Birmingham unsigned songwriter Robert Lane talks albums, tours and improv. comedy
'I'm not 100 per cent sure what is next,' admits singer/songwriter Robert Lane, rather refreshingly.
Most acts seem determined they want this, that or the other to happen. But Birmingham lad Robert is more content to keep doing what he is doing and see what happens for him.
"I'm in the early stages of a few projects next year, but details of those are to come," the 31-year-old tells us. And why not? He's been pretty busy recently.
Robert is a man of many talents, he mixes his writing and playing with his job as a guitar teacher and also working with the charity Mencap to give music and drama sessions, often working in both Walsall and Wolverhampton.
He is also a member of the comedy troupe The Improlectuals - 'I've always been involved in theatre', he adds.
One review says of them: "The Improlectuals are an improv. supergroup who come together to create slick comedy sketches. In this performance there was Richard Baldwin, Robert Lane, Matthew Dibbens and Nathan Blyth, each one bringing their different comedic strengths to play in this satisfying full length show."
And he has to fit their live shows in alongside his gigs. As well as a comedic headline slot at Cherry Reds in Birmingham on June 30, they will also be performing at the upcoming Ludlow Fringe Festival in Shropshire.
"Planning can be tricky to balance," he admits. "You almost have to be in a different head space for each of them. It's like any freelance worker really. You work when you want and need to and you do things how you want to do them.
"I don't get how a musician can work a 9-to-5 job, it must be so difficult. You have to use up all your annual leave for playing and then what if you want to take a holiday?"
Talking of that, as this goes to print Robert is about to embark on another European circuit - his fifth visit to Germany while playing some Dutch dates for the first time too. It's to promote his third record Only A Flight Away which came out at the end of April. It has been causing a bubble of excitement around the Kings Norton musician who fuses blues and folk in a lot of what he does.
"There was a great run of shows to promote the record and that culminated with an album launch gig at Cherry Reds. It was great fun. Birmingham is obviously my home city and this record was largely crowd funded so loads of the people who had supported me came to see me somewhere on the tour - mostly my friends and family at Cherry Reds.
"The album has done really well with my existing audience. And online radio shows have been fantastic. I think every single song off the record has been played somewhere which is pretty unusual.
"I think it is time now just to gig as much as possible, meet new people all the time and grow that."
And that is what his European adventure is aimed at.
"This is my fifth time in Germany, it's a mixture of places I've played before and some new ones. My first trip was when I was half holidaying and playing a few gigs at the same time. People just turned up. I would ask why they had come out to see me and they'd say 'we just saw the poster so we came'. That doesn't really happen in England. People see a poster for another small act and just think, 'I'll catch them some other time'.
"I also think not being from the area helps. People aren't sure when they can see you again.
"My favourite venue to play is a place called Lichtung in Cologne. It's well known so everyone at this level who travels to gig goes there. American, British, everyone."
It's not just friends and family and random Germans who are backing the Robert Lane brand though. He has grabbed the attention of online music magazine Fatea, who are based in Poole in Dorset.
They like to champion grassroots music, predominantly in folk and roots, but dipping their toes in elsewhere too. Robert says they have been supporting him for a while, and have invited him to be in with a chance of helping them celebrate turning 30 later this year.
"It's their 30th birthday and they are holding a festival in Bournemouth to celebrate," he says. "They've invited me to take part in a vote to win a chance to play."
The vote is taking place on Fatea's Facebook page. Called the Fatea Future Star, the top two from the 10 artists selected when voting closes on June 23 will win main stage slots at the festival on November 3.
"I haven't checked how the vote is going that often," admits Lane. "These things are usually settled by one person who gets all their votes in early and builds an unassailable lead. But I haven't started promoting this properly to my fans yet so there's still time.
"If people could head over to their Facebook page and give me a vote I would really appreciate it!"
That can be done here.
There's been some support closer to home as well. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) has been a firm backer of Robert and his dream, often lending him the space to showcase his material to the world.
"I launched my second album there in the Gas Hall, which was brilliant of them," he says. "I also played their Valentine's night there and also a wine weekend they had put on. Next month there's going to be an event too in their Edwardian tearooms on July 14 which is linked to the Birmingham Cocktail Weekend. That will be good fun."
To hear Robert's music and follow his journey you can find him on Twitter @robertlanemusic. You can also find out all the latest news by visiting www.robertlanemusic.co.uk