The last time Galveston native Robert Kuhn released an album, Houston was under water during Tropical Storm Harvey. Now Houston, along with the rest of the world, is facing another major challenge and Kuhn is at it again.
On April 20 he will be releasing his new album, Persevere. “Writing feels so good these days,” says Kuhn from his home in Galveston. “It always feels good, but I feel like especially now there's so much heaviness that you really can tell the relief you get from both music and writing.”
“We don't want to just keep sitting on it and the whole persevere vibe really seems fitting to share with people, give them something to listen to and something to chew on for a little bit,” he says.
Kuhn chipped away on this album during many late nights last year with his friend and producer Rob Bastien. The artist suffered a serious car accident last September which saw Houstonians and Galvestonians rally for Kuhn and help him by fundraising to cover his medical bills.
“It was really painful at the time but I just sort of accepted it for what it was and it brought on so many changes in my life that I really appreciate and that have been good for me. It really instilled a love for life and what's really important in this world to me.” Adding somberly, “I really thought I was a goner for a while.”
After a particularly difficult time, Bastien sent Kuhn the finished album. “It was just really touching and it really gave me a lot of feelings,” says Kuhn. He had a plan to release Persevere this year but with the Covid-19 pandemic, Kuhn reflected on his own feelings and with a little help from the ancient I Ching, decided to release it now.
He explains how he, like so many others, was finding himself feeling angry when the pandemic hit. “Anger is a valid emotion, but it's not a really good emotion. It's not a positive emotion, even though a lot of things can happen through anger.”
He rolled his sticks and his I Ching reading led him right to where he is now. It told him that anger causes a blockage like ice on a river and it suggested he focus on art and music to “persevere”, proving to be a very accurate insight.
“It totally changed my perspective on things and gave me something to focus on when I would get that negative anger. Just keep on going, that's all you can do is just know it's going to change, it's always going to change.”
Kuhn definitely embraced change with Persevere and though his sound is still recognizable in his whispery voice and general laid back vibration, he and Bastien took his sound to another level adding heavy electronic influences, synthesizers and more experimental sounds than in his previous albums.
Kuhn has never been one to shy away from a new sound as his previous albums Everybody Knows and Maria The Gun were also notable departures from one another.
Kuhn admits that Bastien often pushes him out of his comfort zone but he quickly warms up to the new sounds they create. “It's still me, it’s still our songs and our music, but it's just taking a little turn, and it's a fun turn I think.”
He and Bastien re-imagined the acoustic feel good track “Low Way” from his previous album making the song almost unrecognizable and giving it a fresh and faster groove. “Now I listen to the old one and I'm like, oh man that's kind of boring,” laughs Kuhn.
Kuhn released the video for the title track “Persevere” this month as well, and though it was filmed pre-Corona virus, the message and video ring very true today encouraging everyone to avoid the temptation to get sucked into fear and well, persevere.
A chilling detail in hindsight was the director’s, Samantha Wiley, choice to focus on Kuhn’s typewriter showing the name, Corona. Kuhn has long been a fan of typewriters and uses them frequently when writing creatively.
The album also features a song which was sent into outer space to his friend and fellow surfer, Christina Koch stationed at the International Space Station. Kuhn decided to send her “Looking Glazz,” the trippy, surf rock track, after realizing that she missed surfing while in outer space. Koch and her coworkers danced to it while floating above the earth and sent Kuhn some footage of their fun that he hopes to use in a future video.
“We’re calling it a launch,” says Kuhn fittingly. “Like we're trying to get this thing up and into orbit, give it a push out there to go farther than just the places we play at and with this internet world and live streaming, the whole world and space is connected.”
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Kuhn is hosting a live show on April 20 where he will perform his entire new album live from a safe and socially distant location. There will also be an opening set by the Galveston based, roots reggae band Dem. Through his website fans can sign up for the mailing list receiving special content and insight ahead of their invitation to the live stream.
He will have some physical albums available for purchase online and in a wonderfully optimistic gesture, they can later be used as a ticket into one of his shows. Fans can also purchase and stream digital copies on April 20.
Though Kuhn is excited to share a physical release sometime in the future once we’ve all entered the new post-coronavirus normal, he sees the benefits of setting this album free now. “Something cool about the internet is, it doesn't cost any money to publish music and people can listen.”