Like many of the dreamers that have moved to Music City over the years, it was a George Strait song that inspired Teddy Robb to make the leap and move to Nashville. For Robb, it was the King of Country's 2008 single "Troubadour," an ode to following your passion if there ever was one.
"The song 'Troubadour' by George (Strait), it kind of changed everything for me," Robb tells Wide Open Country. "Just thinking that's what I want to do. Whatever this feeling is -- I'm feeling something that I hope I can make somebody else feel."
Robb chases that feeling on his debut single "Lead Me On," released on Aug. 24. Written by Robb, Ryan Beaver, Matt McGinn and Aaron Eshuis, the song is a sultry plea to a love interest. It's radio-friendly while eschewing formulaic pick-up lines in favor of sincerity and vulnerability.
"I had the title -- just thinking about somebody saying 'I don't want to lead you on' and I thought, if they do lead me on at least I have a chance to meet them and be around them," Robb says. "So I took that in and all the guys jumped on board with it and we wrote it. That never happens -- having a first write and it turning out to be something really great. So that was the first time that happened to me. I was like, 'Oh this is going to be easy.' [Laughs] Then about a hundred songs later that one still rose to the top."
The song is the first single from Robb's upcoming five-song EP and was co-produced by Grammy-winning songwriter Shane McAnally. (Robb also has a publishing deal with McAnally's Nashville-based publishing company Smack Songs.)
Robb says working with the industry veteran, who's written hit songs with Kacey Musgraves, Sam Hunt, Miranda Lambert and more, has helped him find his place in the music business.
"It's just like a wealth of knowledge there with Shane and I really appreciate every bit of time I get with him. It's so valuable. Getting to get advice from the best is amazing," Robb says. "He has a really good ability to read people and make the music match the artists. I feel like he does a really great job with every artist he works with, taking, for instance, Kacey Musgraves or Sam Hunt and bringing out the best in them and having the music match who they are as people."
Robb first moved to Nashville in 2013, but spent a year living in Vail, Colorado, which he says helped broaden his musical interests.
"When I moved to Nashville, I was learning top 20 songs -- all the new Dierks (Bentley) and Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton. I was learning all the Hot Country stuff. Then I moved out to Colorado and I was playing all that stuff and it was really cool and the people that were coming and watching were liking it, but I also found that I was getting (requests for) Bob Dylan and John Prine and Pure Prairie League and John Denver and this whole other side," Robb says. "So I decided, alright I'll go home tonight and learn a John Prine song or I'll go home and learn a John Denver or Bob Dylan or whatever. That opened me up to a whole new genre. I call it mountain music but it's kind of folky."
Robb also did his time playing for crowds in bars on Nashville's lower Broadway, a rite of passage for countless young singers who move to town in search of success.
"When I moved to town the first thing I did was play Broadway. It's hard. It's really hard. But I would say for any young performer that just wants to come and start figuring it out, that is where I cut my teeth. It's where I got comfortable on stage. I never really fronted bands before. I was just playing acoustic and as hard as it was, it was like the foundation of what I'm doing now," Robb says. "If you're not good, people can walk into one of those bars and walk right out and have a hundred other artists that they can go listen to. It taught me that when you get people in a room, make sure you show them love. It's a real skill in keeping those people. If you can keep them, I think you're gonna be alright going forward."
With a debut single out and an EP on the way, Robb seems poised for success. It's a testament to the power of determination and never giving up on a dream -- just like George sang about.
"I care so much about what I'm doing. I hope that comes across in my music. I've given up a lot to do this and it's been scary at times. At 25, 26 I was watching my friends start getting their dream jobs and (I was still) playing bar gigs. So I would just want people to know that if you're going for a dream, you might be right there when you give up. I just kept pushing and eventually I made the connections that I needed," Robb says. "Don't ever put boundaries on what you can do in life. If you have a dream, go do it."