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Roob Blackwell took up the ukelele and wound up with an EP

Sorry Section’s first release provided a collaborative catharsis

Rob Blackwell sought solace in the ease of the uke.
Rob Blackwell sought solace in the ease of the uke.

Peak Covid-19 was a tough time for Rob “Roob” Blackwell. “I, like many people, started struggling with pretty significant mental health issues during the lockdown,” Blackwell explains. “I have always had major depressive disorder, and it manifests as anxiety in me — and my anxiety just went through the roof during that time. And not just because of the pandemic; it was also the political and racial climate and how things just got so ugly during that time. We were isolating, and I just started to crumble.” A longtime pianist, Blackwell decided to learn to play a different instrument during the pandemic, to help relieve stress. He picked the ukulele because he heard from others that it had a short learning curve, and began taking lessons with Anna Zinova (Pinkeye). “I couldn’t even make my fingers curve, it was so awkward for me. But over time I got a little better.”

After several lessons, Zinova suggested that Blackwell write a song that utilized the four different playing techniques they had worked on during their sessions. “So, I wrote a song, and I played it for her, and she was like, ‘Oh, man, that was not at all what I expected. It was so much better than I even expected. You really don’t need me for lessons anymore. You just need to work on your own. Go do this.’ In fact, that song that I wrote is one of the songs” — “Ain’t That Dope” — “that is on the EP that I put out.”

The EP, Who’s Sorry Now?, features the debut recordings from Blackwell’s new project. “The name Sorry Section comes from a sign I saw in a restaurant a few years back that said ‘Sorry Section Closed.’ The absence of a comma after ‘Sorry’ implied that the place actually had a sorry section. And that made me think: who sits in the sorry section, why are they there, and what do they talk about?” All five of the songs were written by Blackwell and feature his vocals and newfound uke skills. “I actually channeled a lot of what I was feeling into those songs, and particularly into the lyrics. Once those songs were in the can and being recorded, it was cathartic, and I felt loads lighter for having done so.”

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Actual Sorry Section sign

Beefing up the tracks are a handful of musicians (including Zinova, who contributed violin parts on two of the tracks) that Blackwell met over the years via his locals-intensive Not So Serious Radio show, which broadcasts out of Palomar College’s radio station. Sean Burdeuax (Paper Forest) contributed guitar and bass, Brian Scafidi (D/Wolves) added drum, guitar, and bass on songs, and John Vineyard (The Oxen) helped out with some slide guitar and bass. Blackwell still seems amazed that this collection of musicians, whose lives are packed with work and other music projects, found the time to record with him. “I couldn’t be more indebted to all four of them,” he says. “They actually rehearsed prior to coming into the studio, and came for one or more sessions. For a while, I couldn’t even talk about it without crying. I was just that moved by it. I still am moved. I just don’t cry any more about it.”

Besides Sorry Section, Blackwell is still hosting Not So Serious Radio, even though the original format of the show never fully recovered post-Covid. “When it came back in 2022, the college made a decision to basically limit the live radio shows to students only, and it would only be during, essentially, business hours,” he explains. “So, people like me who were essentially volunteers, who had evening shows, were basically SOL. But they did give me the option to record a show, like a podcast, in advance and they would upload it. I have been doing that for four-plus years now. I don’t prefer it, and I miss being live, but it’s kind of what I have, so I continue on.”

As for Sorry Section live performances, Blackwell has no plans to trot out full-band shows anytime soon, but he is looking to test the waters of local solo open-mic nights with his trusty uke. He’s eyeing the Monday night event at the Ould Sod (hosted by Lauren Leigh) that he attended earlier this year. “I think I’m over the fear part of performing, because I feel more confident with the songs and my ability to do it solo. But stay tuned.”

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Rob Blackwell sought solace in the ease of the uke.
Rob Blackwell sought solace in the ease of the uke.

Peak Covid-19 was a tough time for Rob “Roob” Blackwell. “I, like many people, started struggling with pretty significant mental health issues during the lockdown,” Blackwell explains. “I have always had major depressive disorder, and it manifests as anxiety in me — and my anxiety just went through the roof during that time. And not just because of the pandemic; it was also the political and racial climate and how things just got so ugly during that time. We were isolating, and I just started to crumble.” A longtime pianist, Blackwell decided to learn to play a different instrument during the pandemic, to help relieve stress. He picked the ukulele because he heard from others that it had a short learning curve, and began taking lessons with Anna Zinova (Pinkeye). “I couldn’t even make my fingers curve, it was so awkward for me. But over time I got a little better.”

After several lessons, Zinova suggested that Blackwell write a song that utilized the four different playing techniques they had worked on during their sessions. “So, I wrote a song, and I played it for her, and she was like, ‘Oh, man, that was not at all what I expected. It was so much better than I even expected. You really don’t need me for lessons anymore. You just need to work on your own. Go do this.’ In fact, that song that I wrote is one of the songs” — “Ain’t That Dope” — “that is on the EP that I put out.”

The EP, Who’s Sorry Now?, features the debut recordings from Blackwell’s new project. “The name Sorry Section comes from a sign I saw in a restaurant a few years back that said ‘Sorry Section Closed.’ The absence of a comma after ‘Sorry’ implied that the place actually had a sorry section. And that made me think: who sits in the sorry section, why are they there, and what do they talk about?” All five of the songs were written by Blackwell and feature his vocals and newfound uke skills. “I actually channeled a lot of what I was feeling into those songs, and particularly into the lyrics. Once those songs were in the can and being recorded, it was cathartic, and I felt loads lighter for having done so.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Actual Sorry Section sign

Beefing up the tracks are a handful of musicians (including Zinova, who contributed violin parts on two of the tracks) that Blackwell met over the years via his locals-intensive Not So Serious Radio show, which broadcasts out of Palomar College’s radio station. Sean Burdeuax (Paper Forest) contributed guitar and bass, Brian Scafidi (D/Wolves) added drum, guitar, and bass on songs, and John Vineyard (The Oxen) helped out with some slide guitar and bass. Blackwell still seems amazed that this collection of musicians, whose lives are packed with work and other music projects, found the time to record with him. “I couldn’t be more indebted to all four of them,” he says. “They actually rehearsed prior to coming into the studio, and came for one or more sessions. For a while, I couldn’t even talk about it without crying. I was just that moved by it. I still am moved. I just don’t cry any more about it.”

Besides Sorry Section, Blackwell is still hosting Not So Serious Radio, even though the original format of the show never fully recovered post-Covid. “When it came back in 2022, the college made a decision to basically limit the live radio shows to students only, and it would only be during, essentially, business hours,” he explains. “So, people like me who were essentially volunteers, who had evening shows, were basically SOL. But they did give me the option to record a show, like a podcast, in advance and they would upload it. I have been doing that for four-plus years now. I don’t prefer it, and I miss being live, but it’s kind of what I have, so I continue on.”

As for Sorry Section live performances, Blackwell has no plans to trot out full-band shows anytime soon, but he is looking to test the waters of local solo open-mic nights with his trusty uke. He’s eyeing the Monday night event at the Ould Sod (hosted by Lauren Leigh) that he attended earlier this year. “I think I’m over the fear part of performing, because I feel more confident with the songs and my ability to do it solo. But stay tuned.”

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