cambridge-based youtuber and artist, robin skinner, also known as cavetown, describes himself as an “18 yr old boy who wants to make music forever” and a lover of “reptiles and chill beats.”
with over 10 million views on his youtube channel, robin continues to create amazing, inducing content ranging from videos with his chameleon, caspar, recording either original or cover songs, and even interrailing with friends. his lovable personality and diverse content brings viewers back for more, always.
before his spectacular gig at the republic of pie in north hollywood, i had the opportunity to sit down with robin for this interview. let me just say, i can confirm now that robin truly is simply just an eighteen year old boy who wants to make music forever.
robin greets me with a sweet hello and and we sit at a small table at the corner of the room, and he places his guitar to the side of him. only a few sounds in the café can be heard – the murmurs of conversation between either young teens or busy looking people blabbing away on their phones; baristas shouting a name for a customer’s drink to be retrieved; the grinding of coffee beans. all the sounds blend together to create a chaotic but peaceful noise at the same time. fairy lights surround the perimeter of the room to give a nice, warm effect, and for some reason, e.t. is playing on a tv attached to the wall – but it’s completely muted. the café is very intimate and feels as if it’s a mix between a seventeen year old girl’s bedroom and urban outfitters. this is an indie rock album as a café. we chat about how things are going and how california is compared to cambridge, and he leaves to gets us both refills of water. when he returns, i unlock my phone to open voice memos, and it all begins.
“i really like my creative freedom, because when i first started wanting to do music, you kind of assume ‘oh, i have to get signed’ because that’s a step that you have to go through,” robin explains to me in between occasional sips of water. “but, then i realised what being signed really meant – it’s just them kind of taking control and some of your money away and stuff. i just really like the freedom and feel as if i’m doing fine as i am; i don’t really need a label to help me grow. i feel comfortable being myself.”
robin has been making music for a couple years – in fact, his first video uploaded on his channel is from october 2013. he tells me that he feels as if he doesn’t need to be signed to be successful, since he posts his content on several platforms already, saying “i feel like record labels are really for people that don’t know how to put themselves out there, and i don’t really need that at all.” with almost 200k subscribers and over 10 million views, robin is, with no doubt, putting himself out there.
the topic is changed; we talk about his passions aside from music, and robbie giggles. “well, i do like to draw. i used to do a lot more filmmaking than i do now; i used to want to be a director. i would make my own little films, but then i had them all on a hard drive and i dropped it and i lost everything,” he chuckles. “that passion kind of ended there. i was just like, ‘whatever, it’s done!'” robin then asks if i want another refill of water, and i comply. he sits back down again and the conversation drifts easily, like a log in a river.
“the trip was really fun. i’d never been away from home for that long,” robin tells me. previously, he’d been away for a month on his interrailing trip with his two friends, felix and alex. “i feel like we got to know each other more even though we’re really close. i don’t know, it feels like ages, but it’s been about three to four years. i got to know them better, and i feel like i’m more independent and feel more ready to go ‘out there’ in the world now as well? i feel as if that was the main thing that i took away from it, because i had to organize all of our train trips and get us to places on time, get us up on time… i learned the outside world isn’t as scary as you’d think and there is a way around it if you mess up.”
he laughs when i mention the amount of dogs he filmed to put in the interrailing videos. “every time a dog was coming up, i got my camera out to film very discreetly and got so many bad looks from their owners.”
the dog talk transitions to music talk, and i ask robin about his songwriting process. “it just… happens,” he confesses hesitantly. “i never sit down and say ‘i’m going to write a song now’ and then it works. i can never do that, i can never just force myself to write a song. it kind of has to happen naturally. most of the time, it starts out with a chord sequence. i’ll think of something that i like and i’ll play it in a loop, and then a tune will pop into my head that i feel like fits it,” he looks thoughtful now. “i also have a little notes folder on my phone of lyrics that i think of; single lines. they’ll pop into my head and i’ll write them down, and i can sometimes use that for inspiration if i can’t think of any words. then, i’ll write a song based off of that one line that i thought. when my mind wants to write a song, it kind of flows out.”
we continue to talk about music – his inspirations, the songs he’s going to play, and if he has any current projects he’s working on. “i’m always working on new music. i basically just keep writing songs, and when i reach twelve songs and i put it into an album and create it. youtube is definitely going to become a bigger project now that i’ve finished school. i’m going to try to work on more music videos… getting more gigs and stuff. i’m moving all of that forward,” he says confidently.
“it did feel weird. it feels weird when you’re just miming yourself; i didn’t sing. i just kind of mouthed my own lyrics, not looking at the camera,” robin explains. “it wasn’t a crew, it was just my friend khan filming and two other ones, and they didn’t even do anything- they were just there.”
robin has only one music video at the moment, titled ‘banana bread.’ it depicts him and his friends out in a field, with simple, yet beautiful stills. “so basically, i was just being filmed lip-syncing which is such an intimate thing that you do by yourself in your room. yeah, it was a weird experience, but it turned out really well, didn’t it? it was really pretty. it was so cold that day though! it was freezing cold. you could see my breath during one of the clips. khan is a really talented guy,” a satisfied robbie says.
he then tells me about how he motivates himself to make music. “i find it hard to force motivate myself. that’s something i can’t really do. if you’re finding it hard to write a song, you gotta go away and do something else for a bit and come back when you’re in the right frame of mind. otherwise, you just get frustrated and the whole thing turns out bad,” says robbie, still sipping his water. he looks around the room and notices there are more people than there were at the beginning of this interview. a girl waves at him, and he waves back. “songs are one of the best things that you can create. i’d rather create them naturally rather than forced and artificial. the best thing for me, really, is to go off on a walk to go do something else, whether it’s playing a video game or going on the internet. then, i’ll come back to my project and my motivation is refuelled.”
throughout our conversation, several fans come up to the table with nervous and anxious faces. robbie laughs sweetly every time he’s handed a gift by a fan, whether it’s fan art or a box of cheez-its. he reassures them that they shouldn’t be as scared as they currently are. several pictures are taken, with robbie never failing to smile as brightly as the fan.
robin then tells me about the effects his music has had on others. “people have really opened up to me and told me stories of the things that they went through, and how my music has somehow made them feel better. it’s really surreal; i never really expected my music to mean that much to other people,” he takes another sip of water and checks the time on his phone. it’s getting closer to his gig, so he takes out his setlist from his backpack and places it on the table.
“i didn’t want to write and play music just to make people feel better, that wasn’t my intention. it was more to make myself feel better, initially. but, the fact that, along the way, my music has helped people is really cool. i don’t know, it’s so weird; i can’t wrap my head around that quite yet.”
i unlock my phone once again and stop the recording. it’s 5:58 or so, and the show is about to start. robin then adjusts the hood on his jacket and walks up onto the small stage with his guitar. he plugs it in, strums a chord, and adjusts the microphone.
suddenly, the sounds heard in the café are not soft murmurs nor the opening and closing of doors anymore. the only things that can be heard now are beautiful blends of acoustic strings, and robin’s wonderful voice. the audience’s smiles shine like the fairy lights hung up on the walls. the grinding of the coffee beans are drowned out by the music, and everything is at peace.
words and images by Kacie Ta. see more of kacie’s work on instagram
Words by HQ