It’s become redundant — and probably a sign of downright journalistic laziness — to refer to singer-songwriters like Tim Barry as being of the “heart on their sleeve” variety; the scene is not just full of them bit is outright defined by their presence. With the release of High On 95 last month, Barry has now amassed six studio full length albums (seven, if we’re including the Laurel Street Demos, which coincidentally now means that the Richmond, Virginia native has released more studio albums as a solo artist than he did in his past life as one of the scene’s most posthumously beloved bands) that truthfully don’t find him wearing his heart on his sleeve. Hell, just the idea of Tim Barry even sporting sleeves on his trademark, road-battered Conrail Twitty t-shirt in general seems almost laughable. Sure, as with his other albums, High on 95 contains it’s share of up-tempo, foot-stomping, front porch rockers, a few that take the piss out of himself and his surroundings, and of course a few introspective tales of frustration and catharsis. But if you’ve truly immersed yourself in Barry’s solo catalog, you’re no doubt aware that each album contains at least one track that your heart out of your chest and uses it to punch you directly in the midsection. As Rivanna Junction had “Exit Wounds,” Manchester had “South Hill”, 28th & Stonewall had “Walk 500 Miles,” 40 Miler had “Driver Pull,” and Lost & Rootless had “Solid Gone.”
Continuing on in that theme, High on 95 has it’s own such moment 9/10ths of the way in, on a track called “Running Never Tamed Me.” The weight of the song can perhaps best be told in an anecdote from Barry himself. Not one to normally listen to his own music, Barry was minivan-bound, sorting through mixes in the High On 95 recording process while taking his girls — Lela Jane, now 5, and Coralee, who’s soon-to-be three — to school. Generally a time reserved for singing children’s songs or fighting in the way only siblings can, one day in particular found the van eerily silent. “I realized,” says Barry, “that both of my kids were peering out their respective windows just fucking bawling while the song “Running Never Tamed Me” was on, and I just thought “What have I done?!” Now, if you’ve not availed yourself of the album, and the song, yet, you should know in advance that it finds Barry channeling some of the most genuine and heart-wrenching feelings of regret and desperation he’s put on record to date. His daughters, it seemed, had noticed. “I had to pull over and hug them both and ask them what it was about this that made them feel this way. And we had to talk about it, and Lela, my oldest daughter, was hysterical about it. Coralee started loudly crying too. So we just sat on the grass for a second, and they just said that I sounded sad, and they don’t like hearing me sound sad.”
While “Running Never Tamed Me” is not necessarily written with present-day Barry as the narrator and central character, the parallels are obvious. Pour through Barry’s catalog and you lose count of the times that a sort of directionless running and wanderlust factor highly among the recurring themes, no matter the album. Much of that is driven by a similarly recurring sense of seemingly not always knowing where he fits in to the world, in either a micro or a macro sense. Hell, his last album was called Lost & Rootless for a reason.
Yet perhaps more than ever before, what High On 95 also contains is a tone of what may be hope but what is probably more accurately described as contentment. Running, it seems, may not have tamed Barry, but maybe age and the wisdom that comes with it have at least helped rewire him. And no, that’s not just due to the obvious fact that he’s raising two daughters now. “I just don’t love being that far from home anymore,” says Barry. “I like to go camping, I like to get cabins in the woods, and I like that kind of stuff, but I don’t like riding on the back of a freight train with a backpack and never knowing where I’m going anymore. I don’t like being in Europe and not being able to check in at home and knowing that I have to take three flights to get back there. I don’t know what happened, I think it just comes with age.”
It’s not that Barry doesn’t have the same stressors or the same reasons to run now as he did in his younger years. Far from it, in fact. “There’s an element of stress constantly on my shoulders, like you have, like everyone has,” he explains, noting the weight in his situation as an individual trying to provide for a family as an independent, working musician. “Because money isn’t easy to come by in my position – or enough of it to sustain a family with the parameters of health insurance and all the other bills and all the other stuff that all of us have.” So what used to be a life of running — drifting, really — is now more of a life that contains periodic, temporary breaks, ways to step back and process life and hit the proverbial reset button on his brain — just not the literal button on his cell phone. Technology has obviously woven its way into the most minute details of most of our lives, but it brings with it a particular set of challenges when you rely on it to put food on the table. “Technology is such a blessing but it’s really not healthy if used constantly. Especially for someone like me who’s trying to provide for a family by doing music which makes me a businessperson or my own boss, which is kind of incredible but it’s also just weird and it’s nothing that I intended on doing. – it becomes an obsession to check your fucking email! Check your email, check your socials! It’s this false urgency that induces this incredible stress that’s really completely irrelevant!” He adds, rather poignantly, something that most of us raising children in 2017 have struggled with: “Before you know it, your kids aren’t going to give a flying shit about you again, so am I going to miss this beautiful moment of my two-year-old sitting on my lap eating her butter pasta because I’m lurking on Instagram?! Really?!”
Still, it was through particularly well-timed call on his cell phone that Barry was presented with an offer to participate in one of the more unique experiences of his professional career: his recent performance with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra at the legendary Carpenter Theater, right in his own hometown. Because the story is so perfectly “Tim Barry,” it’s better off if he just tells it: “I was in the dressing room in Garwood, New Jersey, with Brian Fallon, getting ready to play a show during a series that he was holding where he was playing small club shows for a week. So we’re sitting in the dressing room and I get a phone call from the Executive Director of the Symphony, and he invites me to play with the full symphony backing me, and I almost kind of choked and laughed at how absurd it was. I think I got off the phone and Brian inquired who it was, and he said “what are you going to do?”. And I said “I’m not going to do it – fuck that, that’s crazy! I’m not talented enough!” And he was like – to paraphrase – he said “if you go on stage tonight and talk about challenging yourself and scaring yourself and doing things out of the ordinary, then I’m going to call you on it!” So, I consented to doing a show with the Richmond Symphony that night, right after that.”
Even though Barry hammers away at an acoustic guitar night in and night out on the road, he is punk rock ethos personified, creating some interesting issues when translating things for the different environment. If we can peel back the curtain a little bit, a lot of the time that you hear Barry (or any rock musician, really) engage in stage banter or play a few seemingly random between-song chords, there’s usually a reason for that: radio silence. “Growing up in punk, the worst thing you can ever do at a house show or a small club show or a squat or whatever is have radio silence. So instinctively, the second you finish, the guitar player hits feedback or the singer starts babbling or the drummer hits the cymbals. There’s nothing worse than a song ending and everybody going “Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.” I instinctively finish songs and hit an open note and then take a sip of water, and then hit an open note and maybe say some stuff, and then hit an open note!”
Take a song like “Church of Level Track,” for example. The song has long been a staple — and a crowd favorite — in a typical Tim Barry live set. “(The song) starts “I was drunk as hell with a friend way back…” and to get the key, so I don’t just start signing in the wrong key, I hit a C chord, which is the first chord of the song (and let it ring) and then whenever the fuck I feel like it, I’d say “I was drunk as hell…” Barry explains. But in an arena like the symphony, which is predicated on military-like precision and all things being properly, meticulously graphed and charted, there’s no room for a random chord to help you find a pitch. He continues: “In her sheet music, the song starts with me singing on the first note, that C chord. So she’s standing in front of a million players and she hears me (*briiiing*) which is just me playing the key, and she starts to count there, and the whole fucking song is completely off. And they’re all just like “what the fuck???” … We had to meet in the middle, we had to make compromises. I was like “Chia-Hsuan, look, I can’t sing this fucking song without hitting that chord!”
When all was said and done, Barry worked with the director and the conductor of the Richmond Symphony to pull together a small batch of songs that kicked off a showcase that found the RSO backing a handful of Richmond-based musicians in a variety of genres. While the other artists may have found the event to be noteworthy for good reason, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that it left such a personal mark on. “For years, I worked for this symphony unloading their trucks and setting stuff up, and I worked for the Richmond Ballet driving their trucks and unloading them setting stuff up and for IATSE Union 87 doing the same sort of thing,” says Barry. And while it might be easy to get wrapped up in the whirlwind of the performance, Barry was able to find a way to step back and absorb all that was going on.
“I did the song “Exit Wounds” and when I play it live at club shows, I end it before this big musical break, because that would be boring and redundant for me to play on an acoustic guitar,” he explains. “So I think that was one of my favorite parts of the symphony show when we included that. I just stepped off to stage right as far as I could and let Chia-Hsuan Lin who’s the conductor just fucking handle it. She was like “I’m going to be paying attention to your timing” and I said “no, I’m just going to play as quietly as I can. I want you to blow this fucking place out. Get loud!” And she did! I could see that she gave me a little smirk in the middle of it.” If there’s a moment that more perfectly encompasses the entirety of the Tim Barry Experience, of standing back and absorbing the gravity of an overwhelming situation that came from a period of self-doubt and personal challenge to a moment of triumph and appreciating all that you have when you have it, it simply hasn’t been written yet.
High On 95 came out on September 8th through Chunksaah Records. Head over here to grab your copy of the album. While you’re at it, head here to see where you can catch Tim on his upcoming tour dates, including a handful with the likes of Roger Harvey and Off With Their Heads. Check out our full, wide-open and far-ranging interview below.
Dying Scene (Jay Stone): So, congratulations on the Richmond Symphony gig. I know I’m just jumping right into it, but that had to be a pretty surreal thing the other night.
Tim Barry: Yeah…what is today, Monday? Yeah, so Saturday night – just two nights ago – I played the Carpenter Theater with the Richmond Symphony. The whole fucking Richmond Symphony Orchestra backing me up for a short set. It was surreal. I’ve gotta say that when I was initially approached by the Executive Director, I instinctively wanted to say “no.” In fact, the story’s kind of funny – I got a call when I was in the dressing room in Garwood, New Jersey, with Brian Fallon, getting ready to play a show during a series that he was holding where he was playing small club shows for a week. So we’re sitting in the dressing room and I get a phone call from the Executive Director of the Symphony, and he invites me to play with the full symphony backing me, and I almost kind of choked and laughed at how absurd it was. I think I got off the phone and Brian inquired who it was, and he said “what are you going to do?”. And I said “I’m not going to do it – fuck that, that’s crazy! I’m not talented enough!” And he was like – to paraphrase – he said “if you go on stage tonight and talk about challenging yourself and scaring yourself and doing things out of the ordinary, then I’m going to call you on it!” (*both laugh*) So, I consented to doing a show with the Richmond Symphony that night, right after that. And I spent a number of weeks out-of-my-mind worried about it, and then a month or so ago, I just stopped caring.
I went in to it with nerves – normal nerves – but more just overwhelmed by how interesting in how the whole process went; all the rehearsals and the charts and the music and the counting. It was all just really neat. What a special experience. The show was packed, my dad came for the first time to hear me play. The whole family was there, my nieces, my brother came down from New York. It was a really terrific experience. But in typical my style, it was also incredibly lonely, you know? I’d go to rehearsal by myself, sit in the dressing room by myself, go home and sit there and go back and sit there by myself and play. I actually went on stage and played and went into the dressing room, then came out for my curtain call – the bow afterwards – and then I was home by 9:30. And it was just like “alright…well, that was that.” I kept my phone off for about a day so I didn’t have any distractions afterwards.
Was that part of a special event that the Richmond Symphony was doing? I saw from one of your posts that there were four or five people playing in total, was that the goal, to get other Richmond musicians to play?
Yeah, it was all Richmond musicians of varying styles and varying popularity. It was almost like a showcase, if I can call it that. In the rock world we’d call it a showcase. And it was almost like…you know, symphonies all across the country, especially those in smaller cities like Richmond – even though Richmond is a growing city, it’s growing with young people moving in to it – symphonies are losing traction. Ticket sales are down all across the country and all across major markets in Europe, too. So I think a lot of it is that they’re trying to rebrand in all of these places. One of the things I’ve seen happen a lot and that I find really enjoyable is these incredibly talented and professionally trained and highly vetted musicians forming symphony orchestras and inviting talentless fools like myself –
Hahaha! Now now!
–to share the stage with them. They bring in new faces in an attempt to have these new faces find it something that they want to do again. And I’ve got to say, for years I worked for this symphony unloading their trucks and setting stuff up, and I worked for the Richmond Ballet driving their trucks and unloading them setting stuff up and for IATSE Union 87 doing the same sort of thing, and I got that little bit of culture and I got a bug! It is fucking cool to go listen to the symphony! If you like to do drugs it’s cool as shit to smoke some weed and go! I’m not joking. If you don’t smoke weed or do hallucinogenics, it’s also really cool to just go and sit there and close your eyes and just listen. It’s a beautiful thing. So for it to all come together the other night was pretty terrific and I hope and wish for their complete success and I hope that the people that came out to listen to me will go back and listen to some of their other performances.
Did they let you pick what you were going to play or did they have prior knowledge of your catalog and tell you they had a couple specific songs in mind?
So in this situation, they have a person who does the writing. His name is Trey Pollard and he’s highly talented. He works at Spacebomb Studios in Richmond, and he’s an exceptional arranger. Him and I got together and I let him create a list of songs that he thought would work and then I did the same and we met in the middle. My sister is a Suzuki-trained violinist – if you say fiddle, she’ll get angry – and she was pleased with the list of songs. She thought the diversity was good. I did the song “Exit Wounds” and when I play it live at club shows, I end it before this big musical break, because that would be boring and redundant for me to play on an acoustic guitar. And that was one of my favorite parts. I did that song at the symphony show and it is symphonic, the end of it the production is layered on the record with me doing electric guitars and us grinding out organs and my sister doing the violin thing that I wrote. So I think that was one of my favorite parts of the symphony show when we included that. I just stepped off to Stage Right as far as I could and let Chia-Hsuan Lin who’s the conductor just fucking handle it. She was like “I’m going to be paying attention to your timing” and I said “no, I’m just going to play as quietly as I can. I want you to blow this fucking place out. Get loud!” And she did! I could see that she gave me a little smirk in the middle of it. It was fucking cool. What a powerful position, being a conductor. So that was one of my favorite parts, just absorbing the sounds. Instead of singing and listening for cues, just standing there and listening to a three-chord progression and absorbing the sounds. It was cool.
And it’s your sounds, too. It’s your music and it’s your songs and your words, and to hear it all like that – I think it’s a great thing that you were able to step back and move to the side and listen and take the whole thing in while you’re still out there performing.
Yeah, you know I almost moved to tears, and I think this is the first time I realized that. I always just move forward and I haven’t really thought about what happened on Saturday night much. But most everybody I know, from the hard-working people that I used to work with to my mom’s husband to other friends, they said “oh my god, man, I cried through the whole fucking thing.” And I guess I didn’t understand why until just now, just thinking about it, during that section I almost cried because I got a moment to absorb it. Songs come out of thin air. As a person who writes songs, it’s hard to explain. You don’t want to be that person like “God gives me the songs! God gives me the ability to write shitty, three-chord songs with the same shitty English language that we all use!” But they do – for everyone who writes – they just come out of fucking nowhere, into you your brain and into your mouth. And to think that a small handful of my songs got played by such talented people in such a beautiful setting — the Carpenter Theater is one of the most beautiful theaters in the world. So I can see why people were moved. Beyond just me being involved, it is a moving experience to witness something as simple as a song becoming as beautiful as it can be. That’s the peak of a song’s beauty, in that format.
Yeah, literally a song becoming a symphony.
Do you get feedback from the orchestra musicians while going through the rehearsals –
No, no, no. It’s proper military, you know? Chain of command. That’s how symphonies are set up, everything goes through the conductor. Like the principle violinist will speak for the violins, you know what I mean. There’s a chain of command not unlike in the military, so the discussions I’d have were through the conductor, Chia-Hsuan, and critiques came through Trey Pollard, the writer. My direct discussions were with the conductor, and then the conductor and Trey would have theirs. And it was funny, the things that I take for granted –HO-LY SHIT would put her in a panic!
Well, so I played “Church of Level Track,” and it starts “I was drunk as hell with a friend way back…” and to get the key, so I don’t just start signing in the wrong key, I hit a C chord, which is the first chord of the song. And, so in rehearsals I’d hit a C chord (lets ring) and then whenever the fuck I feel like it I’d say “I was drunk as hell…” So in her sheet music, the song starts with me singing on the first note, that C chord. So she is staring at sheet music and she’s standing in front of a million players and she hears me (*briiiing*) which is just me playing the key, and she starts to count there, and the whole fucking song is completely off. And they’re all just like “what the fuck???” It’s a really fun thing to learn all that. We had to meet in the middle, we had to make compromises. I was like “Chia-Hsuan, look, I can’t sing this fucking song without hitting that chord!”
Yeah, right! (*both laugh*) And I guess growing up in punk rock and playing music in clubs, you don’t really think about – and I don’t know how many people are in the orchestra, 50 or 70 or whatever –you need that military precision with literally everything or else it’s going to sound shitty and muddy.
Exactly! Growing up in punk, the worst thing you can ever do at a house show or a small club show or a squat or whatever is have radio silence. So instinctively, the second you finish, the guitar player hits feedback or the singer starts babbling or the drummer hits the cymbals. There’s nothing worse than a song ending and everybody going “Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.” I instinctively finish songs and hit an open note and then take a sip of water, and then hit an open note and maybe say some stuff, and then hit an open note! (*both laugh*)
Right! Whereas (the orchestra musicians) are looking at you like “what the hell is this maniac doing?!?”
(*both laugh*) That’s exactly what they’re doing! That’s exactly what they’re doing! But, they’re probably also jealous. Like, “this guy gets to do whatever the fuck he wants!”
Yeah, I wonder if it would be easy for somebody that comes from an orchestral background to break out of that and do a regular, free-form music thing where they weren’t part of a must larger orchestra, and they had that ability to do their own thing. I’ve never really thought about that dynamic before.
Yeah, and they do! There’s another band that played called Bio Ritmo and one of the players in that band, his wife is in the symphony, and within the symphony there’s a group of people that – I can’t remember, but they’re called something Revolution – and they do shows on the side where it’s far less stiff, and they do studio work. Like, if I asked them to come in and play in the studio with me or if we collaborated again we could do a show together and it would be more relaxed.
Did that experience pique an interest with you about not necessarily going on tour with a symphony, but with broadening out and doing more elaborate things like that?
No, I don’t think it piqued a new interest with me, because I already had an interest in doing string arrangements in the studio. But, because I’m not a terribly social person, I didn’t have a big network that was accessible to do that. This show did create a network that I could very easily invite people to come in the studio and do string arrangements or more symphonic arrangements, which I’d already planned on doing for many records, I just supplement them with my own bullshit or the people I’m already friends with that help. We’ve been doing that since the first record, but now just meeting Trey Pollard or working with some of these other players, I can just explain how I want things and listen to their suggestions and we can make this shit happen.
That would be rad as hell to see. I’m really glad you got the chance to do that, and I’m just thinking even of songs off the new record, but “Running Never Tamed Me” I’m sort of envisioning in my head with a much bigger string section than the violin that’s on the song.
Yeah, yeah, I could totally do that with that song. It’s funny, that song has got a lot of instruments on it although people consider it stripped down. I think that’s good, because that song is one of those moments that rarely happens in music, where you’re just like “did that really happen? Do we have that on tape?” I’m happy about that song. You know what we did in the symphony, though, we played I think it’s the third song on the new record, it’s called “Riverbank,” and that song started the symphony show. That was really cool.
Did they let you swear in the symphony? Did they censor out the F-bombs?
I’m at the age where people don’t LET me do anything, I do whatever the fuck I want!
(*laughs*) Fair enough.
You know, I could swear in the symphony if I felt like it, but as a matter of respect for the ages and backgrounds of everyone present, I didn’t. I got correspondence from people saying, you know, “I really wish I could have come, but my grandma was there and she loved it!” And those are the kinds of reasons why I didn’t swear – because grandma was there! It’s almost the same reason where people ask me all the time to play their weddings and I just can’t do it! They’ll be like “we want you to play, it doesn’t have anything to do with anybody else!” And I’m like “but it does have something to do with everybody else. I’m not singing those songs in front of your grandparents, even without cussing!”
I don’t think Nana would appreciate “Avoiding Catatonic Surrender”!
No! Even if I took the cussing out, she’s not going to appreciate it! You know what I mean? No, I didn’t cuss at the show. That song “Riverbank” has the F-word, “Exit Wounds” has the F-word. I did do “Church of Level Track” where I say “the train hauled ass…” I think I probably said a few other things that maybe Trump supporters would find offensive, but fuck them anyway.
Getting back to “Running Never Tamed Me” for a minute – it seems like there’s a song on each of your albums that just sort of hits me, personally like a punch in the stomach. I think we talked about this when the last album came out too, with “Solid Gone.” “Running Never Tamed Me” is that song on this album – I don’t know why it resonates differently. There’s a moment in that song – there’s actually a lot of moments in that song – where your vocals are just so gut-wrenching and heartfelt at the same time. That’s a thing that I think you do better than most people, whether on “South Hill” or “Solid Gone” or “Walk 500 Miles” is a song like that. So when I got to that point on this album, I just said “fuck, he did it again!” There’s always that moment where a song just makes me well up when I’m listening to it in my car.
Yeah…I’m sorry, I don’t know why that is. I don’t listen to my own music, but when I was working on the rough mixes, you have to listen. You’ve got to listen repetitively and you’ve got to absorb everything and you’ve got to make it come together. I was driving the kids to school, and they love some of those songs, they sing all the lyrics, and that song came on and I looked in the rear view mirror of my minivan and both of them were peering out their windows, not talking, and with fucking tears just streaming down their faces. This was a two and four-year-old. And on the way to school, that’s the time when we sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or they fist fight. Morning time isn’t good for kids, because adults are stupid because they think they should wake them up early and send them to fucking school. So the van was usually this rowdy situation and it was oddly quiet, and I was like “What the fuck?”
Then I realized that both of my kids were peering out their respective windows just fucking bawling while the song “Running Never Tamed Me” was on, and I just thought “What have I done?!” I had to pull over and hug them both and ask them what it was about this that made them feel this way. And we had to talk about it, and Lela, my oldest daughter, was hysterical about it. Coralee started loudly crying too. So we just sat on the grass for a second, and they just said that I sounded sad, and they don’t like hearing me sound sad. And that was that. That’s what they, at their ages, were able to muster as an explanation. And then I had to say that daddy gets sad sometimes, that’s part of what daddy does and how he expresses himself.
Do you have to explain the actual back story of songs to them? Do they ask you questions about some of the people you reference in some of the songs?
They don’t really listen to my songs, because I don’t. So the ones that they do know, they ask for all the time. Coralee, actually, always wants to sing or to listen to what she calls “The Lela Song,””Lela Days” from my last record. And they both always wanna hear “Riverbank” from the new record. But that’s pretty much all of my songs that they’ve retained right now. I practice near them, but they don’t really listen. They listen to – Tom Baisden was in a great Richmond band called Action Patrol and he’s now got a kids band called The Not Its, and he sent me all their CDs and that’s pretty much all they listen to. It’s fucking great! It’s fucking genius.
That is great. And I’ll tell you, my daughter is nine, going on ten now, and there’s definitely been a couple of Tim Barry songs – and other songs, of course – that I’ve had to explain to her. A song like “South Hill” will be on and you don’t necessarily realize she’s listening and all of a sudden you hear “is this a true story, daddy?” from the back seat. It’s like…boy, that’s going to be a long conversation and I don’t know how you explain that to a nine-year-old in an age appropriate way.
You know, we listen to a lot of new country, and there is nothing you’ve got to explain at all!
(*both laugh*) You’re right. You’re exactly right!
Maybe that’s strategic on my part! NPR and new country. God, I’m such a cosmopolitan liberal! (*both laugh*)
I really dig (High On 95) of course, and I really dig how you went back to the Laurel Street Demos again. I know you’ve done that on each album, and you finally got to “Gumshoe Andy,” which was my favorite song on Laurel Street. What made you bring that one out now?
I think maybe that was because the last time I played in Richmond and Josh (Small) played it with me, and I think Andrew (Alli) played on it too. Just this weird fucking eclectic hoedown. And it felt so good that I just said “That’s it! Can’t wait to do that song again!” So I think that’s all that went into the decision. I don’t think it’s really an interesting story other than it was just time. There’s only so many songs left on that demo to use, and I think I’ve said this to you or maybe I just said it to myself because I think I’ve done a whole whopping two interviews since we last spoke – is that I’m always going to drag a song off it. And people say “I don’t know why he redoes these songs,” and I’m like “because it’s a fucking demo! It wasn’t intended to be released!” So I just want to give the songs another chance. I don’t think I really want to redo “Idle Idyllist” because it’s already on the live album. There’s the really sad song that I can’t think of – I play every instrument and I can hear the melody but I can’t think of the fucking name – I play piano and drums and really strained vocals – I guess I could do that. (*Editor’s note: “Sorrow Floats” is the song we were looking for.*)
The other thing to remember is that most people just like the first time that they heard something, so people who listen to all of my records are like “Why is he fucking ruining these songs by redoing them?” But most people haven’t heard that demo because it was so long ago. I’m at that point where I have too many records out, and it’s ridiculous to expect people to remember every song from all of them. So I really like to take those songs and bring them to people who just learned of the music that I play. And you know, I was talking to my buddy Gwomper, the bass player in Avail about it, and I’m always like “man, I’ve got to stop playing music, I’ve written all these damn songs.” And he gets so angry with me that we were actually arguing, which is really rare because I don’t argue and he doesn’t argue. He’s like “you’ve gotta keep singing these songs! You’ve got to keep making music!” And I’m like…I’m at that point where you know when you listen to the radio and they’re like “so and so musician died. He had thirty-nine records out.” And you only know one of them? You know?! I’m at the point where I could play five fucking shows in a row and never repeat a song and still do full fucking sets! (*both laugh*) It’s okay to stop making songs and putting them out…because I’m not doing it for money! (*both laugh*) I don’t know why I go through this process over and over! (*both laugh*) He understood when I said it that way, but he also said “you know, there’s people like me who depend on your next record. I’m moving in life with you. And I depend on your records to be, like ‘okay, we’re in the same boat!’”
Yes! Absolutely! And I think that honestly there aren’t a whole lot of people, at least for me, that I go to that with. There are certainly a lot of bands and musicians that a lot of us like, but in terms of stage of life and following you through a process, there aren’t really many that make that sort of connection. There aren’t that many “Tim Barrys” out there, if that makes sense. So sorry, but you can’t stop! (*laughs*)
Thankfully I still have no fucking idea what I’m doing! (*laughing*) That means nobody that listens to my music has any fucking idea what they’re doing!
So, you’re headed out on what it feels to me is kind of a lengthy tour for you in a week or so. I feel like it’s the longest run I’ve really seen you do solo in a while.
Ah, it’s not that long. Well, I’m not away from home for long. I think it’s nine shows with one day off, and then I come home, and then I fly home for Fest and come back.
Maybe because I just get used to you coming up to Boston or to Manchester as one-offs or like a long-weekend run, so I guess that’s what I associate with you now.
Yeah, and I’m not sure why it worked out that way. But yeah, the first section is like ten days. It’s hard to do like a Chicago-and-back Midwest sort of thing without being gone for two weekends, if that makes sense. Then there’s a tour in January that’s not announced yet that’s the same sort of thing where you leave on a Thursday, tour for two weekends and get back. It’s just what it is. There’s a lot of shows being planned – I still have to grid out a lot of the country and parts of Canada that I plan on doing, but I’m going to pass on going to Europe and the UK on this tour cycle, and I won’t be going to Australia. I’m reconsidering international touring at this point. I’ve done it so much – I love being in the UK and other places, I just don’t love being that far from home anymore. I think I’ve transitioned – and this started before I had kids – but I’ve transitioned from this intense wanderlust lifestyle that I was living to suddenly just being, like, “I don’t really like this that much.” I like to go camping, I like to get cabins in the woods, and I like that kind of stuff, but I don’t like riding on the back of a freight train with a backpack and never knowing where I’m going anymore. I don’t like being in Europe and not being able to check in at home and knowing that I have to take three flights to get back there. I don’t know what happened, I think it just comes with age. Though, as I say that, I’m at the fishing and hunting store right now waiting to get off the phone so I can go get supplies to go sleep in the woods for three nights starting tomorrow! (*both laugh*)
Sure, but it’s just smaller doses this way. You’re probably not going across the pond to go camping for three days, you’re still local.
Yeah, I’m going about two-and-a-half hours away, but still on the James River. All things go wrong I’ll just hollow out a fucking canoe and just float back home! (*both laugh*) These are the kinds of things that are like my reset button. Like everyone, there’s an element of stress constantly on my shoulders – like you have, like everyone has. I’m fortunate that I have the ability to occasionally hit that reset button. And for me, that is being with my kids, or being alone. And it is 100% without my phone. Technology is such a blessing but it’s really not healthy if used constantly. Especially for someone like me who’s trying to provide for a family by doing music which makes me a businessperson or my own boss, which is kind of incredible but it’s also just weird and it’s nothing that I intended on doing. Because money isn’t easy to come by in my position – or enough of it to sustain a family with the parameters of health insurance and all the other bills and all the other stuff that all of us have – it becomes an obsession to check your fucking email! Check your email, check your socials! It’s this false urgency that induces this incredible stress that’s really completely irrelevant.
In the fucking end, what do I do? I play music. So there’s no fucking urgency. So the decision to me to post when a record is going to be available or when a show gets announced is not endangering someone’s life. I’m not in combat, nobody is going to get killed, so why the fuck would I take it so seriously? With all that said, all of us deal with that stress these days, and it’s strange, but it’s important to empower yourself where if you know the root of it, you turn it the fuck off for a few days and reset! Then you come back –at least I do, from a beach or a trip or whatever I’m doing –and I think “god, why was I so stressed about this? It’s all so stupid!”
That is an insanely tough thing to do. Like you, I cherish both being there with my kid and having time just to myself, but man, that phone has been the last handcuff I haven’t been able to get rid of!
It’s so weird, like with the girls, I’ll cook their dinner, and we do so much throughout a day that I let them watch a movie at night while they eat. And I know a lot of parents say it’s not a good thing, but I don’t give a fuck – we really kill a day, it’s incredible how much we pull off, and they deserve it. It’s how they unwind. So when they finally sit down and eat and I’m like “this is a good opportunity to double-check what’s going on and make my agenda for tomorrow” and I find myself trying to snuggle with my kids when I’m actually just looking at fucking Instagram! Or checking Twitter! And it’s like…what the fuck? Am I going to miss this beautiful moment, because before you know it, your kids aren’t going to give a flying shit about you again, so am I going to miss this beautiful moment of my two-year-old sitting on my lap eating her butter pasta because I’m lurking on Instagram?! Really?!
Oh believe me…I know. And then come the moments where you’re trying to get your kid off their tablet or off the screen time so that they can do homework or go to bed or whatever, and they’re looking at you like “uh, dad, you’re on your phone while you’re telling me to put the screen down!”
Yeah! Ed Trask, who was the drummer from Avail, his daughter, for his birthday, turned her phone off and handed it to him!
Such a great birthday.
A day without phones and with my dad. What a gift. He was ecstatic.
Absolutely. Probably the best gift he got in years!
Yup, totally. And there’s nothing to it. “Here’s my phone. It’s off. Give it back when the day is over!”
I’m going to have to write that one down in the book to give to my kid when she’s a little older.
I have it so ingrained in my brain that it’s definitely going to be an annual birthday gift – and a Christmas gift…maybe a Thanksgiving gift…every fucking holiday the girls can give me their phones!
Maybe a “just because it’s Monday gift!”
Well, they’ll all probably have chips in their heads by then!
We’re at like 40 minutes now, and I don’t want to take up your whole afternoon, especially if you’re waiting to go buy camping supplies. I greatly, greatly appreciate talking to you. I always do.
Oh, man, I always enjoy it. As you know, it’s what…you, one for New Noise, and I had to do an interview for the bio. Those are the only interviews that I’ve done that I remember. And the thing with Dan Ozzi. Other than that, that’s it! You’re my official writer! (*both laugh*)
And I’ll tell you, I consider that high compliment. Every time I do an interview, I try to dig, and see what people have said in other interviews so I’m not just asking the same thing or picking up on something someone else might have missed. And it’s a weird thing where the only other interviews (for you) that I can find over the last few years are the ones I’ve done and the article that Dan did. That’s kinda humbling, really.
That’s what people are doing! I really believe in the “less is more” thing. Just let the interviews sit. Leave it out there. Less is more.
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