It turns out that being holed up at his dad's in Cambridgeshire for lockdown has been a welcome relief for singer-songwriter, record producer, YouTuber, and all-round-lovely person Robin Skinner since things started heating up for his musical endeavour, Cavetown.
"I've been trying to reconnect with myself," he says while sat smack-bang in the middle of a quiet wheat field. "I was working so hard last year. It was probably one of the best years of my life, but it was also one of the most stressful, honestly."
Lockdown chat is par for the course these days. It's prudent when it comes to a busy bee like Robin, who had, before the world suddenly hit the brakes, started to feel like he was forgetting about himself, "and things that I need outside of music," after "getting a bit swallowed up in touring and my work and stuff. Which is fun in its own way!"
Since beginning his YouTube channel way back in 2012 - starting out with covers, before working in some of those magical Cavetown numbers and a bit of homelife action - it's all been on the up and up.
Earlier this year, he released his major-label debut, 'Sleepyhead', after self-producing and self-releasing for years via Bandcamp while on a near-consistent revolving tour of the US and UK. Not to mention garnering support from The 1975, including a spot at their Finsbury Park extravaganza.
"Being at home, especially now that I'm back at my dad's house, it reminds me where I started, even though I didn't start playing music at this house specifically," he says. "But also just the fact that everyone kind of has to be on the internet now. It's hard for some people who didn't already have a presence, they have to build it now to stay relevant."
These times have never been more relevant for Robin and Cavetown. His is an emotional connection that demands a recollection of your own experiences. Couple that with his formative years being spent crafting his channel and figuring out who he is, means he's savvy to the ways of this new online world.
"I'm lucky I'm already used to that. I grew up on the internet, and I started my career on the internet. I already have what feels like a friend group in my followers, so this moment of stillness and being at home has encouraged me to pay attention to that a bit more. It's easy to get distracted what with being tired from tour and being so busy, but it has forced me to appreciate it all."
The reason Robin has resonated with so many is simply down to the reality of him being utterly relatable. We've all loved and lost, felt the angst of growing up, over-thought too much; but when the ability to process these notions comes from such genteel tunings that nurture the soul, everything gets a little bit easier.
Beneath the video for his recent single with Tessa Violet, 'Smoke Signals', sits a comment professing: "Everything he puts out is so peaceful. He's the ultimate 2am-sitting-in-bed-overthinking songwriter." Being someone who doesn't think about all the eyes upon him, having these vines, as he put it, of friendship and understanding wrap themselves gently around his career is a lovely thing.
"It is very special. I don't think about it a whole lot. I try not to read comments, not that they're bad comments or anything, I just think as soon as you get in your head that it matters what people say about it, you can spiral easily.
"But when I do, I see tonnes of really sweet people. Everyone that follows me is so nice, with people telling me stuff like that. It's a nice side-effect of it. Like, obviously I post stuff for myself, and to help myself feel better at 2am, and I just want to share it. I don't know why I want to share, I just do. And then the fact that that's a reaction that happens is very cool. Yes, very cool," he laughs at his own summarisation.
The musical side of Cavetown is one thing - an impressive one-man show of production and talent - but it's his words that guide people. For Robin, who for a long time wanted to be an author, art is a productive release.
"In silence, or in my head, or on paper, or through a song - that comes pretty easily to me. I don't even really have to think about it," he says. "So it's interesting how a lot of the time I will write a lyric, I write it just because it feels right. I don't really put much thought into what I'm saying. It feels like something that I have to say; either to myself or just into the void, I guess," he shrugs.
"And then people will comment and analyse it, and I'm like, 'Wait, that does make sense!'" Another gentle chuckle. "It's almost like therapy for me in the sense that it's someone else just repeating your own thoughts back to you in a way that you'd never really thought about or considered. Outside perspective of your internal monologue is very interesting, and I guess people get that out of my lyrics because I've seen that people can relate to stuff. It must be helpful to hear an external person openly feeling what you feel."
This form of cyclical therapy has been intrinsic to his formative years and growth.
"Being able to hear people's interpretations and feel like you're not alone in feeling certain things definitely helps you grow and feel like it's normal to think the things you do and feel the way you do."
It's all about creating space. Space for Robin to understand himself, space for him to breathe and feel like he belongs, along with his millions of followers, and the more dedicated in the Cave Club; the ones creating their own art to reciprocate what Cavetown means to them. It's all very wholesome.
"For someone who is alone a lot of the time and is comfortable being alone, it's easy to feel separate from the world. But then when you create a community of people who understand you and tell you about their experiences with similar things, it's like you've created a seat for yourself in a circle of people, and you're all sitting together on cushions and just talking about each other and talking about life."
"I've always been the kind of person to, not for any particular reason, but just to naturally isolate myself," he admits. "I'm quite quiet and so I never really put myself in a position to open up to people in that way… except for obviously writing my music and putting it on the internet for people to see."
Picking away at the towering bushels surrounding him, Robin is clearly someone who takes notice of the subtleties around him. It's how he has garnered his mass of millions across most internet platforms, but the accompanying tours and shows went against his isolating tendencies.
"When I started out, I never considered performing or touring. Just in my nature of being by myself and just quiet and stuff. I've had to learn how to make it work with the way I am," he says.
"Being on stage and being centre of attention is kind of foreign, but there are moments when it hits me that these are people, and this is a roomful of lives and journeys and feelings and experiences. It's very bizarre. It definitely puts perspective on what I do when it's a real room of people. I think lockdown has helped me appreciate that more, because I was getting tired honestly, of touring. It's tiring, and for me being on stage is tiring, like emotionally.
"As much as I love meeting people, I'm used to being alone, so it's easier to do that. Now that I've had a long time to be alone, I realise that actually I do get something out of that and I do feed off that validation from an audience. It's something that I missed, and I really hope to be able to do again soon. Maybe in a less full-on schedule!"
Since Cavetown is solely produced from the confines of Robin's bedroom, wherever that may be, the idea of this being a limiting way of working hasn't really crossed his mind. "I feel like I've always just gone with the flow of things," he says, but working in such a natural, predetermined comfort zone means stepping outside of the box is the easiest, yet hardest, way of testing yourself.
"There are some things that I am very controlling over, like my songwriting process and my production. I like to do everything myself, and I want that to always be that way. Otherwise, I feel like that loses the bond between myself and Cavetown."
"I'm always willing to try new things," he adds. "I even tried working with a producer before, even though I was sceptical about it - I love production, I love doing it myself - and I discovered that that wasn't for me.
"My goals are very open really because it's in my best interest to try opportunities and stuff, but also know where my values are and what's important to me and know when to put my foot down about what I want to do, you know? I think if you don't push yourself and if you don't try new things and go out of your comfort zone, you can never really grow."
Collaborations are one way Robin figuratively, and occasionally literally, steps out of his bedroom to create. "Collaborations are a good way to meet people," he chuckles. "I think I've made more friends through that and through music than I ever did in school."
Partnering with likes of mxmtoon (on her debut album 'the masquerade') and Chloe Moriondo (on his own 'Animal Kingdom' mixtape), it's all a journey for Robin to learn more about himself, and how far he can go into new territory. "I've done collaborations in the past, and they've been really great. I've made some great friends from them, so it's kind of become a comfort zone now."
'Sleepyhead', another feast of sun-shimmering-on-a-calm-river life guidance, is by no stretch an album that Robin wants to forget. In a previous interview, it's mentioned that he found the process stressful, a statement he no longer agrees with. "I didn't like the way I was treating the album and treating myself during the process," he explains. After all the success, "I had let it get to me that I need to make something better than I've ever made before - which is what happens every time I write something, and I think is natural for anyone doing creative stuff. You need to be better each time."
As for the future, Robin's "definitely trying to slow down a bit." Focusing on ignoring that part of him that is "being too critical, and let myself take my time. When a song comes to me, it comes to me, and I don't want to force one out," he muses. "I have plenty of time, and the world isn't going to run away from me if I take a bit longer, so I'm just letting myself slow down. I think that will end up in things that I'm most proud of, because ultimately I'd rather create a small number of songs that are really good rather than a whole album that's rushed."
Heading back to take some more photos - social distancing included, of course - his cat Fig, leash and all, lolls about the garden, peace radiating down. Even if, globally, there are quite literally millions of people listening and watching Cavetown in the '2am-overthinkers' club, right now, Robin is resetting. "I've discovered the beauty of lying down," he smiles. It's just himself, Fig, and the necessary time to help Cavetown do what he's always done: sit in his room, ruminating on living and growing.
Taken from the September issue of Dork.
Featuring Cavetown, Everything Everything, The Magic Gang, Aluna and loads more.