“Robert is free now,” The text message said. I confusedly searched for a contact whose face I did not know. I wandered, asking the staff if the stairs in the showroom led to the so-called Green Room. I found my in-between person, who led me up the stairs to a room with a few musicians. Sitting there was a man with gentle brown eyes and flowing hair hidden by a hat. This man shook my hand and introduced himself as Robert Schwartzman of Rooney.
Robert began has the founder and lead singer of Ed Rooney in 1999. The band opened their first show for his brother’s band in California. Robert had stage fright. “I wasn’t trying to be a singer in a band,” Robert recalls as he got up to search the fridge for the perfect lager, “I was terrified to sing in public.”
After watching his brother, he began writing songs. It was then that he discovered his true passion for writing music. He says, “I started to catch that bug that you catch when you just become really addicted to [writing songs]. So I just started writing songs, and then I wanted to perform them. And then once I got over that hurdle of ‘I’m afraid to do this.’ I felt way more addicted to it.
Listening to Robert talk, I could imagine the shy twenty-something getting on the stage the first time. His quiet voice led me to believe that the person I saw during our interview would also be the person who would take the stage later that night. I could not have been more wrong.
That night, as the lights dimmed and the headlining musician prepared to take the stage, the spirit of the many rock stars by whom he was inspired entered him, and his personality changed completely. Once the guitar was in his hands, he was no longer Robert Schwartzman, he was the single remaining member of Rooney.
The vibe he gave off was contagious. Even the musicians accompanying him could feel his energy, and they fed off of one another. Schwartzman bounded around the stage dipping and swaying as he sang originals like “Not in My House” and “My Heart Beats 4 U.” In between songs, he would thank his fans for coming to see him play, and he would thank the other musicians for playing as well. The entire show was so energetic, not a person there could stand still during his set.
When the show was finished and the encore, “Stay Away,” was played, the band, Schwartzman included, took some time to talk to fans one-on-one. People were happily taking pictures and asking for hugs, while Schwartzman’s gentle smile remained on his face.
While Robert Schwartzman is the only remaining member of the original band, Ed Rooney, he does not plan to stop performing under the band name Rooney anytime soon. “I could start a new project tomorrow, and I’ve experimented with that. But I don’t think I’m fully happy giving up Rooney because I’ve had a long history with it. I don’t feel comfortable just walking away from this. I think it’s going to take the time to rebuild this project into something people care about, but I’m willing to do the work to get there.”
It is very apparent that Robert is proud of his work, and the fan base, as well as his charisma on stage, is proof that Rooney, for now, is very much what it needs to be.
Rooney’s newest album washed away, was released in May of 2016.
Interview and photos © 2016 Stephanie Connell