San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas


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Bob Schneider

by HAP MANSFIELD
Scene Editor

The career of Bob Schneider, who is due to play at the Whitewater Ampitheater on June 8, is a mystery.

If you go

Who: Bob Schneider

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, June 8

Where: Whitewater Music Amphitheater, 11860 FM 306, New Braunfels

Buy it

Pre-order Bob Schneider’s new album, Burden of Proof, set for release on June 11, from the San Marcos Mercury’s Amazon store. Buy the album and get a $1 Mp3 credit.

All of Schneider’s earlier work is also available on Amazon.

Critics laud him and he has racked up an impressive 24 Austin music awards. His Texas fans are legion and faithful. His prolific song-writing talent displays everything a song should have: heart, humor, irony, intelligence, playfulness, sincerity and vulnerability. He’s got cinematic good looks enough to pose for fashion magazines (and in fact, has, in a 2010 Esquire songwriting challenge).

Frontman for the popular 90’s band Joe Rockhead, Schneider was also a member of the funky Ugly Americans and the Scabs. He led a rock and roll life with all that entails: drugs, women, alcohol, heartache, smoke and mirrors. He kicked all his bad habits and concentrated on work, went solo, and eventually released 1999’s Lonelyland (the best selling album in Waterloo Records history.)

His songs have punctuated a slew of films including such blockbusters as Miss Congeniality, Gun Shy, Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood, 40 Days and 40 Nights, and All About Steve, just to name a few. He’s worked with Patty Griffin (she sang on the track “Changing Your Mind” on 2009’s Lovely Creatures) and he dated Sandra Bullock.

So, why, oh why isn’t he a household name? Is it because he is proficient at so many genres, pop, rap, country and his mercurial creativity cannot be pigeon-holed? Is it because his moody frankness cuts a little too close to home? Has he become a static fixture with his familiarity to Texas audiences? Does the enormous amount of songs he has written make his catalog too busy? Or is it because his cool aloofness is often mistaken for vanity? It’s a mystery.

Talking with Schneider just adds to the quandary. He’s bright, sensitive, candid and well-spoken. His snappy, honest, charming banter at his live gigs is legendary and his verbal talents are not a fluke or a con, it’s just part of who he is.

We chatted with Schneider about his work, his moods and his upcoming new release, Burden of Proof, due out on June 11.

San Marcos Mercury: You have a lot of faithful fans who show up at your performances and request their favorite songs. What is the most requested song, do you think?

Schneider: Well, I don’t know if there is one big song that gets requested. There are a handful of songs that get a lot of requests.

Mercury: What would those be, then?

Schneider: Let’s see, uh, Tarantula, Ass Knocker [laughs]– maybe just to say the words, King of the World, Honey Pot, 40 Dogs.

Mercury: You do an impressive and amazing thing in that all of your live performances are recorded and available for download or on CD very shortly after the gig.

Schneider: We pretty much record every show. Some shows are available on USB that night. [Sound engineer] Jay Thomas and I now have thousands of shows that are out there. I do write a lot of songs and so many things happen that I tend to say a lot of stuff. The recordings are all different, a bit of unique live audio on every one.

Mercury: Your dialogs are fascinating. Even on your website, the things you say about a perfect day are so fun to listen to. But this immediate recording all plays into the live experience, how important and unique the live experience is.

Schneider: Well, there’s definitely something about live music. I love doing that — the interactions with the audience. The human emotional quality gets lost in a studio recording. There’s a carefulness to a recording that the live show doesn’t have. There’s a part of playing live that scares the shit out of me, what’s going to happen? The balancing of the live show –that’s my favorite part. It’s like walking a tightrope between two buildings.

I try to get off the path, into unknown places, and the audience comes with me. I go to those scary places and that’s when the magic happens.

Mercury: You have a spritely sense of humor, a playfulness, but in spite of that your songs are often on the edges of depression.

Schneider: I do feel like I face depression down. But really, it manifests a lot in me in anger. I would feel so angry all the time. Dealing with that has been a challenge and it makes me super productive, that’s how I deal with that in my life.

It’s weird because for the first time ever I have to be constantly busy. I have to keep using that energy. I think everything kind of adds up and I spent my life not dealing with things and now I’m dealing with things, with that energy. Facing it down. Using it to be productive.

Mercury: Explain that.

Schneider: My imagination makes me stray out into this other world and I use that. I’ll be sitting at home and hear a squeak. Most people would just think it was something in the house and go on or not even notice it but it makes me think of things that work into a story for a song. What is that noise? How is it happening? Is it scary? The story helps me get through it.

Mercury: Your imagination saves you.

Schneider: I’ll be sitting on my back porch just listening and I get transported, All kinds of crazy things go through my head. It just takes me somewhere and I go with it.

Mercury: You have a new release out, Burden of Proof.

Schneider. Not out yet. June 11.

Mercury: How do you feel about how it turned out?

Schneider: I’m pretty happy. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I want to make a record as good as possible. It’s a weird thing, music–I’m passionate about something, think it’s really good, we’ll record it and nobody gets it, it doesn’t come through sometimes. It’s really about your unique perspective on it as to how you are going to relate to it.

Mercury: It’s hard to judge your own work, isn’t it?

Schneider: But, you know, I’ll read Rolling Stone or Spin and they’ll recommend something and I’ll listen to it and I don’t like it much, it’s not unique and it’s often pretty mediocre.

Mercury: [laughs] I know, I listen to their recommendations and think, “Really? That’s the best out there?”

Schneider: [laughs] Yeah,why am I not there? I’m at least that good.

Mercury: Oh, you’re better!

Schneider: Yeah, I think sometimes.

Mercury: [laughs] Yeah, we have to stop reading that stuff. The sound on your new songs that I’ve heard, like “Digging For Icicles” is new, isn’t it?

Schneider: Yes. It’s a departure, more adult, more mature, with strings and really richer orchestration. There’s an elegance that the others don’t have really. So I like it but it’s weird, I never end up being totally satisfied with it.

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2 thoughts on “Q&A: Bob Schneider on facing down depression to make brilliant music

  1. So I understand that Rob grew up in Germany and his dad was an opera singer. I wonder what influence that had and how the juxtaposition of then growing up in El Paso influenced his music and career.

  2. Good question. Schneider has said in several interviews that his dad studied opera but never really had the voice for it. He was born in Michigan, lived in Germany for 4 years (they moved there when he was 2) when he was 6 years old they moved to El Paso for five years, then back to Germany for more of Bob Sr.’s voice lessons. Schneider said that he often played for his parent’s friends (with his sister) and that he, for many years, hated the sound of opera. The ten-year old Schneider sometimes accompanied his dad on drums at gigs in El Paso. His family was poor when they lived in El Paso and was supported by his school teacher mom. So he had a lot of juxtapositions in his life, Texas and Germany, poverty and music, his father’s dreams of opera stardom and the reality of his talent.

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