If you’re looking for your beach, Rob Hill can help. One of the top songwriters in the world of tropical rock, his words and music will take you to the shore. And listening to the songs on his upcoming solo album Beach Town will leave you shaking the sand out of your shoes.
From 2012 to the 2016, Hill spent much of his energy producing and promoting other artists, in particular award-winning vocalist Brittany Kingery, now based in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where her popular cabaret show Blame It All on Mexico is based largely on Rob’s music. Having produced two albums of his music with Kingery, Rob has turned the spotlight back on himself with the anticipated release of Beach Town, his first album as an artist since the 2009 God, Love & Mexico album by the trio Game Six, which he fronted.
“Things have come full circle in a way,” Rob notes. “It was kind of liberating for me to write for another voice and from another perspective for a few years, and now that I’m writing for my own voice again, it feels like something new. And what’s coming out of it are some of the best songs I’ve ever written.”
And that’s saying something. Rob has become a highly regarded singer-songwriter, in part within the tropical rock, or “trop rock” genre, a loosely defined niche of music that Rob describes as a blend of country, rock, reggae and island music whose unifying theme is tropical escapism. The Trop Rock Music Association named his song “Tequila Talking,” co-written by and recorded with Kingery, the Song of the Year in 2015, the same year that her Dream in Blue, a CD mostly comprised of Rob’s songs, was nominated as the Album of the Year in the genre. His music is in regular rotation on most of the major trop rock radio stations, including Beachfront Radio, Radio A1A, Songwriters Island Radio and The Shore Radio., among others. And although the trop rock genre has strongholds in Texas and South Florida, particularly the Florida Keys, Rob has traveled and performed all over the continent, and his music has been gaining attention not only among escapists but also among fans of acoustic music generally, and among music listeners that appreciate lyrics.
“I’ve always been a fan of good lyrics,” says Rob, who counts Paul Simon and Dan Fogelberg among his songwriting heroes. While Beach Bums and trop rock enthusiasts tend to congregate in Florida and Texas, Rob says he finds there are sun-and-sand lovers and escapists all over the continent, and of course, a good song is appreciated everywhere. Just in the last couple of years he’s been performing from the Bahamas to Baja and Edmonton to Toronto and lots of places in between.
For Rob, the venture into beach-themed music began with his affection for a Mexican coastal fishing village called Bucerías, an unlikely location for the Irish pub that became the inspiration for his chilled-out ballad “Shamrock Bar.” The song, thanks in part to a no-budget music video shot on a Sony HandyCam on a day of heavy drinking in Mexico, became a point of pride in the village and made the now-closed pub a tourist attraction in itself.
“I’ve had people tell me they were inspired to visit the town because of the song,” says Rob. “And I’ve had people tell me that my music gets them through some cold winter days back home.”
Since then, his sun-and-sand inspired music has been inspiring others to find their literal and metaphorical beaches. Rob says he used to think there was a limit to how much he could write about tropical themes without getting cheesy and cliché. Turns out he might have been wrong.
“It’s a little surprising that the songs keep coming,” he admits. “It’s not like everything I write is about the beach, but they say you should write what you know, so it’s a pretty frequent topic. The key for me is to always remember that when I’m singing about the beach, sometimes I’m not just singing about the beach. The beach is a symbol for escape. And I don’t mean an escape from real life, but into real life. It’s about taking risks and following your bliss and creating and embracing the magic moments of life.”