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Meet Robert Counts: The Biochemistry Major Making a Name For Himself in Nashville (Exclusive)

The Tennessee native with a southern rock sound talks to us about his transition from medical student to songwriter, and what it was like writing his new single ‘What Do I Know.’

Not many country artists can say they were on a path to becoming an orthopedic surgeon when they made the decision to focus on music full time, but that’s Robert Counts‘ story.

During a gap year between his Undergraduate Degree and finishing up his time in Medical School, Counts’ year took a promising turn down his path to become a hit singer/songwriter. After winning a songwriting contest at Franklin mainstay Puckett’s, Counts worked to hone his craft, which eventually lead into a publishing deal while lending his voice to songs that are brutally honest and others that are deceptively subtle.

Counts went on to release his self-titled debut EP, which was produced by Jimmy Ritchey and Dann Huff, that now has over 4.1 million streams to date.

The success hasn’t stopped, though. Just last month, Robert released modern-day, Southern blue-collar anthem, “What Do I Know,” that Counts describes as “things you’re taught about growing up – hunting, fishing, living off the land – things that your dad tells you and his granddad told him” with more music on the way soon.

Counts spoke to Celeb Secrets Country about what prompted his transition from future doctor to focusing on his songwriting skills full time, and who inspired his music growing up.

Take a read at the full Q&A below and connect with Robert on Instagram at @robcountsmusic.

Celeb Secrets Country: You have a degree in Biochemistry — what made you want to transfer your focus to music?

Robert Counts: “I grew up in Franklin, Tennessee, very close to Nashville; about 30 minutes south. Music has always been in the background of my life; started playing guitar when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I learned to play guitar in my church, I was playing in a band there. So I decided to go to college and ended up picking Biochemistry because my parents are working class people, my mom’s an accountant and my dad’s a builder, and they weren’t too fond with the idea of having a kid that just solely did music. Growing up in Nashville we had seen a lot of people that had tried and failed just because it’s a rough city and [a career in music is] a tough thing to get into. While they loved what I did, they were the ones who really pushed me to get a job job. I picked Biochemistry because I was a science and math guy and I wanted to be a doctor, specifically an orthopedic surgeon. I had been doing some internships and things at local hospitals around Nashville while I was pursuing that degree and ended up graduating and moving back home. I had still been playing guitar and writing songs and playing through college as well, but when I got back home I had more time and started playing at local eateries around Franklin and ended up entering into a songwriting competition and winning. I then met a publisher and he offered me my first, kind of, paid publishing deal. He was getting to know me and wanted to know what I was doing and I told him, ‘well shoot, I’m teeing up to go back to medical school, I just finished my Undergrad Degree’. I was kind of toying with the idea of taking a year off, doing a little gap year thing before going onto medical school and I sat down with my parents and convinced them to let me do that. I said at the very least, it will look great on my resume that I had a publishing deal. So I started doing that for a year and was writing full time and working at a restaurant-doing the songwriter grind-and ended up falling in love with it. Med School just kept getting pushed to the back-burner and here we are today; I have a single and a record coming out. I think it’s worked out pretty well for me.”

CSC: Who would you say are your musical inspirations?

RC: “I have a lot. I tend to break them up into categories of people who influenced me who are kind of around my time, and then a little bit older influences like people who my parents listened to and stuff that was playing on the radio when I was growing up. For more traditional, old school influences it would probably be Springsteen, Mellencamp, Bob Seger; all of those Middle American kind of, Rockabilly artists. That’s what I love and I feel like you can definitely hear that in my singing. Currently I love a lot of Folk/Americana artists; I love Jason Isbell, Bryan Adams, John Mayer obviously has been a huge influence musically with what he does. Then some more Indie bands that I love, I love this band called Dawes-I don’t really know if anybody knows them-and Kings of Leon. But with me anything that has a great lyric to it, that’s the first thing I felt like I was drawn to with anything that would influence my music.”

CSC: You have a single out right now called “What Do I Know”. Can you talk to us about it and the inspiration behind writing it?
RC: “That was a song that I wrote a couple of years ago with another artist named Hardy; he’s kind of all over the charts and he has had a lot of success in the writing community. We kind of became friends and sat down to write this song one day and we had the chord progression going first, it was a very Hank Williams Jr. kind of feel. We had the title ‘What Do I Know’ and we were trying to derive some direction or meaning out of that and we just started talking about things we heard as boys that grew up in the south. Things that you would hear your dad say and things you heard growing up in a more rural part of the country; things like the value of waking up early and the value of working hard, saving a little bit of your money, all the way to things like carrying a pocket knife and when you’re hunting don’t kill something you’re not going to eat . So that was the inspiration behind it, it started kind of silly but then we got to the end of it and we were like, ‘man, these actually aren’t half bad values to live your life on’. It ended up being a much cooler song than I think we set out for it to be; we wanted it to be a redneck rock anthem. It ended up being a song that I really love and I’m really proud of.”
CSC: You mentioned  you co-wrote it with Hardy, and Jake Mitchell had a hand as well. What was it like getting to work with those guys and do you have any fun memories from making the song?
RC: “It was great. It’s kind of funny because back when we wrote this song, Michael Hardy was just starting out and Jake is an incredible guy so it was an honor to work with him; there wasn’t the stigma of the Hardy we know and love today-he was just kind of coming onto the scene. It really just felt like any other day in the writing room; but they were really, really fun guys to write with. I do remember that it was very lighthearted, easy, and I feel like a lot of times your best songs are going to come out of those days. It was a lot of fun.”
CSC: If you could pick one artist, any genre of music, for your dream co-write, who would it be?
RC: “Since it’s open up to anybody, Jason Isbell; I think he’s a lyrical genius. I’d love to even just be a fly in the wall as he does his process. I think that would be a dream co-write of mine for sure.”
CSC: How have you been staying connected with your fans during quarantine?
RC: “I’ve been doing some virtual lives and have posted some videos of things that I’ve been writing or songs that aren’t new to me, specifically, but songs the fans may not have heard. I’m doing everything I can to stay connected.”

CSC: Before lockdown you played the C2C festival, what was that experience like?

RC: “It was fantastic, but it kind of got cut short by the pandemic. I was in Germany and we had played the C2C Berlin Festival; it was great. The people and the fans over there are so welcoming, they love Country music. It’s just an incredible festival; if anybody gets the opportunity to do it they should totally do it. We had a great time there and we kind of did some running around in Europe for a few days and then we got to the next weekend where we were supposed to play London, and when we got into London President Trump made his announcement about closing down air travel and it became a mess so we had to get on a plane as quickly as we could and had to leave. So we actually didn’t get to do the C2C London, that kind of ended up getting shut down. I look forward to going back, I always love going over there just because the fans are so sweet.”

CSC: What can we expect from you in terms of new music?

RC: “When we went in and cut ‘What Do I Know’ there was also a second song that I don’t want to give away just now, but it’s a fantastic song and I’m excited to put it out. There will be a new song that we’re putting out before the end of the year and I’m continuing to write new stuff so there’s always going to be new stuff in the pipeline. As far as shows, I’m chomping at the bit to get back out there, but I don’t know how feasible it’ll be to get back out there with a full band and play shows probably before 2021, to be honest. For me I’ll be writing and preparing for 2021.”

CSC: What is one secret, hidden talent, or surprise hobby fans may not know about you? 

RC: “I’m kind of a handyman, I suppose. I like to work with my hands and I tend to spend a lot of my spare time doing odd jobs for people. I’ve been working on my vehicles a lot lately. I guess you can say I’m a tinkerer of sorts. I’m always busy doing something or fixing something around the house or for a friend. That’s kind of a hobby of mine.”

Written by Kassidy Stewart

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