With two smash hits on the charts this summer and more on the way, ASCAP songwriter Lindy Robbins is just hitting her stride.
Now that fall is well underway, we can reflect the most emblematic summer songs of 2011. The teens of America have already made their decision - it's "Skyscraper," the empowering ballad that gave Demi Lovato her first-ever Top 10 single and was named the 2011 Summer Song at this year's Teen Choice Awards. Another contender is "Tonight Tonight," an exuberant, double platinum-selling Top 10 hit for Hot Chelle Rae that USA Today touted as having "the makings of one of the catchiest pop/rock anthems of the summer."
Those two songs couldn't be more different stylistically, but they do have one important commonality: ASCAP songwriter Lindy Robbins. According to Robbins, versatility is just part of her nature. "The singles I have out right now, they are all very different genre-wise," she tells Playback over the phone. "I enjoy variety in genre, and sometimes in working with artists and sometimes not, and sometimes having a beat and sometimes not. I find that keeps it fresh for me."
Robbins has emerged as one of the go-to topliners in pop music over the last five years, always ready with a memorable hook or turn-of-phrase. She's penned songs for boy bands (Backstreet Boys, Westlife) and R&B singers (Leona Lewis, Toni Braxton), American Idol winners (Jordin Sparks, Lee DeWyze) and Asian pop sensations (Blush, Tohoshinki). And while she's a regular denizen on international pop charts these days, it wasn't always that way. "Songwriting came as a surprise," she admits. "I was a singer and an actress and a performer. I used to perform at the Improv in New York, and I had trouble finding funny songs I wanted to sing, so I started experimenting with writing songs...little by little, I started realizing that my favorite thing about these shows was performing the songs I was co-writing."
Robbins' first big break came when she applied to the Music Bridges Unisong songwriting contest on a whim. "I remember walking to the mailbox and thinking 'I don't even know if I'll make the postmark.' Then I won! The prize was to go to a castle in Ireland and write with all the top writers and artists...It just launched everything." Thanks to that experience, Robbins signed to PolyGram (now Universal Music Publishing Group) in 1998 and never looked back.
Over the next few years she would get bigger and better opportunities, including a cut on Anastacia's 2001 album Freak of Nature ("I Dreamed You") and another on the Faith Hill record Cry ("Back to You"). "Those were great moments and good earners for me, where my name started to get out," Robbins recounts. "But I came to realize that to really make a name for yourself, it's about having a hit. The first hit that I had was 'Incomplete' [for The Backstreet Boys], followed by "What's Left of me" by Nick Lachey. That's when people really started to take notice."
These days, Robbins has an admin deal with Kobalt and is managed by powerhouse management firm AAM. She writes most of her songs with a taskforce of regular collaborators, including Emanuel "Eman" Kiriakou, Toby Gad, Evan "Kidd" Bogart and Fraser T. Smith. They're all veteran writer/producers with a flair for emotional clarity and offbeat ideas, just like Robbins herself. "What I bring is trying to say things in a different way, lyrically and melodically," she explains. "If it's a song like 'Skyscraper,' which is an emotional song for me, it's about real emotion. With the clever songs…It's like we just found this unique, quirky kind of humor. We laugh the whole time that we are writing."
Robbins' work on "Skyscraper," "Tonight Tonight." "Stitch by Stitch" (the first single from The Voice winner Javier Colon's new album) and "It Girl," Jason Derülo's current single, has helped define their respective artists' identities. And she recognizes how they've help define her identity, too: "Having those kinds of songs means I get more and better opportunities for people to say 'Let's get Lindy and Evan and Eman, or Lindy and Toby...we want them to write songs for so and so.' It helps me just as much as it helps them."
Of course the listening public ultimately decides the success or failure of a pop song. And for Robbins, connecting with an audience is just as important as chart positions and financial rewards. "When I read some people writing into Demi - 'Demi, thank you so much, because of this song I didn't cut myself tonight" - that really gets me. To know that what I do, [which] brings so much joy and meaning to my life, can bring joy or fun or meaning to someone else's life, makes it worthwhile."
Read the full interview at wecreatemusic.ascap.com