“Music is the best way for me to process what’s going on inside of me and also around me. So, that’s why I’ve just kind of never stopped.”
I used to listen to music just for the sound. If I loved the beat, someone’s voice, or a rhythm, that’s all I needed. But over the last five years, I’ve started to care just as much about lyrics as the melodies—and it’s made me much more grateful for the powerful messaging in conscious music.
My guest today is Rob Riccardo, who is literally one of my favorite musicians of all time! His lyrics uplift and inspire me. They have the power to elevate my consciousness and have helped me through life’s most difficult moments, including my struggles with depression.
Rob is a deep, thoughtful, and enlightened individual. It was fascinating to get to talk with him, hear his journey, and learn more about the way he’s approached music and life—especially as he’s navigated the pandemic over the last two years.
You’re going to walk away from this episode with a refreshed mindset around living in the present moment and accepting happiness into your life—even if reality is different than what you imagined!
- Rob shares his creative process and where the inspiration for his uplifting songs come from.
- Why we all have so much more in common than we think we do.
- How Rob rediscovered his love for music, after not playing for 5-years straight.
- How to silence the voice in your head that tells you that your creative work isn’t good enough and find the confidence to share your message.
- Why the fantasy we imagine is almost always better than the reality when we arrive—and why nothing beats the present moment!
- If you can’t learn to be happy with what you have now, what makes you think that you’ll know how to be happy with what you think you want in the future?
- When we focus on things that are out of our control, we feel out of control. Find out what to do instead!
- The power of setting goals without getting attached to the results
- How to navigate the challenges in your life with curiosity and an ever-shifting mindset.
THIS EPISODE IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY:
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Hal Elrod: Hello and welcome to the Achieve Your Goals podcast. This is your host, Hal Elrod. And today is a treat. I am talking to one of my favorite musicians in the world of all time. It’s a big statement to make. There have been a lot of musicians in all of our lives. Rob Riccardo is one of my favorites. In fact, you're going to hear me tell him that in the beginning of the conversation. And I think, I fanboy a little bit. As I think back to how I opened the interview, I think it was fanboying a little bit. But you're going to hear from Rob about– it's so much more than music. It's really, he is, to me, a conscious musician at the highest level. His lyrics have impacted me in a transformative way. You'll hear me tell him that he's my life coach on one hand and my spiritual guru on the other hand. And his music has helped me through some of the most challenging times in my life about a year and a half ago, when I was going through depression, and then to this day, they just uplift me, they inspire me, they help to elevate my consciousness, they being his songs.
And so, I really think you're going to enjoy today's episode. I enjoyed this conversation. I think you're going to get a lot out of it and just hearing from Rob, hearing his creative process, and hearing how the lyrics that he writes, where they come from, right? Does he write them for us, the listener? Does he write them for himself? It's really fascinating to hear an artist. And also, you'll hear his journey, and I ask him the question, being a musician, what's better, the fantasy or the reality? And his answer to that question is pretty interesting, and I think applies to all of us because I think for all of us, we've got a fantasy of what we want life to be like, but then there's the reality of what life is like now and what it will be like even when we create the things that we want. You're going to hear Rob, who's just a very deep, thoughtful, I would almost say enlightened individual. And when you hear his perspective in the way that he approaches life, the way he's approached the last two years dealing with the challenges that the pandemic has brought for all of us, again, you're going to walk away with a mindset that I think will be really inspiring and empowering for you.
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Without further ado, a conversation with one of my favorite musicians in the world, Mr. Rob Riccardo.
Hal Elrod: Rob Riccardo, man, it is such a pleasure to finally connect with you face-to-face.
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, I’m super honored to be on. Sounds like there was a handful of different people trying to make it happen, so I’m glad we’re finally connecting.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, it was Brianna Greenspan, and then who eventually introduced us?
Rob Riccardo: Brad Mulvey.
Hal Elrod: Brad Mulvey, yeah. The universe was conspiring, for sure. And I think I’ve told you this, but for everybody listening like you are literally one of, if not my favorite musicians of all time. So, (A) that’s…
Rob Riccardo: That’s crazy.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, that’s high praise, right? But (B) it’s cool that as a fan of yours, and we talked about this a few minutes ago, but it’s not that I’m just a fan of your music, meaning like I used to listen to music like a lot of will do, which is like the sound of the music, right? Oh, I love the beat. I love that person’s voice. I love the rhythm. But for me, over the last five years or so, as I’ve really focused on kind of elevating my consciousness, the lyrics now mean as much as the melodies. And to me, you’re arguably one of, if not the most conscious musicians I’ve ever heard in terms of your lyrics. And I actually, I’m going to start by just sharing the impact that your music’s out on me, and not just because I want to tell you personally, but everybody listening to this, I really want you to hear this because it’s pretty profound. And I don’t know that there’s any other artists that I can say this about. And I think for most people there might not be the impact most music has on a person.
But anyway, here’s the point. So, it started out, Brianna Greenspan sent me your music, and I was going through a period of depression about a year, a year and a half ago, going through a really serious depression. And it was specifically your album, The Fire in Me, and as I listened to the songs and listening to the lyrics, I’ve told people this, I said, it’s like Rob’s my life coach and my spiritual guru, like all in one. And in the song, it’s speaking to me, it’s coaching me through this thing called life and the challenges that we all face. And just one of my favorite songs of yours is When Will I Learn, and the lyric, “When will I learn that I’ve got all the answers? When will I learn that I’ve got all I need? When will I learn that–” what’s the next line?
Rob Riccardo: Oh, you put me on the spot, it’s hard to remember when I’m not singing it, “When will I learn that the path isn’t easy and…”
Hal Elrod: And something about being, I’ve got everything to be free, something like that, right? Sorry, I put you on the spot.
Rob Riccardo: No, it’s funny. I think a lot of musicians have that, like if they’re trying to recite it without singing along to the melody.
Hal Elrod: No, I do it all the time. People ask me about, they’re like in your book, you talked about this thing, and then can you talk about, I’m like, I did? I haven’t read my own book in like seven years. I don’t remember that.
Rob Riccardo: Yeah. And the line as I just remember it, “When will I learn that the path isn’t easy? And what I seek is already in me.”
Hal Elrod: What I seek is already in me, like that’s like the best advice that one human being can give to another, right? Like, hey, friend, it’s okay. I know you’re struggling, but when will you learn? You’ve got all the answers, you’ve got all you need. The path isn’t easy, but I mean, what’s the last line?
Rob Riccardo: When will I learn what I seek is…
Hal Elrod: Everything you need is inside of me?
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, everything I seek is already in me.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Anyway, so now that we butchered the lyrics.
Rob Riccardo: I think I did too, so it’s fine.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I just want to say that I sent that album to a friend, and she had a day dedicated to self-healing. And I sent her that album, I said, “Hey, listen to this.” And she texted me at the end of the day, she said, “I listened to Rob’s album over and over and over all day, and it was a huge part of my healing journey,” and…
Rob Riccardo: That’s awesome.
Hal Elrod: My friend Kaleena, and I said, “I get it.” I said, “You’re preaching to the choir.” I said, “I feel the same way.” So, I wanted to set the stage with that. And then I just want to ask you some questions, and probably one is, do you write your lyrics? Do you write your songs with that intention, with the intention to me of elevating the consciousness of the listener? Or is it just like writing kind of what you need to hear? Like talk about your creative process, and how do you create these songs? Where does this come from?
Rob Riccardo: Yeah. So, it’s never the first thing you said, which I know probably comes as almost a shock. But I’ve talked to people about this before, and it’s definitely surprising to them when I say that. But I’m nothing special, I am not any different than anybody else, and I have more bad days than good ones. And I’m just as much of a mess, not more so than most people. But since day one, music has just always been, especially when I started writing lyrics, I started playing drums when I was eight years old, and then I really got into lyrics and guitar when I was in high school, and it just became like my safe place or my safe haven to just like process what was going on. And that’s all it ever is.
I think there was a part when things started to, I mean, for the listeners, like I have no problem saying, I’m pretty small, I’m not like any big time. And the funny thing is you always get music as a powerful thing, so you can get made to think that you’re bigger than you are. But like, I never write from a place where like, I’m going to change people’s minds. It’s always just this thing that is pretty deeply personal, and I usually call myself out in most of my songs because when I play my music, there are really only two places that I’m super– I don’t even want to say aware, but just more connected to like I don’t want to say a right way, but a better way, a better way of thinking, a better way of going forward, and that’s when I’m playing music or when I’m hiking or running in the mountains or the canyons. Those two places are where I write most of my music because I think I’m able to process everything. I think everything else kind of turns off, and something else, whatever it is, turns on.
So, yeah, that’s always been the process. And I guess in the beginning, I saw it catch on and I would dismiss songs that I didn’t think were that. I’ve stopped doing that and I’ll kind of release whatever now. But ultimately, just because of who I am, most of the music still tends to fit into those certain categories, I guess, you could say.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. So, if I’m understanding, you’re not writing for the listener as much as you’re just going, here’s what I’m processing myself. Here’s what I am realizing, what I’m learning, what I am becoming aware of, and then that becomes the song?
Rob Riccardo: Exactly. Other than maybe like a couple of few songs that I’ve written for friends or family or something like that, I never write from that place because then I just feel like, I only know what I know. Like, I only know my own experience and first of all, to speak for myself, I personally am not at a place where I don’t think I can tell somebody else how to live or what’s the right way because I’m constantly trying to work through it myself. But then I’ve been right there, I think that is the “answer.” It’s like we’re all trying to figure something out or work through stuff, and you kind of learn from each other. And I don’t believe it’s about gurus or teachers or anything like that, I think everybody has something to learn from everybody else. I mean, I learn more from my dogs than most people, most things, to be honest. It’s like unconditional love and patience and all that stuff. I’m trying to say so, I just process my own reality, and it’s just been pretty cool to see it land and connect with different people at different points in their own journey.
Hal Elrod: I think it’s true that I think for most people, human beings, we’re all in this human journey together and we all have so much more in common than we have different and we’re all sharing the human experience, which is like, I experience fear and insecurity and self-doubt and lack of clarity and glimpses of my purpose, and then I lose it. And so, yeah, I think that for most people, it’s like, hey, here’s my experience, take from it what you can. And then they’re like, wow, I’m a human being, too. I totally resonate with that.
Rob Riccardo: Absolutely.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. And I really think you have a gift of doing that at a level that not too many musicians have, and maybe that is why. Maybe because a lot of musicians are focused on making music that they feel like the listener will like. And while theoretically, that would make sense, to think about the other person, but maybe there’s just something that resonates at a deeper level where you’re like, this person didn’t try to make this for me, they made it for them. And now I get to see a glimpse into their psyche and their soul, and that feels true.
Rob Riccardo: For sure. And the one thing I do, and I want to say, I don’t think about listeners.
Hal Elrod: Sure.
Rob Riccardo: For me, it doesn’t happen from the content of the lyrics, it happens for the– the real main reason, and I don’t have any special mission other than the fact that people talk to me, I’m just like a complete music nerd. I love nerdy, nerdy stuff about music and production and music theory. And ultimately, the number one thing to me is just the craft of songwriting. So, that’s when I start to take things into account of like, should this go here? Should I shave that word off? Because a lot of times I’m like, well, this word is more powerful, but it messes up the flow and the rhyme scheme. And like you mentioned off the top, like vibe and sound is number one and everything because, for the most part, it tends to get people interested.
Hal Elrod: Yeah.
Rob Riccardo: So, I could very clearly write a poem or take someone’s journal entry. You can’t just put that over a cool melody, it’s not going to work. You have to be a little bit of– you remember back to school, studying Shakespeare, like iambic pentameter and everything, all of that makes a difference, like where syllables go. I’ll tell you, I get really scientific about that, and I think that’s what helps things stick. So, I study that from a lot of other artists, and that’s where I start to think about the listener. That’s where I’ll be like, maybe this intro doesn’t need to be two minutes long because then I’d also be like, well, you got to ultimately know where the stuff is going to go. It’s going to end up on streaming platforms. And I mean, I’ve been wrong before with some of my songs, but having things that are too long, like you want to get to the point. So, that’s where I make my decisions from the listener standpoint, the audience standpoint.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, the sound and the rhythm more so, then the lyrics are written kind of from the heart. And then you adjust them to fit the listeners’ palate if you will.
Rob Riccardo: Not even their palate, it’ll be like what I want to make, but they’ll be nuanced decisions. Like we’ll make this intro half as long and we won’t do a 16-bar guitar solo even though I want to. I’ll make it half as long because I’m just a complete guitar nerd, and I would just have five-minute-long solos in every song. But I have to respect that most people don’t want to hear that all the time, so that’s where I start to be more editorial with my decisions.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, that totally makes sense. So, you mentioned that you started playing music when you were eight, lyrics at 10, something along those lines. When did you dream of, I want to be a musician, like professionally? Did that start at that age, and you always knew? Or give me kind of the idea of the path of like from when you started playing music to how it evolved into actually, you doing it now professionally?
Rob Riccardo: Yeah. So, I wish I could say, I feel like there have probably been times in the past where I’ve been like, I’ve always known, but I’ll call myself out and say that that is not ultimately true. I was one of those kids, and I’m still one of those kids, one of those people that I’m interested in so many different things. One in the same day, let alone the same week, I’d want to go from being a professional drummer to the next centerfielder for the Mets to the next Tony Hawk pro skateboarder, like in the same day. It’s because my parents kind of raised me like that. As far as activities go, there was nothing that was like, for the most part, off-limits, like if I wanted to play baseball and hockey, I can also be at the skate park and go snowboarding, go surfing, all that stuff.
So, I was always changing my mind. But music started to become the only thing that was related to all of the things I liked. I’m a big Action Sports surf, skate, snowboard kind of enthusiast. So, like, that was always a part of my childhood. And then as I got older, I realized a whole culture of music came out of that, and that’s where music started to stick more and more. And I would have just continued to change my mind if it wasn’t for like a very small handful of friends that kept telling me like, “Oh, you should pursue this more.” And then I ultimately walked away from it, “the real world kind of hit” like after college. I was in a couple of bands in college, playing all the time.
And then, I just was like, “Oh, I didn’t figure this out.” I didn’t know. It is before streaming, and I think the most information or ability to put music out there was like, MySpace, if you remember those days. So, it was like that, and then it wasn’t really until my now wife, Marissa and I started dating, like she encouraged me to just play for fun because I had just put the guitar down completely for five years. And when I picked it back up, there was no pressure. It was just like, hey, I really encourage you to just play for fun. And I started writing songs again, and it has pretty much stuck. But it’s such an interesting career, and I’m continually passionate about other things that it has ebbed and flowed over the years up until, I guess, the last few years and then through pandemic in there that affects every industry, let alone, the music industry. It makes you start to question. But the one thing I realized is kind of brings us back to my last point is that music is the best way for me to process what’s going on inside of me and also around me. So, that’s why I’ve just kind of never stopped. So, there was really never I know, but like, it’s the one thing that I feel most alive doing. That answers your question.
Hal Elrod: It’s beautiful. So, how many years ago was it that that five-year stint of no guitar ended, and then your wife encouraged you to pick it back up, and you started kind of taking it seriously going down that path? How many years ago did you go from kind of having given up on music a bit to actually recommitting and going all-in?
Rob Riccardo: I picked the guitar back up, I’d say, it was probably 2013, and…
Hal Elrod: Eight years ago.
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, so about seven years, and it was basically from– it would be probably 2014 because it was like four and a half to five years from college, so like 2010, I put the guitar down, and like the middle of 2014 kind of, or the end of it, I picked it back up and just eased into things and tried to figure out what do I want to say with this thing in my head.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. And you’re recording your seventh album right now?
Rob Riccardo: I am. Yeah, recording number seven. I’m a big consumer of records and I know full albums, and I know it’s not exactly the way the world is kind of shifting now with streaming. But yeah, I’m recording number seven. I have a pretty cool little home studio setup now and I think I got like one or two songs left, and then it’ll be done and they should be out in the spring in April.
Hal Elrod: So, you’ve been dripping songs. So, the last three songs, I’m looking at my Rob Riccardo favorite playlist, were Conversations with Myself and then Lost Sometimes, and then Everything You Need was, I think, the most recent that I downloaded on. So, are you kind of dripping one song at a time, and then those will release on the new album?
Rob Riccardo: Conversations with Myself won’t be, that ended up being more of a one-off. I literally just finished putting my studio together and I just dove into a song and like, test out, work on some, got a new computer, and I was just like, kind of getting used to it. It was fun, but definitely, it’s a one-off.
Hal Elrod: Why not put that on the album? It’s a great song.
Rob Riccardo: Oh, I think it’s a good song. But like sonically, so if I put it in the playlist, like in the mix, like the tracklisting, it just feels like it comes out of nowhere.
Hal Elrod: Okay.
Rob Riccardo: And ultimately, like I’d said, that’s another, like one of those self-editorial kind of things I do, where I’m like, well, that song, I mean, there’s a ton of songs that end up being one-offs or haven’t even seen the light of day and they never, just because I’m like, they don’t fit with any other songs. Sometimes they’re just the seed, and a few years later, an entire record could be shaped around them. I don’t think that one will make the mix, but yeah, the other two songs, and then just a few days ago, I released the third single that will be on the album called Surf the Mind.
Hal Elrod: I saw that was coming out, but I haven’t caught it yet.
Rob Riccardo: Yes, so that one came out. I’ll probably release one more single and then the whole album.
Hal Elrod: Awesome. Now, I will tell you this, you mentioned that you’re a fan of albums, that that’s not really the way most people consume music now with streaming, a lot of one-off songs. I will tell you that your album, The Fire in Me– talk about the editorial work that you did on that, like that just felt like a journey. Almost, you could take the lyrics and then just write them into a book. You could do Chapter 1, the work, right? You could do and work on Chapter 2. I believe that was then, when will I learn, possibly write, or my own way, I mean, by now, by the present, about how our identity holds us back, Written in the Stars, that’s one of my favorite lines. It’s so simple, but in Written in the Stars, “I don’t know how it all plays out, but I know it does.”
Like, mic drop, especially for what’s going on in the world right now. But that line, “I don’t know how it all plays out, but I know it does,” to me, that line, it speaks to faith, it speaks to surrender, right? It speaks to just being that just, hey, life is, at one day, all the things I stress about, one day I’m going to be 96 years old, look back and go, “Why did I stress so much? Everything worked out. I didn’t know how I was going to work out, but it did.” And so, there’s so much like that line and that song alone, just to me, it’s a game-changer, so much meaning.
Rob Riccardo: I appreciate that so much. Fire in Me is really special to me. I mean, I could try to PR myself and say, my next album is always my best album. I don’t believe that’s always true. I think they all serve a purpose. Fire in Me is tied for first with my favorite of my own. That album, a little backstory on it is like, that was the first album I did. Most of the time, you go into a studio and you work with other professionals in the space. But that was the one where it was like, I’m going to do everything on my laptop. I had to, I had no other choice because I just was in this point where I was like, well, I think the way the world’s going, and the way I want to naturally go is just constant output. As long as I feel like I’ve got something good to say and good to listen to, I’m going to constantly put out music. I don’t care if it’s too much. And you see that more and more from artists putting out music more often, which I think is great as a fan of music.
So, I was at this point where I had just released my second album and I was like, I want to make a third. And then I was like doubting that I had anything else to say. And one day, the first song I ended up writing that began that album cycle was actually the last song on the album, a song called Whatever It Takes, and it was like just telling myself, like, whatever it takes to make this happen, whatever it takes to– and not even like make a career happen, like whatever it takes to keep going, whether that’s inside the album process or inside just life in general. And then that song, that whole album just kind of came, and then the work came second and I spent a full month, I’ve recorded like seven or eight different versions of that song until I finally found the one that was like, okay, I’m going to put it out.
And my wife, I will tell you, like she’s the one who hears everything before it goes out. I was ripping my hair out of my head because I was like, “Nobody’s going to like this. This is terrible.” And I just got to the point, where I’m like, I can’t spend another second mixing this or rerecording this vocal, I’m like, whatever it is, it is. And I think that’s to this day, as far as response from people on social media, I think that song had the most– that’s when I knew I was like, oh, oh, this might be good. And then it gave me the confidence to record the other nine songs and be like, I’m just going to go for it because I think I could figure this out.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting that Whatever It Takes was the first song you recorded and the last one in the album. And it really does, like I said, that album, to me, it’s a journey of self-help, of healing, of inspiration. And then it is a perfect last song because it’s like, alright. I just listened to this album. I just went on this journey. I’m in a much better place than I was when I hit play at the beginning. And now, alright, I’m ready, whatever it takes, like I’m going to go out there, I’m going to conquer the world, I’m going to create the life that I want. Yeah, to me, it was just a perfect end of the album.
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, and it’s funny. It was supposed to be the first track, and then like it was one of the last things I recorded. And again, like, I recorded several different versions of that one as well, and what ended up on the album was me going, okay, none of this is working. I think I’m getting to the point because I don’t like overproduction, I don’t like overediting anything. We lived in a small apartment, and I was recording the majority of this record, like in a closet. And some of the tracks I would just do in the other room, like the main room that connected to the kitchen, connected to the living room. So, the reverb and everything was terrible. And I go, I’m just going to set to mics up and just track a so-called acoustic demo of it and see how I feel about it.
And I just played it live acoustic. And at the end of the song, you can hear the sound start to come in. And that’s actually my wife coming into the apartment, like she was hiking or something and she was putting the key in the door. And I heard that sound, like, oh, that messed up the recording, and then I heard it back and I cut that little piece of the key coming in like a crackle, and I put a bunch of them together and put different reverbs on them and stacked them. And it started to sound like fire crackling. And I go, that’s how the album will end because it’s called The Fire in Me. And then at the end of another song, the refrigerator turns on, but it sounds like crickets, and I embellished it or enhanced it instead of trying to cut it out. So, because of that, that’s how it became the last song. It was this live demo that I did overdubs. I went back in and as over the live recording, I recorded some extra vocals and like a guitar solo I’ve written. Yeah, so like I said, I’m kind of a music geek, and then you’re bringing me back to that album process, and I totally forgot like all that’s…
Hal Elrod: Well, that’s really interesting that you incorporate it and enhance the refrigerator opening and the door opening, like who would know that?
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, music is just sound, right? At the end of the day, everything, if you boil it down to like your phone and you look at it, it’s all just a stereo wavefile. So, it’s music and sound.
Hal Elrod: So, a few minutes ago, you said that The Fire in Me is your– well, you said, the correct response is like every album is better than the last, right? But that’s not always true. And as an author, like I’ve written dozen or so books, the Miracle Morning, I’m still trying to top that in terms of the impact that it can make for somebody.
Rob Riccardo: Right.
Hal Elrod: And I would agree too. I think that The Fire in Me, of all your albums, is my favorite. And now you mentioned that it’s tied with another, and I have another that would be a close second to The Fire in Me. I’m curious what yours is and I’ll tell you mine.
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, I’m going to guess it’s different. But the last one I released, Light the Atlantic, it’s almost in a way a departure from my other stuff. But I live in the desert now and I love it. I love it here, but I’m from the ocean as the opening track Kid from the Sea on that album would say, like, born and raised on Long Island. And I recorded three albums during the height of the pandemic in 2020. Like I said, it’s like how I process things. And I got super nostalgic and I always wanted to make an ocean-themed album. It’s one of my favorite metaphors, and it’s why the first half of the album coming out with picks up from there, and there’s like some more ocean things before it drifts into something else.
But anyway, yeah, I always wanted to make that an ocean-themed album using that as a metaphor. And it was an uncomfortable thing to do of going like, well, do people want to hear this? Because even before that, I released a folk record that was really just for me and my friends and family that I wrote those songs for and I didn’t even promote it or anything. I just kind of put it out, and I was like if people that want to listen to it. And I took a similar approach with this one, but yeah, I kept it really sparse, like very acoustic, very limited production. And it reminds me of being young, and that’s something that I don’t expect other people to feel because it’s more something that’s specific to me, like the lighthouse on the cover, that’s the Fire Island Lighthouse, which was like you could see basically from across, like around the block from where I grew up.
And yeah, it’s just like a super nostalgic record, but there are some songs in there that by using those metaphors, it’s like you can only say so many things the same way. And before, you’re like repeating yourself, and I start to use a different metaphor, like my favorite song in there is Way of the Ocean and Keeper of the Light. Those are my favorites to play live. And anyway, yeah, that’s why that one’s my favorite, I think it just reminds me of like when I started.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, I don’t even know if I’ve heard that one because I’m looking at it right now, I’m on…
Rob Riccardo: I’m not surprised. I think most people haven’t, and that’s totally cool because there’s so much music out there. So, the fact that people listen to anything of mine, it’s always a shock, so.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Well, so my second favorite album of yours, and it is close, I mean, there are some songs that I love as much as anything on The Fire in Me, but it’s The Calm Within.
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, the first one.
Hal Elrod: Oh, that’s your first album?
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, yeah.
Hal Elrod: Oh, I didn’t know. Obviously, that’s interesting because it sounds– wow, that is interesting. I’m looking at the date because I would have imagined that to even be like later on, because it feels there’s a lot like you as an artist on that album, there’s a lot of just– I don’t even know, depth or just different dynamics in your sound, but like Adventure of Me, Revival, Let it Breathe, Feed Your Soul, The Warrior, I mean, I’m running down, yeah, I love that album right up there with The Fire in Me, and then Seeker also is probably my third favorite.
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, typically, people tend to like the first three. I guess, kind of like you mentioned in your book, I feel like I’m always held to the first three. I think those first three albums to me, and that’s fine. The first three are kind of, they’re like a trilogy, I guess, in a way. And then I personally turn the page, and then not on purpose, but the next three were a trilogy unrelated, I called up my pandemic trilogy since they all were written and recorded during 2020. And then I guess this was like the third, what I’m working on now, is like Volume 3 of the collection of my life. But yeah, yeah, and that’s funny, the thing about streaming is everything is new all the time, right? I can’t tell you how many songs I discovered, I’m like, this is a great song. And I’m like, this came out in 2008, what?
Hal Elrod: Totally.
Rob Riccardo: And I think that’s cool.
Hal Elrod: The band or the artist is Zayde Wolf or Zadie Wolf?
Rob Riccardo: The name sounds familiar, but I don’t know that I’ve listened to any of the music.
Hal Elrod: So, I thought it was a band, but it’s actually, somebody said to him. Anyway, I recently discovered him and I mean, he’s kind of like- what’s that band? Imagine Dragons, kind of like more of a hard rock, so.
Rob Riccardo: Okay, yeah, yeah.
Hal Elrod: But now, like when I’m working out, I’ll listen to his music. And then when I want to chill, I listen to your music, kind of. But anyway, the point is, I discovered his album the other day, and my daughter actually turned me on to it, and I’m like, “This is incredible.” I’m like, “Wow, this guy, he’s brand new.” No, this album is 2016 that I’m listening to, it’s like yeah.
Rob Riccardo: It’s funny.
Hal Elrod: It all feels new. A question I wanted to ask you is this, I think that in life, we all imagine what life would be like if, and the fantasy. And I’ve always thought, I’ve heard this said by, and then I’ve experienced it myself that the fantasy is almost always better than the reality, right? And so, I was wondering as a musician, did you ever have a fantasy of what that would be like if your songs were available on iTunes or on CD or whatever, and then how the fantasy compares to the reality?
Rob Riccardo: That’s such a great question. I think about that weekly, if not daily because it’s so true. The fantasy is always better, and the thing that comes to mind is I remember specifically when I was working at the time, I’ve worked a few different corporate jobs before committing to giving this music thing and almost said final push but a valiant effort. And I had just released my first album, maybe not even, maybe just a couple of singles off of it. And so, I was like, okay, music is on Spotify, alright. And I think I had like seven monthly listeners or something like that. And I remember other artists that I listened to like I was being reasonable with it, it wasn’t like I expected to hit John Mayer numbers overnight, but I was like, let me see. I’m like if I could just hit 30,000 monthly listeners, my life will be different. And then, it was very slow, but over the next probably two years, I hit that number. And by the time I hit it, the number in my head was like, what if I hit 75 or something like that?
Hal Elrod: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Rob Riccardo: And then two years later, you hit it. And then it was for a while. It was like once I get over 100 monthly listeners, it’s funny that that’s the metric that I think a lot of artists look at, which is silly, it actually really means nothing. Like in so many ways, it means like it doesn’t even help you from a live, from booking shows, like you sit, and all of a sudden– and that’s part of my point is I realize, the goalpost kept moving, and I was like, okay, I’m focusing on this way too much. And now, having been tricked by myself or by the fantasy, like the carrot on the stick kind of thing, I do my best to not even pay attention to it because I have things now. I’m like, well, if I play Red Rocks, everything will be good. I know for a fact that’s not true. I know plenty of bands that I’ve actually opened big shows, big events like that, and it means the industry is weird and I have to understand that.
The other thing is like, if I have fans, everything will be great. And I say this with so much love and respect to the fact that people do choose to listen to my music and follow it. I never thought it would be as hard as it is to have even on a small level, that I have some music that has been successful, it’s been so challenging. And if somebody told me that, I have no regrets. But in the future, I told myself that, or somebody told me that was like a big warning of like, hey, everything kind of changes after you have some songs that people start to listen to and share, it definitely affects my mind a bit, and I’m like, oh, I probably wouldn’t have gone forward. I’m glad I do continue to.
But anyway, that’s probably too long of an answer that you’re looking for, but yeah, because just to circle back, I’ve never yet experienced something how I thought it would be in my mind that it was better than the fantasy. Reality is always a letdown because you’re holding it up to this fake thing. There’s nothing better than like right now. And I have that moment now, I’m like, I need this, I need that, and then I’ll come downstairs from recording and I’ll just hang out with my dogs and I’d be like, this is way better than any other things I have in my mind.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, and that’s the thing, if you can’t learn to be happy with what you have now, what makes you think that you’ll know how to be happy with what you think you want in the future, right?
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, it’s a really good point.
Hal Elrod: Because it’s really about learning to love the present moment and be completely at peace and grateful. And this moment is perfect, right? Because a future moment is going to still have its imperfections and the gap between where it is and where it could be, and that next carrot on the horizon, like you said. So, well speak to that, what’s the next– oh, go ahead.
Rob Riccardo: Oh no, I was going to say, I wonder if this is the same for you before you released your first book, like that’s a special moment because once the first thing comes out, first book, first album, first whatever you’re working on, you then have this curse of expectations, even if they’re 100% self-expectations. In the beginning, it’s so pure, there are no expectations. I tell that to people before they put their first album out. I go, remember this feeling and try to capture it and don’t lose sight that you don’t have to have expectations because even if your self-expectations that I think can mess us up from putting our best workout next.
Hal Elrod: When there may be truth to this, it’s been said that like if you have low expectations, you’ll never be disappointed or whatever. I think if you spin that in kind of a positive way, I think there’s an element to it because I will say, for me, when I wrote the Miracle Morning, I was insecure, I was like, oh, nobody’s going to like this. Like, who am I going to convince to wake up early? But I feel like I have a responsibility to put it out there. And so, there were actually a lot of elements of the reality that far exceeded the fantasy. Like, I got invited to Paris to go on a book tour, and my wife and I, they flew us, first class. And I’m like, I never in a million years dreamt of this.
Rob Riccardo: Right.
Hal Elrod: So, interesting enough, there were some parts, but actually, I’m like, whoa, this is way beyond what I imagined, but…
Rob Riccardo: That’s awesome.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. But I think for most things in life, yeah, you dream of the perfect relationship and the perfect this and the perfect that, and rarely, is it perfect? And so, yeah, I think like we said, it’s how do you learn to love every moment of your life? And then you win, then you win because then when you get to the great moments, you love them. And when they’re not so great, you still love it.
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, exactly.
Hal Elrod: If that’s not one of your songs, there you go, there’s an idea for a new song.
Rob Riccardo: And that’s funny, you say that’s kind of the theme of the album I’m working on now.
Hal Elrod: Is it? I love it. Oh, I can’t wait.
Rob Riccardo: Well, I don’t know, like I’ll be straight up because I say this to my wife all the time. I don’t know, this will be the current fans’ favorite. I sonically go in a little bit of a different direction, but also, I think, I guess kind of circling back to all the points, the hardest thing that I’ve had to deal with, and it’s not hard in the grand scheme of life. But like the most challenging I actually say is I have a lot of people messaging me, asking me like, how I’m so positive, or they’re expecting a positive song, and it’s like, I am more pessimistic than optimistic, especially these days, keep bringing up the pandemic, I think is the last thing anybody wants to talk about this point, but I’ll be honest here.
Hal Elrod: This is what’s happening, so I think it’s important.
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, it made a huge shift that went from like 99% optimist to probably like 60/40 in favor of pessimism, and I had to deal with that. And then I felt guilty about that. And then I realized that there’s nothing to feel guilty about, that’s what I need to write about because I’m going to guess the vast majority of people feel that way too. And so, this album is about dealing with that upward spiral of life, starting out like, hey, it’s going to get tough. There’s a storm coming. You don’t know when it’s going to hit, and then finding kind of like peace with that. By the second half of the album, you get to this point where you’re like, oh, I got this, it’s going to be okay. This is life, and it’s all part of it. You can’t have good days all the time. You can do your best, but there’s so more out of our control than in our control.
And it’s kind of using much different metaphors, then I don’t say it on the surface like that. But for people that do listen to it from top to bottom, as an album, it creates more of a journey. And it’s a cyclical journey like if you have it on loop, it’ll go right back to the first track before you know it. And that’s what life has been like for me. Before I know it, it’s like, oh, the best day ever. And all of a sudden, by the afternoon, I’m not in a good spot right now. Like I’m speaking for myself, but that happens. And I was like, I’m going to actually, instead of shying away from that, I’m going to capture that in album form. So, yeah, that’s kind of what the next one is.
Hal Elrod: I can’t wait to listen to it. That, for me, has been the journey since 2020 hit. Like when 2020 hit, and as a leader, as a podcaster, well, first of all, I ask, what do I need to focus on myself right now? And then I ask, how can I best help other people? And what I came back to is when we focus on things that are out of our control, we feel out of control. And that’s never good, right? That’s what causes anxiety and depression. And there was so much we were bombarded with things that were out of our control, right? The pandemic, the government, the lockdown, to this, to that, all out of our control, and it became more a part of our consciousness where before, we might not have paid attention to it because it didn’t affect us directly, right?
And so, I realized that the only thing that makes sense for me to focus on is the only thing I have control over, which is how I experience every moment of my life. And I can’t change what’s going on out there, but I can choose to experience every moment, even the hard ones, with grace and courage and love and empathy and understanding, right? And yeah, and so, now, I’m excited for this next album because it sounds like you’re really bringing the journey that we’ve all been on into– like you do so well in the music. And I love that you’re designing the album to be taking us on that journey. It’s going to be great.
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, I mean, I haven’t been this excited about a collection. It’s a shorter album, too, so you can digest it.
Hal Elrod: Nice.
Rob Riccardo: I want it to be easily digestible. I feel like…
Hal Elrod: When’s the scheduled release date for that?
Rob Riccardo: So, right now, I’m hoping for like either April 1st or April 8th. It will be one of those two dates. Like I said, I just have right now– yeah, early April 2022, and I just have one song left to record and then final mixes. And then I do all my own album artwork. So, I’ll do all that stuff, and then it should be ready to go.
Hal Elrod: Awesome, man. We talked about the fantasy being better than the reality. Any goals for the future? I think even if we know that we’re still going to entertain fantasy to the future. So, what’s your ultimate fantasy? What are you thinking about? What would you love to do as a musician, as a human being in the next 10 years?
Rob Riccardo: Oh, in the next 10. It’s a good question. I feel like if you asked me a year or two ago, I would very quickly give the obvious answer that almost every musician has, which is like play Red Rocks. So, I mean, I’ve changed that to like, since I’m from Long Island, it’d be cool to play Jones Beach, but then we’re like tripling the size of the venue. So, I’m going to be taking that out, and I don’t even like think about that anymore. That was like a big shift for me into the thrall of last year, just kind of like really thinking about what I want is like being on, and this is probably going to– I understand how important it is to be clear in your goals. That’s something I’ve always struggled with. I think it’s my nature because like, I love to do so many different things. But the only goal, and it sounds like such a lame goal, but my main goal is to just constantly push myself out of my comfort zone creatively as a songwriter, producer, guitarist, piano player, like learn new instruments and just push because that’s what keeps me happy and not worry.
And this is where it gets tough for listeners, but not worry if people are going to like the next thing or not because if they wait a little longer, like another thing will be out because I’m getting more okay, like wearing it more on my sleeve that it’s music, I’m not trying to change the world. I’m not trying to teach anybody anything. I literally just use it. It’s my medium for how I process what’s going on inside and around me, and that’s my only goal. And that might be a detriment to achieving certain things. But I think I’m at this point in my life where I’m okay with that because I just love the craft of music, and I’m just so dedicated to just keep pushing myself further outside of my comfort zone these days.
Hal Elrod: I love that, Rob. That answer to me is a Masterclass in how to approach goals, which is it’s not just about a measurable goal that 365 from now, at the end of the year, you can measure. It’s not about the album sales. You just said it’s about every day pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. And I think for anybody listening, you have to be a musician to apply that same thing. And Rob, as you said, that’s where you’re the happiest. When you’re doing something every day, you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you’re being creative. And you also, part of that Masterclass, was not being attached to the results. You’re okay if people don’t like this album, which is…
Rob Riccardo: Yeah, it’s something I had learned early on, and I did not master it by any means. I don’t think you could really master anything. You just get incrementally better. I met the best place I’ve ever been for like being at least having the least amount of attachment as possible right now, which I think is a win as far as things because like back to the fantasy versus reality thing is I’ve told myself so many times, I’m like this artist, here’s my music, or if I go on tour with this person and I’ve just learned through a lot of things falling through that it’s never about one thing, it’s about all the little things that aren’t worth an Instagram post that make it a beautiful journey.
And I have to remind myself that daily because I guarantee you in three hours now, I’m going to get mad with myself about something and be like, “Nobody’s going to like this song.” And I’m like, I have to remind myself that’s missing the point because I do understand the main point, but it doesn’t mean that we lose sight of it, at least I lose sight of it on a daily basis. And It’s all about kind of regrouping and just coming back to that foundational belief that I have of like just keep pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and make sure it’s always fun as far as music goes.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Beautiful, man. Well, let’s wrap at that. Well said. Keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, enjoy every moment, right? Make sure you’re having fun. Rob, totally an honor to talk to you today, man. Thanks so much for taking the time.
Rob Riccardo: Likewise, thank you so much for having me on. I am truly honored.
Hal Elrod: Alright, goal achievers, I’m telling you, I highly recommend that you go check out Rob’s music wherever you listen to music. I do iTunes. You might do Spotify or Pandora. And if you want to start where I started, the album is called The Fire in Me. And yeah, just the entire thing from start to finish, it will take you on an incredible journey that will leave you a better person. Love you all so much. I will talk to you soon.
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