Robert Randolph on ‘Got Soul,’ Dave Grohl and The Best Broccoli Rabe Ever

Words & Photos by Kim Wessels

I stood nervously outside Robert Randolph’s tour bus outside the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ in late April.

I was running down a list of questions in my head. As a photographer, I’ve been behind the lens in front of many artists through the years, but it’s not every day I actually get the opportunity to interview them, much less someone whose music I’ve been a fan of for so long.

As I stood waiting, someone walks up with a food delivery (broccoli rabe – more on that later), asking me what he should do. His guess was as good as mine, as I was just waiting for the good word from the tour manager to give me the go ahead to enter the bus. After a few heart stopping moments, I was invited up onto to the bus to begin my interview.

As I step up inside, I’m greeted by the man himself, tall, broad, towering – what seemed to be at least 6 feet tall over my 5 foot frame, he flashes me that huge quintessential Randolph smile and I am instantly put at ease.

“Hi Robert, I’m Kim from Pop Break, so nice to meet you, thanks for taking the time to meet with me.” Again my nerves melt away as he shakes my hand and then proceeds to give me a huge hug hello, “Nice to meet you too Kim.”

“Wait, is that the food?” he asks as he looks out the window noticing the poor delivery guy standing there.

“That is definitely the food” I respond, not quite believing we’re having a normal conversation about delivery food. Is this really happening?

“Bring him up here!” Rob says, as the tour manager hops down to grab Rob’s dinner.

We settle in and get comfortable and get down to business, with both the interview and his dinner.

Welcome back man! Welcome back to Asbury Park. We’ve missed you! It’s been a while!

Thank you, thank you. It’s great to be back! It’s changed a lot since I’ve been here, it’s really great to see Asbury coming into its own.

Is it different playing back in New Jersey? Do you feel like you have a home court advantage playing here?

Absolutely. There’s nothing quite like playing back in your home state. Feels like y’all forgot about me though. [He says with a wink and a smile.]

No way man, we could never forget about you! I’ll put it this way, I’m still raging, all these years later. We actually met back in 2007, at the IZOD Center when you opened up for Dave Matthews. I was backstage with one of my friends hanging with you and the band after your set.

Oh for real? Wait, when was that, 2007 at IZOD…ohhhhh yeah, THAT was a crazy night. [chuckles]

Oh I know. My memories are a bit hazy to be honest, but i know it was a hell of a good time” as he lets out a belly laugh. So congratulations on the new album, Got Soul, it’s beautiful.

Thank you so much, it’s a little bit of a different direction for us and we’re really proud of it.

It’s fantastic — It’s been my go-to at the gym.

Right on Kim, that’s what’s up!

How was it being back in the studio with The Family Band? I know it’s been a few years since the full band put out an album together.

It was amazing. It was really seamless, but it’s always like that, like no time has gone by, because that’s family. And we have a new label, Sony Masterworks, and that’s been a really great experience. Really great people – really allows us to do what we do best.

I was wondering. The first time I ever saw you live, was 2005, and you played Randall’s Island with Dave Matthews. I remember being mesmerized, you were onstage,  jamming with Dave and Boyd during ‘Louisiana Bayou,’ jumping out of your seat, losing your hat and my face was totally melting watching your every moment. I legit think I wet my pants at that moment.

Oh it was like THAT, huh?

Do you ever feel like that on stage, like ‘I can’t believe this is happening? I can’t believe I get to experience this?’

Well I don’t know about pants wetting [laughs] but you know every night, it still amazes me that I get to do this. I get to do what I love, I get to bring love and joy to people, and I get to do that with my family. That always amazes me and it’s a feeling that will never get old…

[Writer’s Note: If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing Robert Randolph and the Family Band live, you can see that love and joy that he speaks of on stage. There’s magic in the air as Randolph lights up the audience, setting the stage on fire with his blazing inferno style of sacred steel guitar playing that has landed him on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.]

[Randolph continues] I think this is the greatest broccoli rabe I’ve ever had…I mean legit, I’ve had broccoli rabe everywhere, everywhere that counts, New York City, Brooklyn, North Jersey and look at this. It’s got some nuts in here. What are these? Pistachios?? Man, I’ve had broccoli rabe every where and THIS. This right here….this is the best I’ve ever had.” [Writer’s Note: The dish was ordered from Porta in Asbury Park. ]

So whats up with the future? What’s on the agenda?

Oh we’re definitely gonna be making new music, we already talking a new album. More collaborations for sure, got some fun ideas going.”

So I’ve heard rumblings of a super group collaboration you have in mind…Any hints you can give us?

Probably [he says teasingly]. I’ve had the honor of playing with so many great musicians and I’ve still got a growing list. Springsteen is definitely on there, but I think he’s over out with his buddy little Stevie over at the Paramount [Theater in Asbury Park, NJ] tonight. The top of that list is definitely Dave Grohl, I’m really hoping to do something with Dave, that’s what I’m really hoping. I’m working on something….a trio. We drummed it up when we were all out in Seattle. He played bass, and we were jamming, it was awesome. We did a trio with Joe Walsh, Taylor [Hawkins], and Dave, it was crazy. We all jammed and went to a dive bar for like three hours, and just hung with Nirvana. The remaining members of Nirvana, it was sick.

I know I keep saying it, but this is the best damn broccoli rabe I’ve ever had.

 


 

I laugh and tell him I’ll let him finish his rabe in peace. I thanked him for the interview and let him know I was shooting the show later. He left me with this farewell…

Thank you so much Baby, you have a great time. Don’t wet your pants tonight.

For the record, I didn’t wet my pants.

It was close, but I managed to keep it together. Robert and The Family band did what they do because “Love Do What It Do.”’ They dropped their bomb of funk, soul and love all over the Stone Pony and I walked out feeling like I always do after a RR&TFB show, like I just had a spiritual experience. Like I got a little closer to understanding the powers of the universe, because that’s just where Robert Randolph has the power to bring people.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.