His father, a singer-songwriter, moved Roebuck and his mother, then a hairstylist, traveled around the country in pursuit of a musical career. By the time they moved back to Virginia Beach, when Roebuck was in junior high, he had attended 19 different schools. In high school Roebuck was versatile; surfing, performing in theater, and by then, he was also performing in clubs he wouldn’t have been allowed into otherwise. He was also constantly songwriting. “It always just flowed for me, although the better songs were harder to come by…but you write 10 or 12 of them and boom, you find a good one.” Roebuck was influenced by folk (Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, and the music his father was making) as well as punk rock.
Punk he was introduced to by his Uncle Kenny, whose band had once opened up for the Ramones. After high school, Roebuck went to Philly to attend acting school. After a couple years, he quit, moved back to Hampton Roads, and started his first band, The Hollowbodies, with his cousin Shea Roebuck. In 1993 the two moved to New York and not much later signed with A&M Records. Phillip also signed as a songwriter for Warner Brothers.
He was only 23. But then the label was bought by Universal the same month The Hollowbodies’ debut single was to be released. One minute the Roebucks were ready to hear their songs on the radio, get the acclaim they so wanted. And the next, there was nothing. After The Hollowbodies split, Roebuck started performing in the New York City streets. He taught himself to play the banjo by playing for 8 hours a day every day for 30 days in a row, down in the subway.
And slowly, he started building the one-man band, adding in whatever he needed to get the job done; a suitcase as a bass drum, drums on his back, a cymbal here or there. Come to find out he was once hired by Spike Lee to perform in a commercial and talk about being a street musician–the spot aired during the 2000 Academy Awards. “Playing on the street has always been a holy thing to me. Those are real musicians. It was never the opposite, like, oh that’s pan-handling–which some people see it that way. It was always, to me, the pinnacle.
If you could play in the street, you must be really good.” He started playing with a band called Brooklyn Browngrass. He fell in love in Brooklyn, married, and had two babies. He then left Brooklyn and moved to LA in 2003 to pursue acting. “It was awesome. I was doing really well in LA.
My acting career was taking off, my music was jamming, I was going to Europe a lot. Good things were happening. And then my wife left me. Took the babes.
Moved back to Seattle, left me in LA. And it shattered me.” He wrote Fever Pitch in his sadness, and in 2006 he impressed audio engineer Steve Albini who offered to record it. He moved back to New York for another short period of time. Then he got sick and moved back to his home in Virginia. In the course of all that time Roebuck recorded five solo albums and over a dozen more with numerous bands.
In 2009, he wrote an operetta for Julliard. Phillip Roebuck has built a recording studio at his mother’s home in Hampton Roads, but you can still find him playing the streets of Norfolk with his quintessential folk/punk sound. http://www.philliproebuck.com/ Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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