“Only in this minute we’re alive, no more for the wise” — “Lullaby”


While many artists have confronted mortality in their music, Knoxville-based singer-songwriter Rob Malka does so with a uniquely real-world perspective: that of a full-time physician. His two passions are not as disparate as they may initially seem. Malka’s “day job” is a calling that finds him precisely in the midst of the human condition, with all of the compassion, fear, hope, frustration, redemption and tragedy that go with it…what more could a musician ask for?


“I wanted to do both. I had to do both,” says Malka, a largely self-taught multi-instrumentalist who wrote his first song in the fifth grade.  “I’m glad I pursued neurology early on, not only because of the opportunity to serve the communities I’ve worked in, but also it provided the musician side of me so much perspective. And on the other hand, music is the best way for me to keep the doctor connected to the human being, so there is a synergy between the two.”


While enduring the demands of medical training, Malka quietly honed his musical craft, playing bars and small venues in rock bands when he could, learning recording and production, and composing a few instrumentals for television. He published songs with several music libraries internationally and has had his music used in TV promos in the Netherlands as well as MTV’s reboot of “Cribs” in the UK. But until the release of his debut solo album Hold On in August 2021, Malka was apprehensive about fully baring his musical soul. “It’s one thing to be confident in your profession, but it’s another thing entirely to share something original and truly personal because it makes you vulnerable. And even though I’ve been a musician for nearly my entire life, it has taken me years to find the right voice that conveys what I really want to say as an artist, as a person. And now that I’m maybe just starting to hone in on that, I am scared shitless to share it.”


But indeed, Hold On shares it, with both insight and candor. The subject matter is captivating, from the existential absurdity of singing with strangers moments before a plane crash (Lullaby) to the unshakable resolve of selfless love through adversity (Won’t Give Up). At the same time, the music is hooky and approachable, deftly weaving together familiar elements of indie folk, folk-rock and shades of Americana. Hold On was truly a solo effort: Malka wrote, arranged and performed every part himself, recording it piece by piece in his…spare time… sometimes well into the night. But perhaps the part of the album most apropos to Malka’s double life is “Moral Compass,” a song in which his vivid storytelling illustrates a first-hand view of the 2020 pandemic. The listener gets a front seat as the curtain is raised on the exhausted nurse, the patient dying in isolation and the sometimes indifferent general public.


Rob Malka is currently working on new music for a follow up to Hold On and plans to release several singles in the coming months.