And Belmont junior Robby Earle will tell you he’s no stranger to this dreaded creative abyss.
But to get beyond that for his most recent work, all Earle needed was a little help from his friends.
The Louisiana native released “Lifted” in August and played a show a 3rd and Lindsley to celebrate the album’s debut.
“It’s always hard to pull out crowds in Nashville,” Earle said. “To pack out 3rd and Lindsley was a huge blessing. It was a really fun release day.”
“Lifted” is Earle’s second recording. His first five-song EP, “Back to Life,” came out in May 2011.
His newest record has been compared to the style of artists like Ben Rector and The Script. Earle cited Billy Joel, Coldplay and Steve Moakler as influences on on “Lifted,” an album that came together after what he called a difficult bout with writer’s block.
Earle grappled with the realization that although writing and playing music were his passions, he was struggling to come up with new material.
“I used to only write by myself, which I took pride in at one point,” Earle said. “You feel very much that the music is an extension of you in that way. You feel more self-sufficient.”
His block, however, compelled him to seek creative inspiration and insight from other writers. From these collaborations, “Lifted” came into being.
“I was forced into a lot of co-writes, which ended up probably being the best thing for me as a person and as a writer,” he said.
For the album, Earle worked with former Belmont students Steve Moakler and Stephen Soderholm and Nashville singer-songwriter Matt Wertz.
Earle describes “Lifted” as a “community project.” From the artwork to the musicians, all contributors to the album are personal friends. With “Back to Life,” his original EP, Earle brought in musicians like John Mayer’s bass player.
“It’s getting over that ego thing, getting to the point where it’s very ground up, rootsy,” he said. “All my friends came together and made this album. It means a lot.”
Earle described the album as a depiction of the months he spent reassessing his music and direction. He said his block was fueled by musical decisions made two years ago that eventually forced him to a position of reevaluation and introspection.
“I stopped writing from an honest place. I was making myself into a product,” he said.
Earle felt that product was veering more and more away from who he really was.
“I’m a nerd,” he said. “I’m a hardcore nerd. I will talk to you about Lord of the Rings forever. I write songs because I’m hypersensitive and a little bit introverted. I had to get back to that place where I felt I could write honestly again. It was a process.”
Once he realized writing for a certain audience was proving to be a barrier, he felt liberated to create music which truly reflected his own thoughts and ideas.
“This record, I communicated messages I really wanted to communicate. It was very honest — it was very raw,” Earle said.
Earle has a simple request for people regarding his latest album. “I just want people to listen to it. I tried to be purposeful in the messages I conveyed. I wanted people to be able to latch onto it.”
As with any musician, Earle listens to his music to evaluate and analyze the final product.
“It’s always interesting to see where [the music] hits from this mood or from this place or from this weather. You overthink it to that degree,” he said.
This assessment of his own music placed him in a unique situation.
“‘Coming Alive’ is probably my favorite song off the record. I got the demo back and I was listening to it with my windows rolled down as I was stopped at this red light on Wedgewood. I was … jamming to it.”
At the same time, a girl in a car beside him asked who he was listening to, causing Earle to question how he should answer her without sounding like a narcissist.
“I was immediately struck with ‘How do I answer this question?’” he said. “This is someone who could be a potential fan. Me being like hyper-spastic at that point – it was early in the morning, I had just had a big cup of coffee and was about to go work out – I was like, ‘Well,’ and as I turned to her, my foot slipped off the brake. So in the process of trying to talk to this girl next to me and listening to my own song, I actually rear-ended the car in front of me.”
Fortunately, the blunder caused no damage to the unsuspecting vehicle before him, though Earle never provided an answer to the girl’s question.
He said he hopes to land a publishing deal soon as he continues to spread his music and build his fan base. Though he admitted he would love to one day achieve fame – “I love attention. I’d eat it up” – he said it’s the genuine love of music that drives him to create and share his work.
“One of the biggest things for me has been defining or maybe redefining what success looks like in that area,” he said. “A lot of people come – especially Belmont kids – wanting to be famous, but I think it’s very, very, very important to make sure success doesn’t equal that. I think if you’re going to play music, you should be happy playing music for a house show with 15 people or in an arena.”
His album “Lifted” is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and from his website www.robbyearle.com.