Rob Higgins Unveils New
Country Music Project
Story by Michael Seguin
Photography by John Liviero
For former Drop Dead Famous vocalist Rob Higgins, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“It all goes back to my Dad,” Rob explains. “He played an old guitar on an amp. I remember being three years old and listening to him play all the old Johnny Cash songs. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow, I’d love to be able to do that.’ From there, I was hooked.”
Rob’s love affair with music has been a lifelong one. At the age of 19, he started working at the Polaris Recording Studio with the late George Hello.
“I wanted to learn the ropes,” Rob states. “I was always writing songs along the way. I’m definitely more of a singer/songwriter than a actual musician. I mess around with the guitar, drums and the piano, but instruments are definitely not my forte. I get the ideas down in music, then I bring in the lyrics to take it to the next level. Melodies and the writing are my main things.”
Rob describes his songwriting process as combination of chaos theory, word association and free therapy.
“There’s a couple different ways I can write a song,” Rob explains. “Sometimes an idea will just pop into my head. I’ll hear a comment from someone or see something that will inspire me. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s just tragic stuff that you go through. Other times, a song will just hit me out of nowhere. I’ll have no idea where it came from. And sometimes, I will focus in on a topic or idea and it becomes a very methodical approach.”
Now approaching his early fifties, Rob has been fortunate enough to play at countless venues across Windsor and Essex County in a career that spans the previous three decades.
“Whenever I get up on stage, there’s nerves involved,” Rob explains. “But they’re usually good nerves! I’m usually excited to get up there! We work really hard to prepare for shows. By the time the show starts, we’ve already put in countless hours just to be there. And then, once you’re up there, the switch flips. To me, I feel like it’s my job to put on a good show, sound good and make the audience smile. That becomes my main focus.”
Rob is perhaps best known for his role as the lead vocalist in Drop Dead Famous, a prominent local cover band. Performing alongside musicians like Dave Sinewitz, Scott Holmes, Chris Holmes and Chris Blais, the band quickly rose to prominence in July 2014 when they opened up for Theory of a Deadman.
“We’ve opened up for so many awesome main acts,” Rob explains. “At a lot of
different festivals. But, in terms of a personal favourite, one that sticks out is the time we opened for Theory of a Deadman. My cousin, Tyler Connolly, is their lead singer. We got to open up for them in Barrie at a sold-out arena.”
Rob and his Drop Dead Famous bandmates took the stage at 10 pm, when the crowd was starting to get rowdy.
“Everyone was primed and ready by then,” Robert calls. “It was pretty nerve-racking. Normally, when you open for someone, the audience is not there to see you. So, I wasn’t really sure how things were going to go.”
Now, seven years later, Rob describes the venue as “rockstar fantasy camp for an hour.”
“I was such a great experience,” Rob states. “We were received so well. And it was a real big deal getting to play with Tyler.”
After so many years developing a unique sound, Rob did something unusual for any artist: He reinvented himself.
“My previous sound was very pop-rock,” Rob explains. “With Drop Dead Famous, we were covering everything from Kings of Leon to U2 to Kid Rock to Rage Against the Machine. We had so much fun doing it! It was a riot! But, it was very pop-rock. So, I decided I wanted to make the switch to country music.”
In terms of making such a dramatic leap, Rob returns to the apple and the tree.
“My grandfather played country music,” Rob recalls. “My Dad played country music. Growing up, I used to go to see Garth Brooks in downtown Detroit. I’ve always loved country music!”
When asked how difficult it was to make the transition from pop-rock to country, Rob shrugs.
“It wasn’t that hard,” Rob states. “Being a lyricist, country music is more about storytelling. It has more to do with the words than pop-rock. Not to say that in pop-rock the lyrics aren’t important, but the guitar riffs and the melodies can sometimes take precedence. As a writer, on that end, it was very easy. In terms of tone, I maybe had to make some adjustments here or there, but it wasn’t too difficult.”
And despite such a dramatic turn, Rob’s fans have surrendered their grudging approval.
“A lot of guys that used to follow us have said, ‘Oh my God, you’re going country?’” Rob admits. “They’re so used to our old sound. And country music has changed so much in the last 10 years. So now, they hear what we’ve got if they say, ‘Oh. I hate to say it, but I kind of like it.’”
Ultimately, Rob describes the switch as embracing his authentic musical desires.
“I always had that dream of being a big rockstar when I was a kid,” Rob states. “But it made sense making that transition now, because of where I’m at in my life. My age. My life experiences. It just seems like country is the right avenue to express these things.”
Rob credits his musical compatriots with helping him make this journey, specifically his co-writers Dave Sinewitz and John Drew. He has worked closely with Marty Bak at SLR Studios, Loc Michaud, Chris Blais, Scott and Chris Holmes, Terry Lesperance, Jeff Burrows, Ryan St. Denis, Deb Van Lare and Kelly Hoppe.
HiGGi’s Country Music Project has currently released two singles, “Crazy Country Girl” and “This Old Bar.” Both and his entire previous library are available on all major streaming platforms.
“People always come to me with the same questions,” Rob explains. “‘Do you really think you’re going to make it? Have you made it? Why haven’t you made it?’ I don’t think they realize that making it as a musician is like buying a lottery ticket. The amount of people that are writing and recording really is that big. And, to me, there’s different levels of making it. Playing with my friends. Writing music that I love. Shooting music videos. Going to play the shows. In my opinion, just by finding something that I love so much, I have made it.”
More information about Rob is available at higgicountrymusic.com.