- Carola Kolbeck
Robin Knightz - Manchester’s Versatile Star Is Taking Back Control Of Her Career
© Photography - Robin Knightz
"It’s never the music’s fault,” says Robin Knightz about the ups and downs of her music career. The UK musician and songwriter isn’t easily fazed and has unbreakable faith in her skills and music - and the determination and work ethic to go with it.
When I meet Robin Knightz, she has just come back from the gym and is eating a bowl of minestrone soup. The 25-year-old rapper and singer from Manchester believes in tackling the day early on, never wasting an opportunity to be productive.
“It’s important for us as humans to have something to do other than what we love. If I have a late night in the studio and then get up at 12 o’clock the next day, it kind of ruins my day because I love getting up early, I love tackling the day. Sometimes I’m up at six in the morning.”
Used to hard work from an early age (she used to muck in on the family farm and is no stranger to early mornings and 24/7 work commitments), Robin recently bowed out of being signed with a record label and is now taking over the reins of her art and career.
Having learned how to deal with rejection and setbacks from hearing difficulties in childhood, Robin is not interested in conforming to demands that compromise her art. Full of energy and ready to take the UK music scene by storm, INJECTION spoke to one of Manchester’s treasures about her music, overcoming adversity, and taking back control.
Congratulations on your latest single It’s about time, which has been out since the beginning of summer. The song has vibes of 80s pop music, a la Aha. What was your motivation behind this song?
I made that in lockdown with my friends. I love the creation of music; I’m a little bit of a music geek. In lockdown, there were quite a few of us who were struggling to be creative. So I got some of my friends together who had never worked before with each other, and we were just making music. It’s about time happened to be one of the songs that we made during that time. It wasn’t like: Oh, we wanna make this type of song. It kind of just happened.
You chose to separate from your label after 12 months. What were your experiences?
It’s really difficult; the industry can be tough! Going to the gym and focusing on my mental health has really helped me understand and accept the transition I was going through!
It’s like you need to have a third-eye perspective on everything and everyone that you meet. I’ve met people who said one thing one day and after two days said the complete opposite. The music industry is difficult on a human level because there’s no music police, no one to really help you out with things like that. You’ve got to find it out for yourself.
Which artists and which music genres have influenced or continue to influence your style of music most? And are there any events in particular that inspired your music?
At home, my mum was very much into Prince, and that rubbed off on me in the way that he just cared about the music, nothing else. She was also into UB40 and Phil Collins, and my brother was the rap guy; he was heavily into hip-hop, so I was always attracted to the American style of rap.
Composed is your most-played single so far. Why do you think that is?
To me, Composed is a breath of fresh air. I can’t really compare it to any other rapper or artist, especially a female one, so I reckon when people heard it, they appreciated it for what it is, hence why it’s one of my most successful songs.
What keeps you going and where does your drive and motivation come from to prevent you from giving up in this relentless music industry?
I think that, for me, music has always been the person that I never had, so no matter what I’m feeling, there’s always a song that makes me feel like I’m not alone. That’s one of the things that really inspire me as a music listener and also an artist; you just never know who’s listening and what it’s doing for them!
It’s also when I see people’s reactions to my music. When people tell me what their favourite songs are, it’s those that haven’t done that well, those that have the least streams. And those are my favourite songs, too. My favourite two songs are All my Life and Cold. They’re two really wholesome songs.
You’re vocal about mental health. What are your own experiences, and how do you look after yourself?
I know what my intentions are, and because of that, I can be very vulnerable, and I have been very vulnerable. But I’m just gonna take it on the chin and just try and manoeuvre. But mental health in this industry is ugly! I don’t think I’ve met one person that hasn’t had some sort of mental health issue. I think there could be a lot more consideration for people.
That’s why I’m just trying to work on myself and rewire the way I’m thinking. I didn’t like the way I was thinking. Yes, we go through shit, as I did with the label and within the industry, but so what?! I’m still here! Why would I dwell on it? Maybe I wasn't ready for it this time, but next time, I wanna make sure that I am ready!
It’s not just dedication and hard work; it’s also about having faith and being patient. No one’s ever had to put me in a studio before. No one. I’ve put myself in a studio.
The Manchester Music Scene is tight and supportive. Why do you think that is?
It’s small here, even though it's a city. I think a lot of people are just trying to find their way, so no one wants to have a reason to be nasty to anyone. My favourite thing of being in Manchester musically-wise is that there are a lot of people that are not trying to impress anyone, so they’re unapologetically themselves. For me, that's one of the highlights of this city.
Did you have any pinch-me moments? If so, what were they like?
I don't think I've had one of those moments. I've done a lot of things, and I've been to a lot of places, but I feel like the only moments when I’m at my happiest, is when I make music with my friends or with people that I get along with really well. There's a certain feeling that we hit in the room, and it's a feeling that just makes you smile. These are the pinch-me moments for me.
© Photography - Robin Knightz
What’s next for Robin Knightz?
Going forward, I know there will be setbacks. But at least I’m in control. For me, it’s about being excited. You want to wake up every morning feeling excited about what you do. That’s what it’s all about, right? And that’s the way for me that makes sense, that’s the way that makes me excited, doing things my way. I can go into the studio and make music without feeling that I have to make one specific sound. I want to take back control and have fun.
There is no doubt that Robin Knightz has had to fight and work hard to do what she loves and does best. Hearing difficulties and a controlling music industry have tried to squash her passion and free spirit to create in a way that feels natural to her. It’s thanks to sheer determination and mental strength that this young musician is still powering on, paving the way for others to follow her example. Robin Knightz is not someone who will give up. There’ll be much more to come from her. And you can be sure she’ll do it her way.