Rondo Mo, aka Robbie Redway, is an upcoming yet multitalented producer, singer/ songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Based in Margate, Robbie has released a string of original singles, including ‘Arp Chime’, ‘Gold & Fire’ ‘Hymnal’ and ‘First Flight’. Drawing on his lived experiences, his lyrics tend to touch on themes of mental health and the different facets of human thought and relationships. He has slowly started gaining respect and recognition as a solo artist in the live sphere, with gigs at venues such as Corsica Studios, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Scotch of St James, Rich Mix and Sofar Sounds starting to clock up. We caught up with the man himself, on the day of release of his latest single 'Cinemas'.
Hi Rondo Mo - please could you give us a short intro to you and your music in just a few lines?
Hi there. I would say I'm a singer, songwriter and music producer from the UK and the music I'm currently making is a hybrid of left-field pop and electronic indie. With the occasional bit of trumpet.
Tell us about why you decided to pursue music seriously when you were relatively young - studying Music at University is a big decision. Were there any bands you were especially inspired by as a teenager?
To be honest, I really wanted to study at Leeds Uni but didn't work hard enough in my A-levels to do History, so they let me in on the Music course. I was obviously very into music so it all worked out fine. I was really obsessed with Jeff Buckley, Radiohead and Jimi Hendrix when I was younger (still am). I also had some questionable tastes (didn't we all) and also loved pop-punk and ska for a time. I saved my garage phase for my twenties weirdly.
What were the very first tracks you officially released - either as part of a group or solo - and how did they sound?
Around the same time as each other, I released an indie track called 'Lamplight' with my band Youth Imperial, as well as a garagey/housey double A-side on Madtech Records which was produced by Citizenn and Thefft. It was a confusing era! It was cool to be involved in two very different scenes but also I probably should have focused on one thing at a time.
How has your sound evolved since then and why?
Well I've learned to produce my own music since then, so I suppose my sound is more personal, and I think my music now is an attempt to combine both of those worlds (the electronic and the instrumental). Lyrically I'm probably more thoughtful now. Maybe i just have a bit more to think about. Through working extensively with Harry Agius (Midland) I learnt a lot about sound design and the importance of not overloading my productions with layers just for the sake of it. Like any field the more you do something the better you get at it, but because music is so subjective that may not always come through to a wider audience. Saying that, I'm also much more making music out of love for the creating, which I think is healthier than thinking 'who is this for'.
Why did you go for the name Rondo Mo? Is there any meaning behind this?
When I was younger I played the cello and would often play these movements called Rondos. It's basically a type of musical form and I always liked the word. Then I was travelling round the US and saw a town called 'Rondo, Mo' (Missouri) on the map. I thought it rolled off the tongue quite well, so that's now my music name.
You’ve spoken about the role of therapy, meditation and yoga in helping you get back on track after a difficult period following the breakup of both a relationship and your former band. Are there any techniques in particular you would recommend? How would you advise other creatives who might be struggling with a motivational and mental block?
It's been as absolute game changer. As you say, there was a pretty tricky period I went through (a classic existential crisis type thing) and I found yoga and meditation around the same time. Physically and mentally it's opened up a whole world of practice where I can pretty much just sit by myself and have a therapy session. Pretty cool. I actually teach yoga now as my side hustle and recently completed my first 10 day silent vipassana meditation course (which I would recommend to anyone). As I say there's so much out there but I would start off just by going to your local yoga studio and trying a Hatha Yoga practice. And don't be put off by how hard it is at first. Motivational and mental block is just par for the course and I am by no means free from it. My advice would be just to be kind to yourself and not be too self-critical and just keep going, but take frequent breaks. And meditate at least once a day.
You’ve said that moving to Margate was also a very influential moment for you. What is it about the town that you love so much?
The obvious one is living by the sea. That's given my life a whole new dimension. The skies are incredible (just ask Turner). The community in Margate is full of interesting, creative people and it's also been very welcoming, hardly any egos. There's always something going on. It's also much more affordable than London - I have been able to build a studio in my garden where I can work whenever I want. So that's helped hugely with my creative output.
Can you name your favourite hotspots in Margate? Bars, gig venues, restaurants, secret spots?
Urchin Wines - an amazing wine shop/bar and gallery space. The Sun Deck for beachside dancing on a weekend afternoon. So many good places to eat - Angela's, Hantwerk and Found, Bottega Carruso to name a few. Walpole Bay Tidal Pool is the place to go for a cold swim and to get away from the crowds on a sunny day. The Tom Thumb Theatre is my favourite music venue, not just in Margate! And I'm headlining there on the 20th Sept. Which is nice.
Onto your new single, ‘Cinemas’. You’ve said that "Metaphorically the 'cinemas' in the song are our phones, laptops etc - the song is about how using them, particularly for social media, can be so detrimental to our health.” Have you ever had problems with social media use? How do you manage it?
Most people I know have a problem with it. It's detaching us from reality and giving us a false sense of connection with the outside world. Bad news generally, but it does give people with all sorts of things to say a platform. This can be so so positive but also often negative. Like everything, it's about balance. I've actually not been using social media much recently which is probably detrimental to my music career! (whoops) But also quite good for my mental health.
The single is a bit of a departure in style from your previous tracks. What made you decide to go for more of a poppy sound?
I just started writing songs with choruses again and really enjoying it. I think it came from moving into my new place in Margate and wanting to write songs in purer form on the piano again, which I couldn't really do in my little shared flat in London. So the pop structure just came back naturally. It wasn't really in my mind to be more 'pop' but that's maybe what's happened.
What else have you got coming up that you can tell us about? Where can Guestlist readers catch you playing next?
I have my first London headline show, at Bermondsey Social Club on the 19th September (tickets on Dice) and then Margate on the 20th. These will be in celebration of the full 'Cinemas EP' - due out around the same time with a limited run of vinyl copies. My main focus over the summer will be working on the live show and also writing what I hope is forming into an album. I've got a set of demos that I'm pretty happy with that I'm using as a stylistic template for a bigger body of work. Keep your eyes and ears peeled.