HELLO AMERICA!—My travels allow many opportunities to meet a vast array of interesting people. Colorful conversations introduce interesting common ground and I recently found that common bond with Robin Robinson. A country music singer turned entrepreneur, who during her many creative efforts has had to make challenging decisions about life and her career. What she has learned about herself during this journey is quite profound and worthy of hearing.
Robin Robinson with her horse "Nic"
MSJ: You have such a passion for Country Western Music, when did this emotional attachment began?
RR: Interesting to hear it called 'Country Western' again - When I was growing up listening to Connie Smith, Loretta Lynn, Jennie C. Riley, Buck Owens, Jimmy Dean, Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline... it was called Country Western music... as it still enjoyed the influence and connection to the velvety Western ballads. Today, and during my career, the 'western' was dropped and it became Country Music. It is very interesting to see how children very early on are drawn to certain things - mine was singing and horses. Country music was played in my house, so that is what I learned and it tuned my heart in that direction.
MSJ: Who was your male and female idols of this kind of music and why?
RR: My music career was during the time of Kenny Rogers, Barbara Mandrell, Crystal Gayle, Alabama...no competition, Right? But as great as they were – I have to go further back to the velvet voice of Jim Reeves and the pure expression of Patsy Cline. They are among the best when it comes to their amazing voice perfectly interpreting a song.
MSJ: When you decided to concentrate on Country Western music as a singer what was the reaction of your family and friends?
RR: Mom always encouraged me to do talent shows, local venues and such – so my first little fringed skirt and cowboy hat was at the age of 10. After college, and getting married to my love of the last 36 years – My husband Jim encouraged me to get back into the music field … the fringed skirt was now bigger (and a little shorter). I don't think I put the cowboy hat back on, but I soon re-discovered the adrenaline rush and just plain fun I had WITH people – singing to them, having fun with them...stage was a very comfortable place for me.
MSJ: Did you change very much as a singer or did performing before huge audiences give you more confidence in yourself and what you chose as a career?
RR: I was on the road with my band for ten years. We did a variety of venues: state and local fairs, conventions, etc, I was also in the business during the time when promoters brought in named acts and then hired opening acts to precede them. I was the opening act (kinda like the bridesmaid and never the bride). I opened for some great talent – Hank Williams Jr., The Statler Brothers, Ray Stevens, Sawyer Brown, to name a few. Performing for fund raisers, charity events and a USO Tour into Panama with my brother-in- law Chris Robinson (Doc Rick – General Hospital) helped keep everything in perspective. I think you have to have confidence in yourself before choosing this kind of career – I could never have run up on any size stage without thinking 'I can do this' first. That does not mean I was not scared, nervous and humbled before every show – the good thing was – the finish line for the nerves was starting the show.
Robin Robinson and Michael St. John
MSJ: You also have been quite effective as a business executive as well, was the transition from artist to manufacturing of a product more challenging, and in what way?
RR: I came off the road in 1989. The ability to remember good things is one of God's greatest gifts and I would not trade my memories of those years for anything! Scripture says that our life is a vapor; here for a short time and then it vanishes away... I felt the need to move on to new experiences and new challenges. Looking back on my business career I would have to emphasize the 'challenge' part. My husband and I started our business literally in the basement of our home. Then we hired one little, older lady (part time) and moved to our garage. The first place we rented for our baby company – I was very hesitant- cause I thought all our profit was going to just cover the rent and we still needed to pay the four ladies that we employed. As every responsible, small company owner knows – every dime goes back into growing your new endeavor, taking care of those who are helping you make it successful. It was risk taking, grueling, stressful, 24/7, creatively stretching to meet a very demanding, competitive market. I was determined to create what had not been done before... With God's grace and help, Old Virginia Candle Company is now an international, multi-million dollar Corporation. We sold the company in 2000.
MSJ: What was the most important thing you learned as a business woman and how did it effect those around you i.e., family, friends or even your partner? Did it make you a more independent woman or human being?
RR: You truly cannot understand the inner workings of something until you experience it yourself. I am very blessed to have enjoyed two rewarding careers. What may look easy or enviable may not take into account the dues that were paid to get there. So I try not to underestimate the price people have paid to get where they are.
MSJ: Do you like yourself better now as an experienced professional woman who has earned a position of professional acceptance after your years as a singer as well as a business executive?
RR: I grew up in a family that lived pay check to pay check. Hard work and sacrifice was a way of life, so it never occurred to me that anything worth doing would be easy. Mom used to tell us the story about the little boy shoveling a big pile of manure in the barn – when asked why he was doing it he said “with all this manure, there has got to be a pony here somewhere!” God wired me exactly the way. He wanted me for the reason. He has me here – I took His gifts and grace and and never stopped believing I could find that pony. There is a plaque I keep on my desk at home; it simply says 'Be patient, God is not finished with me yet'. Do I have a 3rd career in me – very doubtful...I realize there is more in my rear view mirror than is in front of me – I now enjoy loving on my four grandbabies, my wonderful family and husband Jim, singing on the praise team at church, and another dream come true – finally – my Horse Nicolas!