Bob Schneider mines many genres to keep music engaging

Songwriter Bob Schneider has a simple explanation for his genre-hopping sound — he gets bored really

Categories: Life & Arts

Songwriter Bob Schneider has a simple explanation for his genre-hopping sound — he gets bored really easily.

“I like reggae, if it’s one reggae song every 10 songs, but I get really tired of reggae if I listen to three reggae songs in a row,” he said en route to a show in St. Louis. “I love rap music, but after two or three rap songs, I’m ready for some Americana, or anything besides rap.”

The Austin-based musician has constantly striven to keep things interesting for himself and his audiences throughout a nearly two-decade career that has seen him front groups ranging from jam band The Ugly Americans to rap-funk outfit Joe Rockhead.

His latest solo effort, last year’s “Lovely Creatures,” is no exception, taking from hip-hop, hard rock, soul, country and even Latin music. But no matter the genre, Schneider prefers to let the song speak for itself.

“I listen to a lot of different types of music, but when I write, I don’t necessarily write with any sort of, any preconceived idea of what a song’s going to be,” he said. “I’m just open to anything, really, so I end up writing in a lot of genres. You can take any song and turn it into whatever you want — you can take a country song and make it a rock song, for example. But I usually . . . just leave it alone and let it be what it is.”

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For Gazette music writer Brian McElhiney’s review of this show, click here.

The approach seems to work for Schneider, who has seen his solo career take off nationally over the past decade, while still maintaining strong ties to the Austin music scene. Partly due to this, he usually sticks to short, two-week tours — his performance at The Linda on Friday night is part of a run that began with St. Louis and wraps up in New York City.

Regular Austin gig

When not on the road, Schneider and his band — guitarist Bill Cassis, bassist Harmoni Kelley and drummer Connie Choucroun — still play a weekly Monday night residency show at the Saxon Pub in Austin. For the past 10 years he’s been doing the residency, he has used the opportunity to try out new songs and new arrangements of old material. Some of that will undoubtedly surface at The Linda, although he tries to strike a balance between unknown material and fan favorites such as “Metal & Steel,” off his breakthrough second album “Lonelyland.”

“I have a really large catalog of songs — over 1,000,” he said.

“When we’re on the road, in a show, we get a chance to play about 24 songs, so half of those are songs recorded on the albums that people are familiar with, a quarter of them are brand new songs, and then the other six are [lesser known songs]. When we play the weekly show, we don’t do any of the songs that people know, which gives us the opportunity to just kind of go. . . . It’s a fun gig, but we still have fun on the road.”

Song a week

This prolificacy has been the norm for Schneider for roughly 15 years. He has slowed down a bit in recent years due to touring and family, but still manages to write at least a song a week. “Lovely Creatures” 12 tracks were whittled down from over 50 songs, 25 of which were recorded.

“I used to be a lot more prolific — sometimes I would write a song every day, but I don’t have time to do that anymore,” he said.

“I might still write songs every day, but I have to do stuff like this, business stuff. I have a kid — he’s on tour with me now, so I get to hang out with him, which is great. But while I’m hanging out with him I don’t have time to write.”

“Lovely Creatures” is Schneider’s 11th solo release, following up 2007’s “When the Sun Breaks Down on the Moon.”

His quirky storytelling is in full effect on tracks such as lead single “40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet)” — the album as a whole focuses on romantic relationships, from traditional love songs to breakup tunes.

“Which is kind of why I ended up calling it ‘Lovely Creatures,’ ” he said. “I was going to call the album ‘Tarantula’ [the title of one of the album’s Latin excursions], but the label didn’t like it, and I wasn’t that crazy about it either.”

Schneider was born in Ypsilanti, Mich., but spent most of his childhood in Munich, Germany. He ended up at the University of Texas at El Paso, but dropped out to focus on Joe Rockhead. The band released three albums independently before signing a major label deal, but broke up promptly thereafter.

From there, Schneider sang and played with Ugly Americans, which toured with Dave Matthews Band and the H.O.R.D.E. Festival before merging with another group, the still-active Scabs.

He also still fronts the Texas Bluegrass Massacre. Although he writes for both bands, as well as his solo albums, he doesn’t necessarily write specifically for any project.

“Usually, if it’s a song that’s kind of a fun dance song and has horns in it, I might bring it to the scabs; if it’s something that would work well with Texas Bluegrass Massacre, I’ll bring it in,” he said. “But all the songs that I write usually find their way into my band, The Bob Schneider Band, at some point or another.”

Although he enjoys all the projects he works with, he is most at home with his solo band.

Diverse possibilities

“It’s the most diverse; we can really go in any direction that I want to go in musically, which is great, and the band knows the most material as well,” he said.

“It really gives me an opportunity to take the music in any sort of direction I want to take it in, in terms of mood — we can play for two hours and be all super sad, or it can be two hours of dance songs or rock songs or country songs.”

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