Bye, thanks, see you all in church!

Hi everyone! This is my first Reddit AMA. I just released my 11th album Upland Stories on Bloodshot Records on Friday. The album was played and recorded live with an incredible cast of musicians by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago, IL. You can purchase the album on CD, vinyl LP, or digital here:

Here’s where I’ll be touring to support the record:

I have released 11 solo records on the Bloodshot, Geffen, Boondoggle (self), and Yep Roc labels, including the influential early alt-country records Country Love Songs (1996) and South Mouth (1997), and the widely acclaimed Georgia Hard (2005) and Gone Away Backward (2013). I’ve appeared on The Grand Ol’ Opry, NPR’s Fresh Air, PBS’s Austin City Limits, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Today Show, Last Call With Carson Daly, and 30 Rock.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. I want to answer your questions about the new album, my career, my favorite things, your favorite things, or quite literally, anything.

It's really me:

Comments: 126 • Responses: 46  • Date: 

Amymerchwench9 karma

Hi Robbie, why do I always lose my job when you are scheduled to be in central Illinois?

RobbieFulksOfficial6 karma

Hi Amy. I think you need to look within yourself for the answer to this. However, I'm glad you ended up on your feet in the thriving rural health care industry, and I hope not all of the questions to come are from people I know personally for then I will go to bed a little depressed.

Amymerchwench3 karma

My next question is when are you going to write a song about me? See ya in Bloomington on the 24th. Behave, I'm bringing my family. Oh and I am unemployed again. Go figure.

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma


squareleg7 karma

I saw you perform in Evanston and you played a great little subversive song called 'Religious Grandma'. I've never seen it mentioned in any album, concert, article, etc. Is there a recording of it available, or can you make one available?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

I didn't play it again (much less record it) because it just didn't feel substantial enough to me. I know it went over OK that night though.

oldtownschool6 karma

Hi Robbie - We know you used to teach here at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, and we loved having you play our Square Roots festival last year. Do you miss teaching? Any tips for any of our new teachers or students you'd like to share?

RobbieFulksOfficial8 karma

I'm done with teaching! A young guy asked me for a lesson several weeks ago, and I told him to come over with a bottle of good bourbon. Well, a pint is not what I call a bottle, and Makers Mark isn't that good!

oldtownschool3 karma

Well any time you want to "teach" with us on the side you let us know. We will have a nice bottle of...what, Four Roses Small Batch? Elijah Craig 12yr?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

OK, count me in. But I'm as lousy a teacher as I ever was.

Tall_Tonya6 karma

It's always been an "in-joke" that Couples in Trouble was among the least popular of your albums, but it seems to bear a resemblance to your last two albums in style and content. Do you think that the success of Gone Away Backwards and Upland Stories as compared to Couples in Trouble can be attributed to an evolution of the musical landscape over the past 15 years?

RobbieFulksOfficial2 karma

I'd be loath to infer anything about the landscape on the basis of my little records. I think the more Southern qualities of the last 2 make them more interesting than CiT. The narrower focus, I believe, makes them realer, and I hope people respond to that quality...

Ericfsu145 karma

Hi Robbie,

I'm loving the new album. I noticed in Upland Stories there are many references to God in relation to the characters and narrators of the songs. And it seems so sincere and in tune with a believer. You've also written the excellent "God Isn't Real". Is it hard to separate your own beliefs from the beliefs of your characters?

RobbieFulksOfficial6 karma

No, it really isn't, because one of the main pleasures for me in creating songs is to inhabit the mind of somebody unlike me. I think it's incumbent on us non-believers to make some effort to understand what impels faith, because that's how most people are wired, and have been for all time.

Frajer5 karma

What inspired you to cover Believe by Cher ?

RobbieFulksOfficial6 karma

I just liked it!

derailleurbsc5 karma

What is the name of your favorite Bike Shop Cafe and do you ever plan to play there again? Also, do you think you would ever consider writing a Musical?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

I know who you are, and here we go onto the next question...

spooney5 karma

If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life what album would it be?

RobbieFulksOfficial5 karma

Some top choices would be The Band's brown record, Annette Peacock's I'm The One, Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain...albums like that seem inexhaustible in their inspirations and hidden corners.

whiteknux4 karma

Do you consider your most recent two records (both of which I love) radical departures from your previous oeuvre or just the product of your gradual evolution as a songwriter?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

Kind of in between? In 2007 I was getting sick of banging around with my pretty-loud 4-piece format of 13 years' standing, in 2008 I decided to put it to rest, in '09 some dates w Jenny Scheinman and others revived my appetite and showed me the way to go forward with a happier attitude, and all that played into the kind of songs I put on the last 2 records. Too much information. I am still writing more variously than my last 2 might suggest. Some of this less-austere or less-acoustic-country shows up in my shows, and a lot of it will show up on a big digital package I'll soon dump on my website.

wonkydave2 karma

How soon? #impatient

RobbieFulksOfficial2 karma

maybe 6 months

Habeas4 karma

Hi Robbie, your video of Cigarette State live is one of my go-to videos. I've shown a lot of people, and watch it probably every few days. Also, my band Butchers Blind opened for you at Mercury Lounge in NYC a couple years back and you were an absolute pleasure to meet.

What is your take on the Robbie Robertson / Levon Helm debate that tore them apart for so long? Do you think the rest of The Band had as much right to the music as Robbie did? (No bias allowed because you share a name)

EDIT: If you're looking for support on your NYC/Brooklyn dates, we'd love to play with you again! If not, I'll be there either way!

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

Thanks. It was a fun show with you guys and I hope there's another. Those in-family disputes are hard to comment on from outside, but my impression about that, for what it's worth, which is really nothing, is that they all chipped in with crucial contributions (which put the Band a cut above, and which is why the individuals' post-Band records weren't as amazing) and that RR was shrewder than the others.

Diggory-Venn4 karma

First off, I just want to tell you that I listen to "I Like Being Left Alone" and "Fuck This Town" almost every day. I'm not sure if it's possible to have a favorite song, but those are very high up there for me.

My question(s): What have you found yourself listening to recently? As someone who has recorded/performed such a diverse catalogue of work, is there anything you listen to regularly that you think might surprise your fans? Thanks!

RobbieFulksOfficial4 karma

Thanks. Those are two pretty unalike songs. Both misanthropic, obviously. If you liked them, check out Coriolanus!

The last thing I was listening to was Anita Carter, before that Lonnie Johnson, Duke Levine, Dexter Gordon, and before that escapes me right now. I don't know that anything I listen to would surprise anyone, because I've always been upfront about having no-boundary tastes or at least interests. These days I'd say most of the stuff that attracts me doesn't have lyrics. I'm down on lyrics right now! Though Bobby Charles and Sonny Throckmorton, just two examples, really knew how to write 'em.

benlantern3 karma

Your blog posts have always been thoughtful and fun to read. Any plans to continue prose writing and publish a book?

wonkydave1 karma

Yes, I thought that too.

RobbieFulksOfficial7 karma

I'm thinking about a book right now but no firm plans. Thanks for the nice words about my posts. Since I joined twitter -- and now my wife has me sort of nominally on facebook -- and since my website design changed, I haven't been posting as much dense substance, but maybe I can get back to that, it's a nice way to work out my thoughts.

SnoopyCollins3 karma

You're known for playing music inspired by decades-old songwriters and artists. Who are your most contemporary influences?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

I do listen to stuff just coming out now but it may be too late in the day for me to be influenced by it -- certainly not the way I was influenced by Doc Watson or Martin Mull or someone like that back in the day. My teenaged hipster son turned me on to Wildbirds and Peacedrums last year and I love that group. Also (from him) Can and Don Caballero. In new mainstream country I like Miranda Lambert. Chris Stapleton of course. Michael Daves. In jazz Cecile McLorin Salvant; my dear friend Anat Cohen, though Anat's not "new" anymore I guess. Bad Bad Not Good. enough?

gunsforthehomeless3 karma

What kind of shoes are you most likely to be wearing when you perform?

RobbieFulksOfficial4 karma

Shoes my wife bought me.

petdance3 karma

What's so bad about Ronnie Milsap?

RobbieFulksOfficial4 karma

He's a fantastic singer. It's just too bad his name rhymes with "crap." Also, that song "Lost in The Fifties" -- come on, that was crap.

tonyloaf23 karma

Some of us are mourning the pending end to your Hideout residency and your Year End Wrap-Up. Where will you be sharing your peripatetic sensibilities in the future? Aren't you afraid of going mad without these outlets?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

Yes, I'm not sure how that will sit with me over time, and I may come crawling back...but I'm a proponent of forcing change if it doesn't just happen of its own accord, and 6 years of programming the Mondays and forcing new things into my head is definitely enough for now! Thanks for mourning, though.

wonkydave1 karma

He's going to move to Europe. I feel it in my bones.

RobbieFulksOfficial6 karma

Well, in my head it's 1955 and I'm black, so maybe!

markmcconville3 karma

Robbie, could you talk about the songwriting process, please? Is it a grind for you? Is it a process? Do you think about it at all, or do you just write? How many songs would you say that you start and never finish? How many songs come out fully formed in one shot? I realize that there's more than one question here. Apologies for that. I can repay you with a drink at an old man bar when you come to LA.

RobbieFulksOfficial6 karma

Well that's more of a book than a reddit answer, but let me tell you this much: start 100, finish 50, perform 30, record 15, release 12. Something like that happens. Even with that quality control, I end up disliking much of what I've recorded years later, but that may be inevitable. It is kind of a grind, it's probably the hardest thing I do! But HAVING done it is very nice.

mister4string3 karma


Long time fan here, and I'm also proud to call one of your former (?) sidemen a friend. I was very psyched for him when I heard he got the gig, but something has nagged at me all these years and I'd be remiss to not ask you while I had the chance, so here goes:

If my buddy had to bow out of a tour under dubious circumstances - say, broken fingers, for example - and I stepped in to save the day, would you hail me as a conquering hero or would something unsavory always linger in the back of your mind, a suspicion that I had caused his injury?

Purely hypothetical, you understand.

RobbieFulksOfficial5 karma

I'd never suspect a thing!

SputtleTuts3 karma

Who are you gonna vote for in November?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

Hillary Clinton.

ComeOnDoolittle3 karma

Hi Robbie! Can you tell us anything about the inspirations behind any of the songs on Couples In Trouble? It was my introduction to your music, and still my favorite album of yours due to just how different it sounds. "Real Money" and "Anything For Love" still give me goosebumps 15 years after first hearing the album. ("Daddy's got a friend in Macon/Governor calls him 'sir'" is one of my favorite lines in any song.)

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

Anything for Love I guess (it's a long time ago and I don't remember all the details) comes from a love of noir movies; I was picturing something like Dick Powell or Sterling Hayden walking around San Francisco at night. And Lucinda Williams was surely in the back of my head as well. Real Money is trying to generate interest with not-too-much detail: something bad is going on, but from the kid's perspective it's hard to get a sure grip on it. Thanks.

wonkydave2 karma

Hi Robbie - what are your touring plans for "Upland Stories"?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

I'll be in almost all major markets in the continental US. If you live in Elko, NV or Key West, FL, you're shit out of luck!

gunsforthehomeless2 karma

what's a good rock album i should listen to?

RobbieFulksOfficial8 karma

Shoes my wife bought me.

exfilm2 karma

Hi Robbie, How is working with Steve Albini, and how is he different from working with other producers? I've read that he considers himself an "engineer," and not a "producer," and I'm curious as to how you believe this helps/hurts a recording session. I like the idea that he is basically trying to create a record of what the band he is recording sounds like, without putting his own fingerprints on their music. Thank you for all your amazing music, and you're incomparable Monday nights at the Hideout! I'll take my answer off the air. edit: werds

RobbieFulksOfficial6 karma

I don't really buy that picture Steve paints of himself as the ultimate non-interventionist, because all the records he records sound like nothing else out there! But that said, his mixes being non-automated (i.e., two hands working in real time account for most of the mixing you hear on his records) and his post-tracking instincts leaning strongly to minimal alteration does account for what you're getting at. To get a feeling for how he differs from other producers or producer/engineers, check out "Mix With The Masters." A lot of those guys are full of schtick and funny clothes and pompous personalities. Steve is a real good antidote to all that horseshit.

SnoopyCollins2 karma

What do you look for in a guitar? What's your favorite guitar you ever played?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

I love my Collings DH2, which I bought for a big show w Liz Carroll in 2012. It took me a lot of years to give in and get a Collings. I had a sort of snobbery about it, a lot of lawyers seem to play them, and I love old guitars. But it's my go-to now, and I also love my McAlister 00-style mahogany guitar which Roy made for me in 2009. I guess I look for a neck that doesn't feel too thin or delicate, because I have big hands...intonation...if it can take a little banging, great....beyond that it's pretty non-generalizable, each great one tends to be great in its own manner.

wonkydave2 karma

Do any recordings exist of the collaboration with Redd Volkaert? If so, might they be released?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

If you own a label that likes losing money, let me know! For now the 2 records I worked on w Redd (Touch My Heart and Georgia Hard) will have to do. I LOVED travelling with him, that's no lie, and I'm constantly thinking of new projects to try and keep him near my person.

timisoara12102 karma

Hello, Robbie. You have toured with some remarkable players in the past. Who is going on the road with you this time?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

Thanks a lot for asking that one. Next couple months I'll be doing a combination of trio dates with Todd Phillips and Shad Cobb, and quintet with Shad & Todd plus Pete Finney and Gerald Dowd. In the summer and fall I've got a couple bluegrass dates that will probably bring people like Don Stiernberg, Missy Raines, and Aaron Till back into the fold.

whiteknux2 karma

Would you ever do another deep catalog covers record like "Hillbilly" ?

RobbieFulksOfficial5 karma

Naah, done it.

mike-foley2 karma

Hey Robbie, when are you coming back to Massachusetts? Laura (purple door at rear) and I haven't seen you since she was preggers with the 2nd one over ten years ago!

I still think Georgia Hard was your best album.


RobbieFulksOfficial5 karma

Yeah, you were good 11 years ago too. I'll be back there May 5, at Passim.

whiteknux2 karma

Has enough time passed for you to reveal the name of the performer from your great "My Day" story of your gig in Portland, Maine?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

I don't remember, the guy who fucked around? I better not! Good memory there, Mr. Man Who Knew Too Much.

Ericfsu142 karma

What happened to the guitar with the obscenely large pickguard? What brand is that new one?

RobbieFulksOfficial4 karma

Ha, that's my dad's 000 1965 Martin, and it was 2 pickguards. It's right here near me, I just about beat it to death over the years (same way Dad did me back in 1965!).

misterjayem2 karma

If you could require every American to read one book in the next year, what book would it be?

RobbieFulksOfficial4 karma

Is this a political question? I don't know. I hate required reading.

MarkEcklund2 karma

Hello Robbie. We are looking forward to seeing you next week in Mifflinburg, PA. How do you plan to perform all your new music---particularly your last two albums, and still have time to mix in some of our old favorites? Your catalog is getting so big. Is it a challenge to plan what you're going to play each night? Or do you just wing it?

RobbieFulksOfficial2 karma

Hi Ecklund family, how's Suzanne doing? This time out we're following a set list, and there's tunes from across most of the records, though I'm trying for the first time to avoid a couple that I've done every show since 1997 (Let's Kill SN and She Took Pills). Coming up with new set lists is a pleasure....

Pokabou2 karma

What's your favorite city to perform in?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

Seattle, Houston, Missoula, Madison, Chicago, NYC, Charlottesville, Lexington, Tulsa, Boston, and D.C. are all up there, and I really could go on!

WallyCanseco2 karma

Hey Robbie! How about a Ryan Adams themed site at the Hideout?

RobbieFulksOfficial8 karma

I really don't like his music!

infrasteve2 karma

How did you get so tall?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

Root vegetables and corn liquor!

Ericfsu142 karma

I love the laugh on "Katy Kay" - did you immediately know you were going to keep it on the album? Was there a specific reason for the laugh? I WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THE LAUGH.

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

Ha. Steve Albini was strongly in favor of keeping the laugh, and I didn't argue.

DPR44441 karma

Robbie- Who is playing with with you on the current tour? See you 05/12!

RobbieFulksOfficial1 karma

see above

SaintAdhoc1 karma

do you like Wrestling, if so who's your favorite Wrestler?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

I used to, haven't kept up. Professional, right? Andre the Giant, Roddy Piper, Valiant Bros., etc.

SaintAdhoc1 karma

have you ever got a voice crack when on stage?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

Oh sure, but you know what they say about cracks, fuck 'em!

maudefindlay1 karma

Hi Robbie, long time no see.

I've always wondered if you like rap music and what do you like to do that isn't music?

RobbieFulksOfficial2 karma

Maude Findlay? I loved when you threw plates at Bill Macy's head, and yes it has been a long time since I saw you. You know I bought rap music when it was a new trending thing in the 1980s, and liked it, but I just haven't kept up with it. I went into this country wormhole in the late 1980s and by the time I came out of it I was way too old to be seen with a boombox on my shoulder or an ipod full of Katy Perry.

In the not-music realm I like to cook, read, jog, and make love. What a wuss.

mleffler21 karma

I have a strong desire to play music myself, but have not yet found a way to stay engaged with actually doing it. I would like to learn how to be an intuitive musician, how to jam, improvise, etc. Do you have any advice for me?

RobbieFulksOfficial2 karma

It's a lifetime endeavor, and somehow you just have to find players who are as good as or better than you and try to play with them. It seems that for every 8 hours you play you get 8 hours better -- then you sleep and get 7 hours worse. So you have to keep at the ratio. (I'm not really being flip.)

KarenHlly1 karma

"Needed" is amazing. It seems to be you offering advice to your son as he heads off to college. What did Preston think of the song?

RobbieFulksOfficial3 karma

Thanks! I'm not sure whether he's heard that one. Country music isn't exactly his thing.