I have a younger brother named Robert that is one of the smartest, fun, and talented guys you will ever meet. He also released a pretty great album today under the name “Wilderman”, but chances are, you probably haven’t heard of him. And, while I hope the album does well, it’s not very likely to be played on top 40 stations. And I think he’s pretty ok with that. But, here’s the deal… I think there are people out there that need to hear this music, and especially if they knew the story behind this record. Rob is not really the kind of guy that is going to start some blog and tell you some kind of story to get you to buy his record. So I will.
To be clear, the music doesn’t NEED a story. It can stand on its own. It’s based almost entirely on the 12 bar blues form, and Rob actually manages to innovate within that. That’s not an easy thing to do. Also the songs are good. The lyrics and melodies are interesting and they’ll get in your head. But there’s something behind this music that not a lot of people know about that I think makes it really special.
In short, this music (at least in my opinion) is the sound of Rob’s rebirth after a really tough decade of life. Rob hasn’t had the easiest go of it in the last several years. Lots of pain, betrayal and struggle that in many ways had left him pretty devastated. Talking to Rob a few years ago, he had become a shell of the person that I knew him to be growing up. Carefree, creative, funny, Rob had become bitter, shamed, and angry Rob.
But then, last year, Rob was freed from a very long-term and toxic relationship, and he started making some changes in his life. He started believing that his life was worth more than some people had led him to believe. He started taking care of himself better. He started writing songs again. And he decided to make an album. I actually wrote about it in my book. Here’s a little snippet of a letter he sent me and the rest of the Wilderman band last year:
Dear bros, I want to make my record with you guys. I don't know how it's going to happen, but I really want it to.
I want to go to somewhere in the wilderness bring some analog gear and really pour out our hearts onto tape.
I want you guys on the record because I feel safest with you, and know I can just be totally me and be completely unrestrained.
You guys all understand the "anointing" and what it's like to play together and connect and reach something spiritual.
I'm hoping for seven days (two days setup/fun/connection/spiritual retreat stuff, five days tracking), with all of us there totally engaged, connected, hearts out, sharing fears and doubts and stuff we never feel comfortable enough to talk about with total freedom, only love, no judgment, in the wilderness. As men.
With no ego or want for success, only love and connection and beauty and spirituality. I think you get the point. love, Rob
Hearing Rob, who we all knew had gone through so much shit, speak like this was inspiring. We all immediately said “yes”, and the recording process really was pretty incredible.
Ok, so honestly, the whole all analog, no ego, “no judgment” thing probably isn’t a great formula for fame and fortune in the music industry. We live in a society that seems to prefer hearing everything perfectly timed and tuned and sung by a 150 pound, 20-year-old boy with amazing hair. This project was not aspiring to that end. Here’s an example of how this music went to tape:
David, my other little brother, is a bass player that has often played for Gungor and also has a band called “The Brilliance.” He was part of the Wilderman band as well. David has always joked about bass solos while we are recording. He is always playfully wanting to throw bass solos in, because, well, that’s ridiculous. So we are in this cabin in the desert, and recording this song. We are all just set up in the same room with all of our mics bleeding into each other and all through only analog gear right to tape. (So what that means is that what happens in that room is what you will hear on the record. You don’t get to go fix everything like everybody else does with today’s technology. What happens is what happens.)
So David starts joking about putting a bass solo down. And Rob, whose manifesto for this record is “no judgement”, “no ego”, says “Dave, if you want to play a bass solo, then play a bass solo.” We all laugh, but Rob doesn’t find it that funny. “Bro, there’s no ego here, if you feel like playing a bass solo here, you totally should.”
David, overjoyed, begins to work out a solo. David moves from light and childlike to serious as he dips his head and starts trying to figure out some cool lines to play.
“Whoa! No, Dave. If you are going to do a bass solo, you just need to feel it in the moment. No rehearsing that.” And that’s how this project was made. I had never played slide guitar before. For this album, that’s pretty much all I played. Rob never used standard tunings. In fact, we all tuned to these weird chakra frequencies that meant something to Rob, so we weren’t even ever in standard A=440. (That’s pretty much all you ever hear) From beginning to end, the project was all about heart and freedom and there was no room for plastic or ego. And if you could know Rob and where he has come from, you would know why that is so beautiful.
Rob is a very talented musician. He studied jazz piano at North Texas University. He is a great producer and songwriter. He COULD make a record that sounds pristine and perfect.
But Rob, at least at the time, had spent far too much time trying to work to make himself acceptable to other people. In his toxic relationship, he had constantly been belittled and made to feel that he was not good enough. Rob finally had decided to stop listening to those lies and to be free. Part of that process was this music. This music is the sound of a man coming out of his prison cell and saying “I don’t care whether you ‘accept’ me or not, this is who I am, and I’m going to live my life.” I love that.
The way this record was made is very rare and very bold. And while the production is certainly more raw and spontaneous than many people are used to hearing, I think if you really listen to the songs, you will be able to feel the sounds of love, hope, and joy that this album came from. I’m really proud of Rob for spending so much of his own time and money on this project, and I hope some of you will support the work as well. You can check it out here: