Rob Hunter, also known as Roxx, has been abroad a few times, traveling to Finland, Mali and Oman. Most recently, the globetrotting guitarist spent six months in Shanghai, China, playing in a five-star hotel’s house band.
“I first heard about this overseas work from this cool hippie-ish singer named Alex who was working at Unitech,” Hunter explains. “He said I should go travel and play and told me all about this circuit which is mainly the Middle East, India and Asia, basically where the money is.”
Hunter relates some advice he got from friends before he left.
“They said, ‘you’ve got a new start in a new city and nobody knows who you are, so like be a rock star, show them that you belong there, that there’s a reason why you are who you are.’
“So I definitely made sure to dress the part.”
Wearing cheap sunglasses, a leather jacket and his trademark scarves, Hunter played lead guitar to appreciative crowds.
“The Chinese people are pretty enamoured with Western music, because it’s pretty new to them,” he says. “Like they don’t know blues very much but they like it. They’re getting into rock. ‘Hotel California’ was the most requested song.”
At the hotel where he was employed, Hunter also played for a western audience.
“They were all middle-aged businessmen, you know, from Europe and North America, which is cool because sometimes there’d be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies,” he says.
One such executive was envious Hunter for following his dream to be a professional musician.
“I was like, ‘you have a house, you have food and you have like a wife and kids, you have lots of money, you have a Ferrari back home. I’m homeless, I’m broke and I’m in China.’ It was really weird, I’m jealous of (him).”
In Shanghai, the place to go after a hard day’s night is The House of Blues and Jazz, where musicians playing the hotels or just passing through Shanghai congregate after-hours.
“It was kind of like the Gold Rush or Taku in China,” he says. “Some of the people on this scene are really, really good musicians and like they’ll just casually mention how they played Letterman and Leno and stuff, backing up some famous artist.”
Among the musicians he met were two musicians who backed both the Temptations and Stevie Wonder.
“They were just awesome,” he says. “I got up and jammed with those guys and I was totally humbled. I know nothing. They were on a whole other level of amazing, just amazing.”
There were some unusual things about Shanghai that took getting used to: the crowded sidewalks and subways, the smells, crooked cabdrivers and especially the air. He describes the first time he noticed it:
“I thought it was rain clouds. And I’m like, ‘the clouds came in quick.’ And then all of a sudden I just start coughing and I’m feeling really ill, and that is smog. I literally couldn’t see ten feet in front of me.
“All the little kids have smoker’s cough and they don’t smoke. And then they’re like, ‘Oh you’ll get used to it.’ Awesome. I’m going back to Whitehorse.”
You can follow Hunter on Facebook and at RoxxHunter.com, where he has a blog, videos and links to his original music. Check out his gig at Tony’s Pizza every Thursday, starting at 6 p.m.