice and that Soul took me down another path. Lou Gramm from Foreigner was another huge influence when I started listening seriously. Thin Lizzy of course, and so many more as time went on. Robert Plant of course, but I felt I was late getting into Zeppelin. Doesn't take much to catch up that said…..it was always really about the songwriting for me and the quality of the vocals to sell the song.
Have you ever auditioned for the vocal spot in any other notable bands?
Grand Prix was my first signed band. Not really an audition per se as I sang with Mick and Ralph prior to GP in a band called Raw Deal. Thereafter I sang with Brian Robertson and the late and great “Philthy” Phil Taylor with Chris Glenn on Bass. That band was called GMT.
Then I auditioned for Michael Schenker which became McAuley Schenker Group, and I've been recording and touring with Michael at various times ever since. Notably most recent on his 50th Anniversary Tour. Also Far Corporation, reaching Top 10 on the UK charts with a remake of ‘Stairway To Heaven’.
You have appeared on a number of albums by Grand Prix, McAuley Schenker Group, Far Corporation, Michael Schenker Fest, GMT, Black Swan as well as solo. Do you have a favourite period of time?
I always like to say that my most recent work is my favourite. Probably because I'm in a different head space or something. I really enjoy recording and listening to the songs while they take shape. I absolutely enjoy Black Swan and love the direction and sound that we have created. I also recorded ‘Standing On The Edge’, my first real solo album, and we are currently mixing the follow up record to that as I write this. Working on my Solo stuff allows me certain freedoms but is also kinda scary. Once it's done I question if I should have taken a different direction? I suppose there’s always next time to fix that, LOL.
How was it for you singing alongside Graham Bonnet, Gary Barden and Doogie White in Michael Schenker Fest?
Very special indeed. When it was presented to me I had no hesitation whatsoever. We had so much fun and a great level of respect towards each other. Being able to support each other with background vocals, sharing songs together on stage over a show that lasted 2½ sometimes 3 hours. A memorable and unforgettable experience. For the Fans also, fair to say!!
Do you have any plans to release another solo album and maybe play some solo gigs?
Yes actually. As I mentioned, my second solo record is currently in the mixing phase and what I've heard so far is killer!!! Alessandro Del Vecchio is once again producing and mixing and the writing is strong and heavier than the first record. Frontier's Festival has invited me to perform on the 2023 dates and I'm very excited to play these songs live. As a result, I'm hoping we can continue with more dates. Watch this space!!!
Do you still get the same buzz out of singing live as you did in the past?
Without a doubt. There's something about the Live show that takes it all to another level. The setting, the energy, and of course the crowd. There's nothing like it. Festivals have got to be the ultimate rush. Such an incredible feeling when you hit the stage. I'm truly blessed and just love what I do.
You have toured all over the world. Do you find a difference in the audience reaction depending on which country you are in?
It's definitely different everywhere you go. Some audiences like to sit and listen but go crazy as soon as the song ends. Some are up and at it right out the gate. Some are louder than others. It's so interesting to watch from stage and pushes you to be on your ‘A’ game. It's a crazy good feeling.
Some vocalists are on strict dietary regimes or gargle with special liquids. How have you kept your voice in tip-top shape all these years?
I'm glad I'm typing and not talking right now ha! I take great care of my voice both on and off the road. I use facial steamers while on the road and only talk/speak when necessary. Rest is key for me. I make fresh Ginger Tea which I drink and also gargle with. Lemon Cough Drops are soothing. Warm up's are super important but equally important not to strain your vocal cords while exercising. Rest as much as you can...learn what your voice can and cannot do when in a stressful situation. Cold, Flu etc. The road is merciless on the singer!!
Apparently you sometimes play alongside your son Casey. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
Casey loves to play guitar ... LOUD!! Ha! What a surprise, LOL! He also has a great voice and so when we recorded Black Swan's ‘Shake The World’ record he asked me if he could sing background vocals on a few tracks. Jeff heard him and used him on 6 songs. We also used him on our second and most recent release ‘Generation Mind’. He's got studio in his blood I guess so I had him sing backgrounds vocals on my current solo record; title and release date to follow! It's really special having him right there with me in the studio. Keeps me on my toes, literally ̶ he's 6ft 3!!
‘Raiding The Rock Vault’ sounds like a lot of fun. Is this something you’ll be returning to in the future?
I was one of the original singers with Rock Vault. Seven years and some 1500 shows. Five nights every week. The show has since returned after the Pandemic closed everything down and has been running since June. I decided not to return for this run and concentrate on my solo and other live performances. It was so much fun!!!
You sang with Survivor for a number of years. Are there any recordings from your time in the band?
Six years singing with Survivor and yes, we recorded a bunch of songs. Not sure if they will ever see the light of day. I had a great time singing these very memorable hits.
Are there any musicians that you have not worked with, but would like to in the future?
Oh My!! I've been so honoured to have worked with so many greats over the years. The herd is thinning, God knows. To be honest, I never expected to perform and record with as many incredible and well-known talents as I have, so whatever the opportunity I will take it and consider myself very fortunate.
Is there any unreleased recorded material from your early days with Grand Prix?
Yes there is. In fact, Phil and Mick and myself have been working on some new ideas of late. There's also a remix of some GP songs about to drop, according to the guys. I believe it's about ready. It's never really over is it? [laughs]
Your musical career only appears on the radar in the early 1980s. What were you doing prior to this?
Working on a farm most likely. Pubs and Clubs in Ireland and the UK really. Right up to joining Grand Prix.
With the live circuit opening up again, is there a possibility that we could see you performing some more live shows in the UK?
I performed at Steelhouse Festival with MSG recently and it was such a great time. Amazing crowd and such a warm reception. I would love to Tour the UK. Someone needs to invite me, Ha!!!
Do you have anything in the pipeline at the moment that you would like to share?
I've been working on something very special and very different for me. Italian Composer Max Di Carlo (Soundcloud to hear his amazing work) and I have been writing some epic pieces. It's very Netflix, Prime, HBO type series pieces. I believe when people hear it they'll be blown away. I'll be back in the studio again this week in fact working on completing the rest of these compositions. I'm very excited about this and may very well be my current favourite.
Interview by Stuart Dryden