Then Bob Schneider arrives in town for a show at Cain's Ballroom this Friday night, Tulsa doesn't know what to expect, but that's alright -- it's all pretty up in the air for Schneider as well. After 20 years on the music scene (he started out with Ugly Americans in '93 before departing and forming The Scabs in '97 and going solo in '99), the Austin-based musician has a deep catalog to draw from.
Never one to sit still, if not on the road touring, he's gigging it up at home, playing up to five nights a week around Austin, whether solo, with his band, performing with The Scabs (yes, they're still around and perform together on occasion), or with his side project, Texas Bluegrass Massacre.
When addressing the variety of options he has on his plate, I asked Schneider how he separates his projects mentally and musically. "Well, they are all pretty different in terms of content," he said. "I also use different musicians in the different projects so that separates them as well. The only thing that is consistent is I'm singing -- other than that, there is a little overlap, but you're going to get something different when you see these different groups."
"When I play solo, I tend to talk a lot more to the audience and go off on rants. I hardly ever do that when I'm playing with the bands," he continued. "It's definitely easier playing with the band, because you can sort of lean on them musically during the show. When I'm solo, it's all me, so there's more responsibility there."
Of course, the last couple of times Schneider visited Tulsa, he performed solo, which allowed for a lot of banter with the audience. The two performances were worlds apart, though, with one structured around Schneider playing acoustic guitar and a few other instruments and a separate performance built around him playing steel drums for an incredible evening of music.
When asked what Tulsa could look forward to with this visit, he said, "It won't be solo. I've got most of my band for this show (maybe the whole band -- still waiting to find out). Either way, there'll be a bunch of us on stage that night."
The incredible diversity on those previous solo shows isn't something new to anyone who comes in contact with Schneider's universe. Musically, he's something of a chameleon, merging rock, blues, funk, hip hop, country, and even bluegrass. When asked what he attributes his ability to merge styles so seamlessly to, he said, "I listen to a wide variety of music and always have."
"I'm amazed when I see bands that don't have different styles of music in their set," he continued. "I get really tired of hearing the same sort of song over and over. I need diversity when I'm listening to music or I'll get bored. I assume everyone is like me, so that's what I tend to do when I play live and when I make records."
If you take a quick peek into Schneider's back catalog, you'll see that's definitely the case. Introspective tunes like "I'm Good Now" intermingle with the ballad-y romance of "Come with Me Tonight," the house party stomp of "Mudhouse," and even a little m ambo and Latin flair with "Tarantula" and "Bombonanza."
When all shaken up and served together, a Bob Schneider show ends up one giant music cocktail.
Of course, part of Schneider's freedom and musical diversity comes from the fertile creative soil of his hometown of Austin, which embraces his free spirit and has rewarded him over the years with multiple nominations and awards as one of Austin's best and favorite performers and songwriters.
As Tulsa's local scene continues to grow and thrive, I took the opportunity to ask Schneider what he believes fosters a creative and prolific music community.
"I think that the cost of living really affects the music scene," he replied. "If it's cheap to live there, then you'll probably have a pretty good music scene, because you won't have to work as much and you can devote more of your time to doing drugs and making music. If you have to work a lot, obviously you won't have as much time to do what you need to do to make good music."
As an Austin native and a seasoned musical professional, Schneider should know. His latest solo album, Burden of Proof, is due in April and this weekend's show should offer a nice preview of what he's got coming with the new disc, which will undoubtedly be a blend of styles once again.
In the past, Schneider has been with a major label, then worked independently, and is currently working with Kirtland Records. When asked about the pros and cons of working independently or with labels big and small, he said, "The pros of working on your own is you make all the calls."
"When you work with a label they are going to have some input on the project because they are putting up the money," he added. "For instance on this record, when I finished with it, they wanted one more song that was more upbeat, so I went in and recorded another song for the record. That is going to be the single when it comes out. If it was just me, I would have never have done that."
Even so, you can rest assured that Burden of Proof will bear Schneider's eclectic stamp more than any label. After a three year absence from Tulsa, Schneider returns this Friday night for a full band show at Cain's Ballroom. Tickets are still available and you won't want to miss the party -- or see what he'll do this time around.
If you're a Schneider fan and audiophile, you also won't want to forget to order your "Live Frunk" before the show and pick it up on the way out -- after all, what's a better memento than taking home a recording of the show you were at? Yes, Schneider still records all his shows from the soundboard so you can have your own copy. And if you forget to order at the show, you can always hit his website to order it after the fact -- and stock up on the shows you've missed. Just don't miss him live this Friday night.
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