Like many other bluegrass entertainers, Kim Robins has been thinking for some time about how she could stay active in the business, without having to travel across the country. A successful Pinecastle recording artist, she has been involved in performing since before she hit her teens.
Her family growing up in Indiana was deeply musical, and encouraged the young singer to pursue her dreams. Starting out as a country artist, Kim was making out well, and opening for top names like Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Barbara Mandrell, and The Oak Ridge Boys.
Pregnant at 19, she gave up music to raise her daughter, obtained a nursing degree, and established a career in medicine. But music called again when she met and married banjo phenom Butch Robins, who encouraged Kim to keep writing and singing.
Bluegrass took over for Robins once her daughter was grown and out of the house, and she signed with Pinecastle and received two nominations from IBMA for their Momentum Vocalist Award, the first in 2015.
Married now to Mark Gines, a recently retired college basketball referee, Kim says that she is exploring her love for bluegrass as an entrepreneur, which some changes in her life this past year have made possible.
“I’ve been thinking for a while about how I can be involved in bluegrass without trying to keep a band together and run the roads. It’s just hard to do it all and find a balance. So I started thinking about a label.
I had recently lost my parents and my brother, and they were all great bluegrass fans. I can remember going with them to Bean Blossom when I was a girl.
They left me in a very comfortable position where I could now give back to the community.”
Kim began talking with her many friends in the industry about the feasibility of launching a new label, including Jerry Salley of Billy Blue Records who she says offered some excellent advice. After some further consideration, she decided to move forward and help a dinner meeting with two business acquaintances.
“The name Ram Cat Records was already owned by Melanie and Steve Wilson, and after recruiting them into this venture with me, we decided to use that name. They are my new partners. Melanie can do all the publicity, and Steve will do recording and producing.
We plan to use the Bonfire Studio in South Carolina. I am still a Pinecastle artist, and have a good relationship with them. We want to keep a consistent sound and quality.”
Ram Cat Records has signed their first artist, Retro 78, and released a debut single for them last week called Black Vinyl 45.
“Retro 78 had already recorded their EP before we signed them. It was tracked by Alan Bibey in Myrtle Beach, and Steve mixed it.”
Kim says that announcements on more artist signings will be coming soon.
“We want to take it slow, learn the business first, and make sure we are doing everything properly.”
Current plans are for her to continue her day job as a hospital inspector for the state of Indiana, but Kim Robins has another venture in mind that will change the face of bluegrass in the central part of the state.
“My husband and I moved a few years ago to a farm near Worthington, IN. There was a restaurant out on the main highway that ran from Evansville and Ft Wayne called The Front Porch Restaurant. We would go almost every Friday for their spaghetti night.
One Friday, just after I got home from Leadership Bluegrass in Nashville, we went to go eat spaghetti, and the Front Porch had burned down.
So Mark and I bought the two lots where the Front Porch was, and have just started building on it. We will start doing live bluegrass shows this spring out on the empty lot, and eventually plan to open a coffeehouse on the property, based on what Lorraine Jordan has done in Garner, NC with Lorraine’s Coffee & Cafe.”
The coffee shop will be housed in a new 80 x 80 foot, two story building that should be able to seat between 150-200 people for live music shows.
“I had been to Lorraine’s one time when I was at IBMA, and just loved the charm, the decor, and everything about it. I told my husband that I wanted to do something like that.
We will have big name artists on Saturday nights, with an opening act. We are about an hour and a half from Evansville, and about the same from Bean Blossom. Terra Haute is about 40 minutes away, and the same from Illinois, so we should be able to lure people out for shows.
It will be a family thing, shows over by 10:00 pm, with no alcohol. In the beginning we’ll have food trucks come in, but we may eventually offer pastries and sandwiches, and local Amish food. And there will be picking in the parking lot.”
They will call the shop Blue Zebra – blue for her love of bluegrass, and zebra for her husband’s career as a referee. They hope to have construction completed by next summer.
“We met with Lorraine, and she walked me through how they do things. She turned me on to the company that trained everyone and supplies the coffee. People tell her all the time that they have the best coffee.
There is no other coffee place in Worthington. It’s a small town, though we do have a Dollar General. It’s a coal mining community. The Erie Canal used to run through here. Even after the interstate, traffic still runs through town on Indiana Highway 67.”
Best of luck to Kim Robins with her business ventures. We should be thankful for people willing to risk their resources to promote our beloved bluegrass music!