The Hoax, Exeter Phoenix, Thursday, April 10.
One of Robin Davey’s earliest memories is playing his toy guitar in the grounds of Lanhydrock House, near Bodmin.
He was all of two or three years old at the time and already captivated by the act of making music, albeit in a naive, childish form.
“I remember sitting with this little guitar in an archway of this big old house – at least it seemed big at the time. My father worked as a gardener on the estate and we lived in a place they provided for a while,” recalls Robin.
Perhaps it was inevitable that this passion would turn into a rich and varied musical career that now brings him back to the Westcountry with his very first band, award-winning British blues outfit The Hoax.
Now 38, and settled in California for the last decade, Robin still feels a strong connection to Devon and Cornwall.
“I was born in St Austell – I guess that was the nearest hospital at the time – and I lived in Bodmin for the first six or seven years of my life,” he says. “My brother Jesse, who is in the band with me, and my sister, were born there too.
“I have strong memories of trips to the beach and going to school,” adds Robin, who formed The Hoax when he was just 14, after the family had moved to Devizes in Wiltshire.
If his father’s job provided an idyllic early childhood in Cornwall, it was his long playing records that fuelled Robin’s burgeoning musical talent.
“He had an extensive collection and I was listening to all the old blues greats, people like Buddy Guy and BB King. And when we used to go out to see local bands, a lot of them were playing covers of that sort of music, so we were exposed to a lot of it. I was also listening to Rage Against The Machine and Guns N’ Roses,” he adds. “Blues was so accessible; wanting to do something creative with a guitar seemed very cool to me.”
So the young Robin – who actually plays bass rather than guitar in the band – started practising hard and says he is still working on his craft a quarter of a century later.
“Getting my first few tunes together was very easy, but perfecting it has taken 25 years and counting,” he says. “If I was going to give any advice to my 14-year-old self it would be to be dedicated, practise hard and get good.”
Robin was still a teenager when producer Mike Vernon (Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall and The Blues Breakers featuring Eric Clapton) signed The Hoax to Atlantic/Warner Records in 1994.
Their acclaimed debut album Sounds Like This, was hailed an instant classic, saw them being compared to the Yardbirds and the Rolling Stones, and won them the Best British Blues Band and Best British Blues Album titles. But five years, 2,000 gigs and two more albums later, The Hoax decided to call it a day.
The various members went on to great success with individual projects. Robin and Jesse signed to Interscope in the USA as the Davey Brothers, prompting the move across the pond, and recording with the likes of Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, Katy Perry, Joss Stone and Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics.
Singer Hugh Coltman signed as a solo artist to Universal France, releasing two critically acclaimed albums, and Jon Amor built up a solid fanbase in the UK and Europe with his solo records and as leader of the Jon Amor Blues Group.
“But we were always talking about coming back together some time,” says Robin.
In 2010 they reunited to play a string of sold out shows across Europe. But it wasn’t until last year that they found the time – and the funding – to record the new album that loyal fans were demanding.
A year ago they set up a page on fan funding site and reached their goal within a week, raising more than $20,000 to enable them to lay down tracks at a Los Angeles studio.
“It was fantastic because we were in profit before we even released the album, and everything we made we ploughed back in,” he says.
“We didn’t have any songs written, but we went in the studio for two weeks and came out with an album’s worth.
The fired-up Big City Blues, for which Robin did the artwork, came out last August, attracting great reviews and staying at number one in the iTunes blues chart for several weeks. The final track on the LP, Pledge Giver Blues, is a big thank-you to fans and includes the names of those who contributed to the making of the record.
The tour is a natural progression.
“It is nice to just get away and go out and play,” says Robin, who is also one half of the support act for the band’s European tour. Well Hung Heart is his collaboration with his singer wife, Greta Valenti, in which he does play guitar.
“It’s more of a rock band; I kind of get bored doing the same thing – I feel the need to push myself all the time,” says Robin.
The couple, who married a year ago, also have their own production company at home in Orange County, north of Los Angeles. “We live in a nice, small town that reminds me of Bodmin... or Devizes,” he says.