SOLANA BEACH — Bob Schneider is a walking contradiction.
At least that’s what it seems like. His sound is pessimistic, yet hopeful; playful, yet mature; he’s irreverent when talking about his music, but serious about doing his best when it comes to writing and performing.All of this is apparent after a brief conversation with him and a listen to his latest album, “Burden of Proof,” which was released earlier this year.
From the playfully titled, “Wish the Wind Would Blow Me,” a song about longing, to a song about a turbulent relationship in “Swimming in the Sea,” the album has received critical acclaim.
Schneider, who’s getting his first musical, which he likened to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” ready for next year, as well as completing orchestrations for a symphonic album and writing a kids book and more, took time out to answer a few questions before his concert at the Belly Up Oct. 2.
How would you describe “Burden of Proof” to people who aren’t familiar with your music?
It’s pretty hard to describe music, I guess. It’s weird. I used to try and explain what my music sounds like and now, whenever anybody asks me, I just say Paul Simon. And people are like, ‘Oh, I like Paul Simon.’ And maybe go check it out….
In making the record, I really did want it to kind of sound as beautiful as it could possibly sound, really. So that’s what we were going for. I don’t know how to describe that necessarily.
What was the motivation for wanting to make it sound “beautiful”?
We’ve kind of been doing that the last three records. I’ve been working with the same producer, Dwight Baker; we started with “Lovely Creatures,” which we really wanted to make a beautiful, classic rock record. When I say “rock,” I mean again, rock the way Paul Simon would make a rock record.
You’ve put out several records, is there anything about creating an album that you still find elusive?
It’s always elusive when you go in to record a record. You always want to make a really good record. And you always have the best of intentions in terms of wanting to get the best recording, the best treatment for the songs…And it’s really hit or miss. I’m not like U2 where I spend a year in Berlin recording the record. We usually record it in four or five days and then edit it and overdub it for maybe a week after that, but I spend a couple of weeks, two or three weeks making a record and sometimes you come closer….
With any creative endeavor, you’re really trying to do your best. But it’s not like building a house, where you get really good at building something and then you just build it the same way every time. It’s different every time, from song to song.
You have an entertaining commentary to go along with the album on your website. You talk about how people listen to music and the importance of the order of songs people hear them on an album. How did you arrive at that?
I’m not even sure what I said on there. I say a lot of (expletive). When I’m putting a record together, I really spend a lot of time trying to figure an order, because I do want the listener to have an experience from the beginning to the end of the songs.
Is that something that carries over into your live performances?
I don’t use set lists. I just play whatever I feel like playing next. I just use my intuitions and also, I’ve been doing it for over 20 years now, so I’m pretty good at — when you’re playing live, you never know what the audience is going to be like, what the room is going to feel like.
You’re quite self-deprecating when speaking about your music. Was there ever a time when you were unflinchingly serious about it?
I don’t really take anything very seriously. I don’t think I ever have. I’m very serious about trying to do the best I can when I’m writing it or when I’m performing. But in terms of taking what I write or myself or life or anything really very seriously, in terms of the big picture, in terms of what it means, no, I don’t really take any of that very seriously.
We’re all going to be forgotten and dead before too long so the only thing that really matters is what we decide to make matter in life.
Again, referring to your commentary, you talk pretty candidly about being in the music industry and their milking as much money from the listeners as possible. Do you think it’s an artist’s responsibility to help stand up for the listener?
I don’t think I meant that — I think it was more of a joke. The music industry is awful; it’s truly horrible. And the fact that people nowadays feel like music should be free, even though it costs quite a bit of money and time and effort to make, the combination of those two things has made it really difficult to make a living doing it, especially doing it at the level that I make it at. So, you have to do all these (expletive) things like offer bonus tracks when you put it on Amazon or iTunes and it sucks. People should be able to get all the music at a fair price….
It makes me angry that you have to do that, but unfortunately that’s just the way it is right now….
I wish that everything was free, that would be awesome because I’d love to drive a Lamborghini and live in a giant house on a mountain top and pretend I was a magic king, but stuff costs money.
You have a reputation for constantly working, what is it that keeps driving you?
I like to make stuff. It’s really enjoyable. It’s weird, but if a day goes by and I don’t have anything to show for it by the end of the day I feel like it was a waste of the day really.
With that said then, what’s next for you?
I have a lot of stuff coming out. We’ve already recorded about half of the next record, all of the songs are written for it. I’ve got 600 or 700 songs that haven’t been recorded, some of those are actually pretty good, so I’ve probably got the next four or five records ready to go in terms of content.