There are two things about The Next Waltz, the web series that launched in June from songwriter Bruce Robison, that showcase his unflappable confidence. One, he had the guts to give it a name alluding to The Last Waltz—Martin Scorsese’s legendary concert film that documents the final performance from The Band—and two, he’s willing to admit where he got the idea from: Jerry Seinfeld, naturally. In the press release announcing the launch of the series, Robison made no bones about the fact that Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee was the inspiration for The Next Waltz. “We’re doing Seinfeld’s show,” he declared.
That may be so, but when an ace songwriter like Bruce Robison sits down with other musicians to talk about the art and craft of songwriting and performing, the result isn’t imitation—it’s reinterpretation. Each episode also releases along the premiere of a new song and a new video by whichever big-time talent Robison interviewed, adding further dimension to the series.
The first episode—which premiered “Song For The Life” by Jerry Jeff Walker—was an insightful portrait into the legend who wrote “Mr. Bojangles.” Robison’s own chops as a songwriter provide him with a totally different way to relate to musicians, but the degree of difficulty gets turned up in a weird way for episode two, which premieres exclusively on Texas Monthly: This time out, Robison interviewed his wife, Kelly Willis.
“It is a little strange to have somebody who knows you better than anyone else on the planet ask questions that you know they probably know the answer to, but I don’t think he actually did,” Willis says of the experience. “I think some of that stuff was stuff we don’t talk to each other about very often.”
Robison admits that getting into the interviewer’s chair has gotten easier with time. Although this is only the second in the series to be released, they have completed six of the segments. “The first one of these I did was with Rodney Crowell, and it was really nerve wracking,” Robison recalls. “But I just believe everybody really has a story. And if you can get to it, it’s really fun for me. Honestly, as a fan, it’s fun.”
Interviewing his wife was a unique fan moment for Robison too. “I had a few things that I actually had been wondering about,” he admits. “I get to hear her just talking about music, and ruminating on what it’s like to do it now, and what she wants to do and what she doesn’t want to do—so I thought I could just ask those questions flat out that I knew that she had been struggling with for the past few years, and hear what she had to say.”
The lineup for the rest of the season of The Next Waltz promises to be equally impressive, even if it’s not always with someone Robison has shared as many meals with. In addition to Walker and Crowell, future episodes will include sit-downs and new songs by Jack Ingram, the Turnpike Troubadours, and Sam Outlaw—with more to come after that.
“I think one bit of commonality with the Seinfeld show is that that the conversation I have, I really do think that I know enough to ask about [the right questions]. Whether it’s a touring band, or a songwriter, or someone who had great success thirty years ago, or someone who’s having their greatest success now,” Robison says. “I really think I’m getting better, and getting pretty good at finding that part of it. They’re fascinating stories. With artists, I believe all of us have these influences that mix together and come out in an interesting and new way. And then how those mix of influences bounce off the culture, to me, is always a fascinating story.”