Episode 13: Robbie Schaefer

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Photo by Laura Goyer

This one’s exciting for me.

When I was in college 20 some years ago, I was brought by a friend to a small, standing room only bar with a bunch of 20-somethings crowded in very tight numbers, waiting for this band to come out. I was promised I would love this band. So, when they came out and instantly put forth some of the tightest three and four-part harmony that I had ever heard, with an energy that should be illegal, my attention was forever theirs (and still is). All the 20 somethings started jumping up and down and screaming the lyrics to every song this band played. They were just awesome. This band was Eddie From Ohio, a four piece folk bank from … Northern Virginia (that’s another story for another day). Picture this: Center stage, belting out the highest notes, is Julie Murphy, who would soon become Julie Murphy Wells, much to the heartache of fawning male college student fans. The master percussionist in the back’s name is Eddie Hartness (He’s not from Ohio, stop asking). He focuses a lot on hand drumming in those earlier days, but will eventually add more and more percussion as the years go on. There are two guys up front, playing a couple of Takamine acoustic guitars (at least in those days), one of whom adds harmonica pretty often, and switches over to bass while wisecracking about rival universities — that guy is at stage left is Michael Clem, and the guy on stage right, seeming like the most technical yet the most introverted one of the bunch, is Robbie Schaefer, with whom I will be speaking in roughly 24 years, on this crazy sci-fi platform called Facetime.

Cellar Sessions: Eddie From Ohio November 2nd, 2017 City Winery New York Full Session

Robbie has been making music a long time. Starting as a 7-year-old asking his parents for a guitar, and later with his childhood buddy (and future EFO Bandmate) Michael Clem singing songs about girls and … well …, girls in their pre-formative and less-concerned-with-storyline years, he has since brought his meaningful and smart songwriting style Light Years ahead of his time. There’s a reference there. You’ll get it in a minute.

We chat about a lot of really neat stuff, how he started out with (and eventually gave up on) guitar lessons, the little, unexpected, non-consequential seemingly unrelated events that seemed to fall into place throughout his life, the development of an initiative to bring music to children in places torn apart by war and violence, to gathering a lifetime of experience with his own father and their complicated relationship to create a full scale musical, called (here it is), Light Years.

Robbie and Bobby Smith getting all father and son on each other.

So yeah. We talk about that, and a lot of other things that I didn’t know (and a few that he didn’t know until recently). His newest project he is working on is the music for a brand new play called the Blue Poppy, which tells a story that is not only mind blowing, it needs to be told and heard.

Robbie has a more in depth description of “Burst the Silence”, the opening number of ‘Light Years’, on a podcast episode accessible only on his Patreon page. For as little as $5 per month, you can get access to content not available anywhere else, like the aforementioned podcast (including demo recordings and final cut — the context really matters, and adds so much to the song), videos of new songs, updates on The Blue Poppy, thoughts and musings, and so much more. There’s really a lot of good stuff there. If you really want to get more into the head of Robbie Schaefer, this is a great way.

And if you want to have something to listen to on repeat while you shake your head in amazement and wipe tears from your face, head over to the ol’ Amazon and pick up “Sounds Like Home: Songs From The Musical Light Years”

Finally, I’m realizing as I write this that two years ago, to the day, I was releasing the very first episode of Flies in the Kitchen with my first guest, Kelly Zullo. If you’ve heard it, you’ll know we recorded it in her newly purchased RV, and had a real dynamite conversation. It really made me believe that this is what I would love to do more of. You might also notice that at episode 13, I’m not a weekly podcast, or even monthly, clearly. I get them up when I can. But thanks for sticking in there with me, and if you are new to the show, I hope you subscribe and go back and listen to a few of the older episodes. I’m still learning as I go, still getting kinks out all the time. I’m my own producer, editor, publicist, manager, and host. It’s not super easy to do by yourself, but it is so completely worth it.

Thanks, you guys, for hanging out with me on this journey. Let’s close it out with Robbie’s gorgeous video of “A Small Light”, which closes out “Light Years”. Let’s go make some stories.

Music used in this episode is “Fly” and “A Small Light”, by Robbie Schaefer
FITK Theme written and performed by Dan Heidt
FITK Logo by Sean Goodwin

Virtual selfie from Facetime