For the way Bruce and Charlie Robison’s careers have gone, you’d think they must have been plotted since birth. Wrong.
“We never planned for anything like this,” Bruce Robison said. “We were off to college and had no thoughts of playing music. When we both dropped out of college and decided to move to Austin, we kind of just fell into it.”
Added Charlie Robison, “There wasn’t even anybody that was musical in our family. We were all fans and grew up on a ranch together with a lot of good music being played, but that’s about it.”
It’s become the brothers’ lives and livelihood, each one mirroring the other. They’ve both released more than a halfdozen albums, written hit singles and sustained successful solo country careers for more than 15 years. The pair has traveled a parallel path from the very beginning, and every intersection has pushed them farther than before. It’s appreciated now, but the invisible cord was resented before.
“I used to hate it,” Bruce Robison said. “When we first started out, it was like getting a job and having your sibling at the next desk over, and you were just trying to get noticed and figure out who you were.”
“When I hear one of his records, it gets me inspired and wanting to write,” Charlie Robison said. “It’s the same way with him. It’s not some competition … it just helps fuel the creative fire for both of us.”
I used to hate it.
For all their similarities, there are just as many differences, and that’s probably why sibling rivalry didn’t get the best of them.
Bruce is the songsmith and vanguard who keeps his eye on industry trends; Charlie is the truer performer, with the charisma and presence of the country troubadours of the 1970s and ’80s. They both admire what the other has and strive toward it.
“We go about music a lot different,” Charlie Robison said. “He’s a technician with the songs, he writes all the time, and is one of those people who write three to four days a week. I’m on the road a little more, do a lot more traveling, and I’m the one writing ideas on napkins in a hotel room, putting it together a week before I go into the studio.”
Said Bruce Robison, “When we were growing up, he was much more of a gregarious, explosive kind of personality, and that’s the way his music comes out. He has that feeling like Willie or Merle where he can sing anything. He has a persona that comes through really strong, and that’s a gift.”
Looking forward, Bruce Robison is planning a duets album with his wife, Lawton-born Kelly Willis, as well as a steady stream of digital singles; Charlie Robison is preparing to record a followup to his 2009 album, “Beautiful Day.”
Until then, both will continue to tour, realizing it’s only a matter of time before their paths cross again, like their nearmiss at Wormy Dog Saloon, with each playing within a week’s time.
Bruce Robison will have you know they look forward to that now.
“It’s hard to imagine doing this alone,” he said.