A number of prominent entertainers were part of the 9-to-5 rat race before taking a chance on a creative career. Jeff Foxworthy toiled at IBM before becoming a comedy icon. Boston guitarist Tom Scholz worked at Polaroid. Stand-up comedian Brian Regan majored in accounting in college, and was set to follow in his father’s footsteps in that profession. Matt Robinson earned a finance degree and worked in the field for seven years. But he decided to follow his dream of becoming a musician, and his part-time band, Old Shoe, became a full-time project.
“I took the figurative parachute and jumped out of the plane,” the band’s vocalist-guitarist said by phone from his Chicago home. “It was scary but so liberating opening that door. Once I jumped out, it was so exhilarating. It’s the best move I ever made.” Old Shoe, which will perform Friday (11/30) at Gabe’s in Iowa City, delivers its quirky roots-rock, which is wonderfully disparate. The musicians have no problem veering from rock to bluegrass to jazz.“Anything goes in our band,” Robinson said. “I think it’s a lot more satisfying when you don’t have limitations. That way, your work sounds so different.”
The band’s latest album, “Country Home” contains 13 tracks, and takes the listener in 13 different directions. “That’s not by design,” Robinson said. “It’s just something that happens when we get together. It’s a good thing. It never gets boring.”
Old Shoe — which includes guitarist Paul Priest, keyboardist Joe Day, bassist Daniel Whittier Huber and drummer Jonathan Reed — plans to play material from each album, plus some new tunes. “We have a lot to choose from, which is a good thing,” Robinson said. “We love playing the recent songs we wrote. We’re excited about what we’re going to do next, which will probably be an EP. We plan to release it as a download but we’ll still have some CDs available at shows for those who prefer that format.”
Band members enjoy working in the studio but their favorite thing to do is play live. “You feel so free when you’re performing,” Robinson said. “You have all of that autonomy, and we take advantage of it. Playing live takes me back to my college days when I used to follow Phish around the country. Those were the golden days. I had the greatest time being a fan. We were free.”
Robinson still feels free, concentrating on his music instead of a day job. “That’s so true,” Robinson said. “It’s so gratifying being a musician as opposed to someone who works in finance.” The laid-back Robinson has a soft spot for Cedar Rapids, just up the road from where the band will be playing Friday.
“I know the area well since I went to college at Augustana,” Robinson said. “I’m a Quad Cities kind of guy. It’s only a little more than an hour from Cedar Rapids to Augustana. I remember seeing Widespread Panic there back in the day.” He remains a loyal rock music fan. “I really enjoy it as much as ever,” he said. “It reminds me of when I got into rock as a kid. I remember how cool it was when my older brother exposed me to bands like Led Zeppelin. The band that really excited me was The Doors. After I listened to them, I started to grow my hair long and my passion for music continued.
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“I never would have guessed as a kid that I would become a professional musician. But here I am getting ready to get on the road and get back to Iowa. No offense to anybody in an office, but this beats working in a cubicle.”
WHAT: Old Shoe, with Brad and The Big Wave opening
WHERE: Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington St., Iowa City
WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday (11/30)
TICKETS: $10, Icgabes.com
BAND’S WEBSITE: Old-shoe.com