Even at first glance, Jimmy Robbins’ résumé is remarkably impressive. The Grammy and CMA nominated songwriter and producer has written over 150 cuts in multiple genres, boasts eight number ones, earned a CMA Triple Play Award in 2014, and was the ASCAP Song of the Year winner for Thomas Rhett’s “It Goes Like This.” However, what is not be listed on his resume may be his strongest weapon yet: his integrity, dedication to his work, and desire to pay it forward.
Robbins spoke with heirwaves in Nashville surrounding his flourishing career as a songwriter and the development of the artists and writers at his publishing company, JRM Publishing.
As far as experience in the music industry goes, Robbins could easily be seen as a jack of all trades. After signing to Universal Motown Records in 2007 and releasing his album See Through Secrets in September of 2009, he began to explore more of the songwriting side of the business. Landing in Nashville, he has never looked back, establishing himself as a wildly sought after writer and producer. In 2016, he and his wife, Sarah, developed JRM Publishing, a boutique music publishing company.
The driving force behind the creation of JRM Publishing was their desire to help others develop their writing talents. “What makes us different than any other place is the connection to Sarah and I, where our involvement can benefit them,” Robbins says.
Strategically signing writers that he and Sarah not only personally connect with, they also focus on a mentorship aspect. Jimmy’s experience as an artist, producer, and songwriter coupled with Sarah’s publishing background make them the perfect team to mentor and develop rising writers and artists.
One of the first writers signed to JRM Publishing, Devin Guisande (Kyd The Band), is an ideal example of their vision. “Devin has an artist project and I spent a pretty solid two years writing with him and really helping him figure out what he wants to say and what he wants that to sound like. I was able to put way more time into it than I would’ve been able to had we not been working together,” Robbins adds.
*Above: Devin Guisande aka Kyd The Band – “Human.”
Through signing Eric Arjes in 2018, Robbins was given the opportunity to mentor Arjes not just in writing, but also production. “He is an incredible producer and was getting way behind on this tracks because he really wants everything to be perfect and I’ve really been able to help him find the balance of thinking about what you’re writing for,” Robbins shares.
JRM’s newest artist, Derek Austin, is pursuing a career as an artist first and foremost – but is still open to cuts from others. “Every time I write with him, we’re writing for his project, but we still have songs going on hold, which is great because he gets to keep growing as a writer and an artist at the same time,” Robbins explains, with pride evident in his voice when it comes to helping his writers continue to develop.
“There is a unique perspective that you have as a writer to another writer and I feel like I’m able to help talk about what makes a session good because I know the combinations and how they feel in the room,” Robbins acknowledges, “so much of it comes down to getting the right people together at the right time.”
When it comes to a writing session, he notes that the initial headspace really does matter for him. “If I have a pretty stressful morning and roll straight into a session, it can be really hard to switch gears and start trying to write,” he shares, “but, I think that’s part of why if you’re in a session a lot of times, the first hour you talk and catch up. You really have to get to know each other before you can write, and that ‘zenning out’ before you write helps get you in the headspace.” As far as how environment plays a factor in his approach to writing, he appreciates the consistency of working in his studio.
In Nashville, songwriting is approached as more of a ‘9-5’ job, while in other cities like New York or LA, sessions may last longer and start at various times of the day. “I think, like anything else, it’s like muscle memory and the more you do it, the easier it is. It’s always felt right here and I feel like it allows us to be a bit more productive and write more songs here than in most other cities,” Robbins shares, noting that in other cities, a big year consists of 70-80 songs whereas in Nashville, it’s common to write around 200 songs a year.
“One of the best things about this community is how supportive everybody is,” he says of Nashville’s acclaimed songwriting community, “and I think a real beacon of how true that is is that we have number one parties.”
He shares that early on in his time in Nashville, he got very close with two other writers, Jon Nite and Nicolle Galyon. “I learned so much of what I do as a writer from those two people. I tell everybody that I learned from Nicolle how to properly use an adjective,” he says with a laugh, adding “She puts so much color in her writing and I was such a sponge to Nicolle because she is so good at the lifeblood of the song and the lines that stick out and stay with you and make a song special.”
“Jon is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever met,” he continues, “he is so good at finishing and song and making it right. There is no missed opportunity with him. Sometimes, I’ll hear songs and think ‘man, if they had only done this one thing…’ and with Jon’s songs, that never happens.”
While Robbins has had a career many songwriters and producers look up to, he’s only just getting started. Reflecting on some of the defining moments in his journey so far, he shares “One of my favorite things that has happened so far was when Maren Morris’ ‘I Could Use a Love Song’ (co-written with Maren Morris and Laura Veltz) went number one, because that was a session that my wife set up and that was our first big win working as partners.”
Most recently penning Kelsea Ballerini’s “homecoming queen?” the first single from her upcoming third record, along with Ballerini and Galyon, Robbins has become a wildly sought after writer, producer, and all around music mentor in Nashville, but it’s his true dedication to the craft and his absolute passion for helping others rise that sets the stage for his lasting impact in the songwriting community.
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