Jack of all Trades! Robin Lull's Grotto Studio Delivers a Variety of Music and Computer Services

PERKINSVILLE, VERMONT – Robin Lull wears many hats in the disciplines of music, computers and technology; singer, song writer, player of several instruments, sound engineer, computer support technician, consultant, freelancer and website designer. Yes, Robin's vast knowledge of audio/video recording,computers and trouble-shooting lay the groundwork for his RL's Grotto Studio, tucked away in the scenic hills Southern Vermont, where his family has a long heritage.

Article by Joe Milliken * Photos: 1. Welcome to Grotto Studio 2. Robin and Lori Lull 3. Grotto Studio 4. Christopher Bergmann of Spectris and Robin Lull onstage (photo by Joe Milliken) 5. Heartfire CD artwork.

Despite all these hats Robin now wears, he is also a full-time computer support technician at prestigious Dartmouth College by day, but Lull's first love is music... going back almost as far as he can remember. “When I was a kid, my mother and father used to play guitars together and my mother's whole family was musical,” Robin said in a recent, Standing Room Only interview. “I was always jamming with my parents' guitars and organ for as long as I can remember and I even would make guitars out of wood and rubber bands!”

Robin played in all the grade and high school musical events, was involved in concert choir and chorus and his musical influences are wide-ranging. “From my grandmother listening to Count Basie, swing bands and the Lawrence Welk Show, to my parents listening to everything from Chet Atkins and Kingston Trio, to Peter, Paul and Mary and Johnny Cash, to my own musical discoveries such as progressive bands like Yes, Rush, Pink Floyd and Electric Light Orchestra to classic rock and current artists such as Lenny Kravitz, Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam. The only thing I don't have time for is fakers and the manufactured vocal packages that make up most of today's modern music labels.”

"I should also give a huge thank you to my friendly acquaintance, Doyle Bramhall II, who's talents include playing like I do, in the lefty-upside-down fashion. Chris (Bergmann, guitarist of Spectris) is responsible for pointing out Bramhall II to me, even though I had heard and loved the Arc Angels tunes that Doyle, Charlie Sexton and Double Trouble (Stevie Ray Vaughn's band) had formed, I didn't realize much about Doyle until Chris pointed him out to me much later.

"Bramhall had gave me the boost I needed to give music a go again, as for a long time I just felt like a misfit until I discovered a peer - from my own birth state of Texas - who came from the world of Stevie Ray Vaughan and blew my mind. I may not be a full-time musician, but Doyle really gave me the boost I needed to not be afraid any more and just do it.”

Robin and his wife, Lori, who just so happens to be an alum of Boston's prestigious Berklee School of Music, would perform with a couple bands in the early 2000's including a rock-pop outfit called 7 Rage with Robin on lead vocals and bass and Lori on keyboards. After that band, Robin and Lori would take a break before forming a new band with local musicians Christopher Bergmann on guitar and Todd Westfall on drums dubbed Spectris. In fact, Spectris continues to perform to this day as a trio with Bergmann, Westfall and now, Josh Mosher on bass.

“Chris really helped me evolve as a bassist and also helped me overcome my early insecurities about how I played,” Robin said. “And as a result, were were able to develop a rock-solid set featuring covers by such great bands as Pink Floyd, Rush and Tool.

“We also wrote some amazing music together for the first Spectris CD, that I rescued from a studio and finally mixed and packaged with some great artwork from Todd. I also assisted in booking gigs, creating web presence along with Todd's creativity. We really started getting a lot of bookings and before I knew it, job stress and being pulled too much between work and band duties burned me out to the point where I finally had to leave Spectris with Lori by the end of 2005.”

After departing from Spectris, Robin began working on his own solo music project to be called Heartfire. Consisting of 11 songs, the self-titled CD Heartfire was written and recorded over a span of 6 years in which Robin produced nearly all the music, played nearly every instrument and released the CD in 2013. “This was a long and evolving project I wrote and recorded around work, as to keep my sanity, stay musical and finally get out some of that creativity out of me.

“The first song that came directly after leaving Spectris... a “theme song” of sorts and tribute to Marvel Comics and Stan Lee, for the character Dr. Strange... which became the song “Calling Dr. Strange.” The song was driving me nuts, whirling around in my head, until I finally 'purged' (laughing) and recorded it.”

"The Inner Voice" was a deeper and more meaningful song and along with the nine tracks, were autobiographical for Robin and Lori. “The songs were about our lives,” Robin said. “Therefore I just put down words I was feeling at different times in our lives and the CD has gotten a great response over time.” Now looking back, Robin feels that perhaps, more could have been done as far as marketing the CD. “I didn't take the time and several offers to fully advertise the project early on but will perhaps, pursue more of an on line sales approach moving forward.

So, how did Robin's interest in computers come about, which also led to his ultimately creating his own home studio?

“I had worked a federal job with horrible shift hours and exposure to chemicals in the past, which nearly killed my health,” Robin said. “And by the end of 1998 and after multiple health related setbacks, I had nearly given up hope for my life but as I prayed for help, I also promised that if I lived, I would finally get back to playing music... and I guess those prayers finally got answered.”

During the transition from being ill to retraining, Robin contacted Michael W. Smith and sent his music label a demo tape."When I started getting ill and desired to get back to the music, I had sent Michael W. Smith's newly founded label, Rocketown Records, a demo tape with my sickly vocals. It was horrible because I was already losing my voice being so sick... but even so, his office called me and gave me a boost when I needed it most. Then a wonderful thing happened many years later things came around full circle, as I ended up meeting up with "Smitty" two times many years later and even sang with him on stage on a cruise just for fun... What a great guy. God bless him for that."

As Robin regained health after a complete immunity crash, he took a blossoming hobby of building computers and decided to seek some serious computer training on the I.T. Tech Track for MCSE+I, or Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and Internet Administrator. “Before I even finished all the tests, I was out there on jobs and helping people with their computers. These new skills brought me two job offers, one with Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (a grants-based job doing Internet web work) and a full-time offer of Classroom Technician at Dartmouth College.” Robin took the classroom tech job and soon after that, co-founded a band dubbed 7 Rage.

After over a decade of working at the college, being in two bands and then later, forming the Heartfire duo with Lori, Robin took an offer from the biggest department on the Dartmouth College campus, to be the exclusive I.T. Consultant for the Economics Department. “The department had so many different needs, it required someone with multiple abilities including web page work, computer support and various consultation work for everything I.T.-related and to this day, they keep me on my toes.”

Then in 2006, Robin decided to launched his own RL's Grotto Studio out of necessity, needing a proper space to work on computers and music. Lull and Grotto offer clients computer upgrades and repairs, website design and musically, a full-service audio/video recording studio. “Between all the computer, web page building, basic electronic repairs and recording the Spectris and HeartFire CDs, I simply needed a place to do it all... so I launched Grotto Studio in the garage attached to my house,” Robin stated.

“It allowed me to record much easier and work on all of these projects for myself and others. I created the studio to look like a sea cave (“Grotto”) with texture paints and various trimmings, while also giving it a fun 'sports bar' feel with televisions, and a sound system as well, to entertain friends who come over for help. Yes... it's my 'Man Cave!'

“For me, I really feel like I am just getting started on things. Fueled by my spirituality and martial arts discipline, life feels like it is finally where I want it, at 50. I have wonderful friends, my music, my hobbies, my work, a great wife and so many fun things we like to do. After several close calls with death, I am enjoying doing many things in my life and yes, music is always a big part of it.

“When my wife and I practice music together, we occasionally write a new song, learn new covers and we are still gigging now and then as HeartFireSpectris band friends as time allows. My youthful desires to be in a full-time band have long since passed, as I find being cross-trained in many ways to be more fulfilling and is leading to a nice life of independence. Plus I get so much pleasure in so many things that my wife and I do together and with others, such as riding motorcycles and snow mobiles and sailing, living life to the fullest as long as we can.

“I am glad to help others when I can (Editor: as this writer can most certainly attest to) and I continue to look forward to fun times with friends and family, making music and maybe, even eventually living aboard a big sail boat, sailing and gigging in the Caribbean. As our Heartfire song, “Can We Just Sail Away, hints strongly about.

“To sum it all up, I would say to the SRO readers; live your life and your passions because we only go this way once so enjoy it while it is here and you are able... but also, contemplate how do you want to be remembered? Work towards that!”

Amen to that.