Drinks with Rock Stars: Train’s Rob Hotchkiss

Reflecting on the road less taken and what lies ahead

Martine Paris

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Train’s Rob Hotchkiss performing at Doc’s Lab, San Francisco

It’s been 15 years since Grammy winning, multiplatinum artist Rob Hotchkiss saw his music career soar into the stratosphere with the overnight success of his band, Train. He would go on to write dozens of chart-topping hits including Drops of Jupiter and Calling All Angels, but by the third album, burnout would set in. The band had succumbed to drugs, divisive politics, and crushing ego battles. For sake of his health and happiness, Rob made the difficult decision to walk away from it all, the fame, the money, the power.

Taking refuge on the remote island of Vashon in Washington’s Puget Sound, he laid low for half a decade letting his mind wander the in-between spaces where creativity flourishes. Like Paul McCartney who ran away to the Hebrides to raise his family when the Beatles broke up, and Steve Jobs who ran away to India when he was fired from Apple, Rob knew he would find his way by taking much needed downtime.

He returned to the Bay Area a little over a year ago and reunited with Train bandmate Charlie Colin to work on their new band, Painbirds. He’s also launched his solo career with the critically acclaimed album, Midnight Ghost.

I had a chance to catch up with Rob at his recent performance at Doc’s Lab in San Francisco. Drinks included a Star Fresh champagne cocktail featuring an infusion of cognac and lemon. It was delicious!

Me with Train’s Rob Hotchkiss doing Drinks with Rock Stars

Your music is very Beatlesy. Earthy melodic folk ballads with strands of Harry Chapin, Jim Croce, Harry Nilsson and Cat Stevens. Who were your earliest influences and how would you describe your sound?

Definitely Beatles. They were the band that made me want to do this for a living. Zeppelin was an early influence. And early Bowie. Later, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. The Rolling Stones. Aerosmith. Guitar-wise, I’d have to include Jimi Hendrix. And sure, Cat Stevens, James Taylor. Also Creedence.

How do you listen to music… iTunes, Spotify, Sirius? Who is on your playlist right now?

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Martine Paris

Forbes contributor and freelance tech reporter for Fast Company, VentureBeat, CoinDesk, Pocket Gamer and more: muckrack.com/martineparis