Tim Barry has a well-earned, albeit Chuck Ragan-esque larger than life reputation of being a bit of a vagabond, the living embodiment of a character from a Tom Waits song. Hell, his last studio album, 2012′s 40 Miler (Chunksaah Records), is a tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating nod to his pastime of riding the rails.
Dying Scene caught up with Barry in early November to chat about Lost & Rootless, and it seems unquestionable that a lot has changed in the years since 40 Miler. Barry’s assumed new roles as a husband and a father; his wife, Sarah, and now-two-year-old daughter Lela Jane appear on the cover of his upcoming release, Lost & Rootless (due November 28th on Chunksaah), and a second daughter, Coralee, was born two weeks ago (editor’s note: Tim and I talked two days before Coralee was born, hence a couple of the references in the conversation below). If there were a time in his professional life where Barry should feel anything but lost and rootless, at least on paper, that time should be now, no?
“I don’t know where I stand. Like, voting day was yesterday. Who the fuck do I vote for? You know what I mean?” Barry asks rhetorically. “In so many aspects of contemporary life in the United States or life in music, who are my peers? I have very close road friends, but I’m lost and rootless. I don’t know…what genre of music do I play? In what group of train riders do I fit with? In what group of workers in Richmond do I fit?”
Those questions are at the core of a number of tracks on Lost & Rootless. This time around, though, the story songs and the scorched-earth vitriol that are part-and-parcel of much of Barry’s traditional work are replaced by what can only be referred to as lighter, happier fare. Marriage and fatherhood will do that to a man, and songs like “Older and Poorer” and “Lela Days” are prime examples of that. Still, it’s not all joy in Mudville: “While I was just on tour, we lost our fucking health insurance,” Barry tells me. ”We have a baby due in two weeks. So what the fuck do we do? We’ve got a two-year-old, an insulin-dependent diabetic family member, which will bankrupt a family right there, and then you have a baby on the way with all the risks involved. And then someone presents to you this unrealistic fucking charge of $1850 a month for insurance? That’s why people lose their fucking insurance. That’s why people start hustling. That’s why you start doing anything you can to get by.”
Better than perhaps most songwriters going nowadays, Barry has an ability to tap directly into the vein that provides depth and feeling to any situation, and many examples of that abound throughout our conversation. Check out the full text of our interview below. It’s a long one, but it may well be the most candid, compelling read to appear on the pages of Dying Scene.
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