‘CSI’ Actor Robert David Hall Readies Debut Album
Actor Robert David Hall, who is in his 10th season playing Dr. Albert Robbins -- the quirky head pathologist on the hit CBS show 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation' -- will release his first country/Americana album on June 1.
Spanning a career of more than two decades, the 62-year-old television and film actor has had numerous guest-appearances on shows including 'West Wing,' 'Touched by an Angel' and 'Highway to Heaven,' along with recurring roles on 'L.A. Law' and 'The Practice.' But David has also been a musician his whole life. So, the release of his debut CD, 'Things They Don't Teach You in School,' is the culmination of a lifelong dream.
The dream didn't come easily, however. In 1978, at the age of 31, an 18-wheel truck struck David's car, causing his gas tank to explode. He was severely burned on over 65 percent of his body, leading to the amputation of both legs. Today he walks comfortably on two prosthetic limbs.
"A drunk truck driver ran over me," David explains to The Boot. "I was in a Volkswagen. It was horrible. It sounds like a cliché, but anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I give a lot of credit to my dad, who was a very strong guy. My mom died when I was fairly young. I only saw my father cry twice: once when my mom died and once when he walked into the hospital room and saw me. [My dad's] generation -- the WWII generation -- were pretty tough characters."
David attributes that toughness to helping achieve his musical goals. "I think I inherited just enough of it to get me through the ordeal I went through. I'll tell you, ever since my accident -- not trying to milk the cliché wagon here, but every day you get to do something is a good day. I'm enjoying this little adventure with music, and it's working out better than I thought it would. To have a chance to play in front of people and get it out ... it feels like it's the right thing. I'm just excited about it."
Despite continuously writing, as David puts it, snippets of songs, music was put on the back burner while he pursued a successful radio and television career. So what inspired him to finally finish those snippets and make an album?
"What inspires you to finish something can sometimes be tough. My youngest brother got liver cancer, he's fighting it pretty well right now, but he looked me in the eye and he said, 'Why don't you just finish these songs?' He really got me off the dime."
David also found inspiration in his best friend, Texas music legend Chris Wall, whom he credits with making the album a reality. "He produced the album, and really gave me some major help on the songs," David says of Chris. "We got some of the best Austin [Texas] musicians in there, and I had such a ball. It's one of the highlights of the last 30 years of my life. It was so empowering to finish these songs, and then to sing them and have these great musicians playing on it. I wished it would never stop. It was that kind of a thing."
Listening to the first few cuts, one notices David's voice has a hint of Willie Nelson in it. He's heard the Willie comparison before, and takes it as a huge compliment. "I love Willie," he says. "I love Willie the songwriter going back umpteen years. I think of Willie as one of America's treasures. He's one of the spirits of America to me. If somebody hears a little Willie in my voice then I'm pretty happy with that."
As if recording and releasing an album weren't enought, David's light at the end of the tunnel just got a little brighter when he was invited to play the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. The invitation to perform on June 19, is "a thrill!," he exclaims. "Talk about hallowed ground! It's legendary. I'm scared, I'm excited, I know it'll go over well, but you go into Nashville and to rehearse with the Opry band -- I just can't wait to do it."
The thought of performing at such a historic country music landmark brings back wonderful memories of the country artists he grew up on. And when David hits that Opry stage on June 19, playing some of the 12 songs from his album, it will no doubt help others to live vicariously through his experience. "I tell you, this is an amazing experience. I have a lot of musician friends. I worked in radio as a music director, and I know everybody hears about the George Straits and the Garth Brooks and the Kenny Chesneys and all that, but for every major star, there are thousands who didn't quite make it. So I realize -- in my early 60s -- the songs are as honest as I could make them. I don't have any desire to try to fool anybody. I'm not going to do that, so if people like the songs, I'll consider it a success."