When television anchor Monica Robins takes the stage at Kent Blues Fest on Saturday, she won’t be reporting a news story. Instead, Robins will grab the microphone as the front woman of her rock and blues band, “Monica Robins and The Whiskey Kings.”
Robins is best known for her health reporting on WKYC, a local Cleveland news network. Although she has been in both the music and reporting businesses for decades, it usually takes fans awhile before they make the connection that the songbird they enjoy is also on their evening news.
“It’s amazing because I’ve been doing it for so long,” Robins said. “We just played a gig this past weekend, and people were going, ‘I can’t believe it’s really you.”
Although reporting is her forte, few would say music is just a hobby for the front woman.
Originally, Robins was a voice major at West Virginia University and planned to be a professional musician, but later decided to switch her major to broadcast news.
“I’ve been singing in rock bands since I was 15,” Robins said. “It’s what I initially went to college for. I paid my way through college singing in bands.”
Robins continued to sing during the stints of her first journalism jobs, but she realized she struck music gold when she received a job in Northeast Ohio, more than a decade ago.
She noticed immediately how many Cleveland broadcasters and videographers also happened to be in local bands.
“When I came here, there were a lot of musicians in our industry,” Robins said. “I’m not exactly sure why that is. It wasn’t like that in other markets where I worked. Maybe that’s because it’s the city that’s home to Rock n’ Roll.”
Robins started singing in a new band as soon as she moved to Cleveland, which would later evolve into the group performing at the Kent Blues Fest. Previously, the group was called the BFD Band, and catered strictly to traditional blues fans.
“As our music evolved, so did our name,” said drummer Deke Kumler. “We ditched the BFD back in early 2000. We actually started back in 1994 a strictly as a blues band, playing the old British-type of blues that kind of evolved because there weren’t that many venues that wanted to here that kind of thing.”
In the earlier development of the band, Robins worked with the group to revamp their style to be more dance friendly. Venues didn’t want to book the band if they could not get patrons to on the dance floor, so they altered their set list to reflect more recognizable music.
“Our current lineup in 2012 is more of a classic rock…a lot of Zeppelin, ‘Stones,” Kumler said. “Obviously, Monica being a female lead singer so we try to stay with music for female-based singers.”
The band’s new format and hard work continuously pays off, as they find local fans everywhere they go.
“We are currently booked well over 40 gigs a year, and that’s just about every weekend we’re out doing something,” Kumler said.
Robins and Kumler both said it is difficult at times balancing everyday life with their band, but the pair have an advantage most musicians don’t have— they are married, and have been together for 13 years.
The couple is eager to return to the Kent Blues Fest for the second consecutive year because they received such a warm reception last year.
“We had such an amazing response,” Robins said. “We had such an awesome time and such an awesome crowd. We were absolutely thrilled when they asked us back. Any time you have a college community, you’re going to have great music. I just think it’s brilliant that they showcase blues and give it a weekend to really let people know there are a whole lot of different types of music out there.”
The band will open for Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels at the Kent Stage from 8 p.m. until 9 p.m.
For more performance information and music samples from Monica Robins and The Whiskey Kings, check out monicarobins.com.