Alternative-rock singer-songwriter Bob Schneider didn’t grow up thinking he’d pursue a career in music. He thought he’d go into visual art. Yet he enjoyed the attention music afforded him. In fact, his latest album – the orchestral “Burden of Proof” – has a visual side to it as well as a musical one.
Schneider’s first brush with the rock ‘n’ roll stage occurred during a high school talent show.
“We had this one song where we made fun of people we knew,” he says, calling from his home base in Austin. “We were the hit of the talent show. But one of our friends who was in 10th grade was dating an eighth-grader, which was a ridiculous age difference. Her parents complained to the school after we mentioned it in a song, and we got suspended. It did give me a taste for performing.”
Schneider’s fate was sealed while studying art at college.
“I went from nobody knowing me at the college to everybody knowing who I was and getting a lot of attention from ladies and dudes thinking I was cool,” he says. “That put the hook in me. It made art seem kind of boring.”
Schneider dropped out of school and moved to Austin. That was 20 years ago. Eleven solo studio albums (and a couple of band projects) later, Schneider – who plays Chop Shop Thursday – made what he calls his most grown-up record with 2013’s “Burden of Proof.”
“I’ve always thought of classical music as adult music,” he explains of employing string arrangements. “When you put the strings on there, it sounds like classical music to me.”
He doesn’t necessarily think his songwriting has matured.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve written kid songs for adults,” the 48-year-old says. “They seem like fairly simple kid songs, but the subject matter is adult. The thing I’ve discovered as I’ve become an adult – and I feel more my age than I ever have – is most of my adult life I’ve felt like a kid. Most people think when (they) get to be an adult (they) know the answers, but that kid part of you is always there. When you get scared, you feel like you’re 8. When you fall in love, you’re like 13 again. You might be 72. So I just feel like I’ve always written from that place. The themes are adult, but the emotions are more like a child.”
His 8-year-old son actually helped him write one of the songs on “Burden of Proof.”
“My son wrote that whole chorus when he was 4 or 5,” he says of the track “Please Ask for Help.” “I told him (the words) I wanted, and he sang that whole melody.”
The string arrangements give the album a soundtrack-like quality, so Schneider invited 12 directors, including Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City,” “Machete”), to create a video for a track on the album.
“The idea was to make a 12-song movie, but the logistics of that were too much,” he says. Instead, he gave the filmmakers free rein. “I thought that would be way more interesting for the director than to follow some sort of script.”
Some of the videos actually fit eerily together, without the directors having ever seen one another’s work before the finished product.
“It was really coming at it from an art standpoint,” he says. “Now I want you to showcase your art as a filmmaker.”
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