Having time with Rob Mehl is a gift. Having him in your home is a treasure and we recently experienced that when Rob came to perform a House Concert in Port Aransas, Texas. There was no way I could allow this marvelous, tropical story teller to be in our house and not talk about one of his great life passions: surfing.
If you have spent much time listening to Rob, you know much of his adolescence was spent in Hawaii. His dad was military and the family was stationed there for several years. Rob’s passion for surfing goes beyond the board and the waves. He learned a great deal of wisdom from the “beach boys,” which were the Hawaiians who congregated in areas on the Waikiki beach, when not out catching the waves. He spent time telling me about how this lifestyle has affected his music.
Rob’s catch word was “freedom.” His early surfing days included no job, no money and no responsibilities. “Those were the days,” he reminisced. “When you’re that free, connection with words and music just happens. Many times, we’re not attached to our (surf)boards and being in the waves is such freedom.”
When I asked if any legendary surfers were influences on him and him music, he was quick to recount those names. There was Skip Fry, a well-known surfboard maker, who could look at the clouds while being inland and tell what the waves were like miles away. Steve Walden, another “surfboard shaper” figured in, as well as Larry Gordon (of Gordon and Smith Surfboards), Bill Castor and Jerry Lopez. Rob also met “Wingnut” of Endless Summer II fame and surfed with him. From these athletes and Hawaiian beach boys, he learned a great deal about respect and character. Character has inspired him to write – quality of behavior and discipline goes hand in hand with his songwriting.
Many catch phrases in Rob’s song lyrics have been surf-inspired, such as “invisible intersection,” defined as where the sky meets the water as seen from atop a surfboard. An area named Swamy’s is “where the dolphins play” and you’ve heard those lyrics if you’ve listened to his Out of the Blue album. Many times, Rob has been out on a surfboard and starts singing an idea that comes to him. The ideas intrigue him, then begin to grow. “Subconsciously the words will fall out like leaving a trail,” he recalled. “The musical and lyrical elements can fit together without thinking about it.”
Rob has written several new songs and unveiled a couple of them at the House Concert. They were accepted enthusiastically by the listening audience there and Rob hopes to start a new CD project soon. The next time you hear Rob Mehl in person, remember that he sings not only from the heart, but with character and freedom inspired by all those many waves he has surfed through the years.