The BIG Über Rock Interview: Dan Baird Print E-mail
Written by Gerald Stansbury   
Sunday, 04 June 2017 04:00

Dan Baird is an artist who has released several of my favorite albums of all time. Due to how much I played it and the nostalgia factor, I had a hard time imagining you releasing a “better” album than his 1992 solo debut, ‘Love Songs for the Hearing Impaired.’ ‘Circus Life’ (recorded with Homemade Sin) was an amazing album that did just that though, and was one of my favorite albums of 2013. Now, here we are in 2017, and he’s seemingly done it twice this year, with both his first brand new solo offering in 21 years, ‘SoLow’, and the new HMS release, ‘Roller Coaster.’ 

 

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I caught up with Dan between a tour of Australia and a long upcoming tour of Europe…  

 

Things are good. Yes, we had a month of US and Australia dates back to back, and at my age, I'm appreciating the down time.

 

Tell us a little a bit about the recording of the new solo album ‘SoLow.’

 

When HMS got done with ‘Get Loud’, we had four or five of these songs left over for a myriad of reasons: oo personal, wrong groove, nothing for Warner to hang his hat on… I kept on writing and couldn't throw any away.

 

I love the energy the album starts with as it jumps to life with ‘Cemetery Train.’  It is a small thing but I love the “move along, move along” parts. As I learned the rest of the chorus, I already had something I could sing by the end of the first listen.  What can you tell us about that song? 

 

‘Cemetery Train’ is based on one of my favorite topics. Getting old in the public eye.  Except I'm looking at rock and roll music specifically. That differs highly in my world from "rock music". The "and roll" portion of the programme is dying off, and has been for a while. I'm not sure the rock side will last a lot longer with the necessary vitality and pushiness to make it really live, but the "and roll" side is almost gone. So, if we're all dying out, let's go together. Kinda like Jackie Gleason moving his show to Miami from NYC. If you don't know about it look it up. "Move along move along" is a nod to one of the "inspiration bands" for the tune, the Clash. One of Joe Blanton's ideas. It's a good one.

 

‘She’s With Me’ is one of my favorites, as it reflects lyrics that someone in their early 20s just cannot write. My wife and I have been married for 13 years and together for almost 16 years. When you talk about being together for 25 years in the song, it connects with me. What was the writing process for that song like? What does your wife think of it?

 

This one I wrote with David Newbould, who is married as well. Also a new daddy, which I'm not, so I was pretty firm in the "no kids reference" rule.  No, a younger person can't see time in the same way an oldster does. Especially in relationships that are chosen. The third verse is what pops open the scope on the first two verses and their importance in hanging through the tough times. Everyone gets their turn. Super personal. David and I rewrote this one until it flowed. Lots of "red line" lyric. 

 

When listening to ‘Gotta Get a Move On,’ it is easy to imagine it is a follow up to ‘Another Chance.’ Did you have that song in mind as you laid down ‘Gotta Get a Move On?’ It almost feels like a letter to the person you were back then.

 

No, it wasn't in the room for the writing of that one, although it's a nice vision. The chorus just popped out one day with a first verse in tow. [I] had to find the right chords and three more verses, but that didn't take more than a day's spare time.  I obsess on dying at 80. This song is a reminder to shut up and keep going.

 

I think ‘Look Away’ is a brilliant song which is key to the record due to its lyrics and wisdom. What were the thoughts behind that song and its development?

 

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Well thanks, I like it too. I had the two sections musically laid out with that strange double bend guitar. [I] went over to Joe Blanton's house and we got lucky with a day. We're both from the south. We found the common problem for almost any progressive southerner; I'm southern, the south drives me nuts, I'm southern, the south drives...... endless loop.

 

The lyrical brilliance shines throughout the entire record, and I love the wit that appears in your lyrics such as on ‘Showtime’ when you hope the crowd could stand the opening band. Was that inspired by any events in particular?   

 

Nah, nothing specific at all. It just made me laugh, thought it'd make someone else as well. That said, it is true. 

 

In the liner notes, you indicate that this album has some common themes running throughout it about growing older and life’s experiences. Were there something in particular that inspired the songs? Did you shelve any songs due to not fitting the theme?   

 

I had ‘She's With Me’, ‘Silver Baby’, and ‘Won't Take Much’ left over from ‘Get Loud’. They all deal with older folks, like me. We just don't have the same problems and urges them young ‘uns do. I tried to theme them to an obvious older perspective. I don't want to write "you make me so hot baby" anymore. That ain't what's goin’ on. I didn't shelve any… they just started turning into ‘Rollercoaster ‘songs.

 

The new Homemade Sin album has also taken up residency in the car and on the iPod. The feeling between the two albums is very different with ‘Rollercoaster’ starting with ‘Shake It Til Its Sore’ providing a shot of unbridled rock n roll energy. My first listen of the album came on the night I found out Chris Cornell had passed away. After a day of shock and numbness, that first song provided some light. Has the band already introduced it into the live show?    

 

Very different records! We're doing 12 of the 13 live, with ‘Thanks For The Memories’ just waiting to be introduced to the stage, so yes. Chris dying is so unfathomable to me. Depressing and hard. Glad a tune helped out for a day.

 

 

The themes between ‘Rollercoaster’ and “SoLow” are polar opposites to my ears with ‘Rollercoaster’ being focused on the lighter side of life, at least for the most part. What inspired the brilliant ‘Licka Sense?’ 

 

I just thought, “Why hasn't anybody written this tune?”, so I got up with Otis Gibbs and Warner and we knocked it out in a couple of hours. The punch line came to me and the rest was just hammering it out. 

 

‘Roller Coaster’ does have its darker moments with the epic ‘Do My Worst’ being placed squarely in the middle of the album. Some of the backing vocals on this track remind me of the Beatles. How did this song develop?

 

I wrote this one with Will Hoge. I had all the musical parts ready and the two of us just hammered it out in a couple of hours.  So, there's the section after I sing the verse that I wanted to sound like The Band, with revolving voices. I did want that "Angels" section to be not me, but Warner and Micke telling our antihero what he should do instead of what he does. We stacked those vocals four deep each, so they sound otherworldly. The simultaneously insightful and personally helpless antihero is a very interesting POV to sit in. Will and I have some family similarities that we used for subject matter that dovetailed nicely, I thought. In a song like this, there's going to be a piece of me in it. 

 

‘Thanks for the Memories’ almost sounds like two different songs merged together seamlessly with the different lead vocals. The beginning reminds me of a ‘60s rock song before your vocal part starts introducing a southern rock feeling to it. What was it like putting that song together?

 

I just can't help sounding the way I do. Warner produced this record and loved the song and heard the obvious focus shift as a positive thing. From very controlled to very out of it. Warner had the vision on this one: Who does what where and how... I couldn't sing the front of this song worth a crap with a gun at my head.

 

Otis Gibbs contributed to the writing on this record as well. I have enjoyed a lot of his solo material. How long have you guys known one another, and what brought you together as writers? 

 

We've known each other about six years or so. He opened some HMS shows and we liked him. [He] seemed to know what he could do, how long to play and make himself unhateable. Every now and then I'll guess correctly and a writing partner is found. Otis is a big AC/DC nut and doesn't really have an outlet for the big rock thing. Warner is a bigger AC/DC nut so those two got on like the proverbial house on fire. I was the fireman, and hell, I like AC/DC. 

 

What is your favorite thing about playing with Homemade Sin? What does each member bring to the band?      

 

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I know I'm going to get what they have to give that night, and they'll follow me over a cliff. I know, they have. I don't have to make a set list. We don't have guitar changes, so anything at any time makes for more involved band, including me. I call the songs as we go. I usually tell Mauro the first two tunes, but he knows that's subject to instant change. Nobody is as relentless as Mauro or daring as Warner. Micke will do any and every job possible on the bass, lay it downstairs, push, solo, swing, drive. Swiss Army knife.

 

Warner has a gear that he gets to hit (when the shit is on) on the slower songs where he goes for the "stopping time" thing on his solo. It's so stunningly impressive every time he succeeds to watch from 6 feet away.  Mauro knows which songs I'm gonna fuckup the tempo on and how to correct it and when to let me hang in my own noose, so I'll be less likely to do it again.  We pull for each other to succeed, and when we hear someone in the mud, we go to help him out. Teammates. Ask any long lasting lineup what the most important thing is after musicianship, which should have been sorted first day, is and I bet that's the answer, in less they're getting rich. 

 

Rock Candy Records released a remastered and expanded version of the Georgia Satellites debut. Is there any chance of them doing the same for ‘Open all Night” and ‘In the Land of Salvation and Sin?’

 

I've no idea.

 

Is there ever any thought to revisit some of the characters you have created in past songs for new songs, such as Julie and Lucky, Dixie, Sheila, etc.?

 

I thought about it, but "no" was always the answer. Really bad song or 2 that never got finished or recorded. It's best that way.

 

Let’s play a bit of musical word association… with your impressive back catalogue, I wondered if you would share any of your thoughts on what comes to mind when you think of...  ‘Buffalo Nickel’ (Baird’s second solo album from 1996)?

 

One of my faves. So all over the place stylistically. 

 

The Yayhoos (a project with which Baird recorded two albums, ‘Fear Not The Obvious’ in 2001 and ‘Put The Hammer Down’ in 2006)?

 

We’re getting ready to do some dates in August. First ones in ten years or so. Shouldn't be opened too often, but ten years was a bit much.

 

Chris Knight?

 

[The] best the vocalist/songwriter I know. His songs fit his voice like a glove. The odd combo of slow and smart. Good man not to cross. Chris gave me the greatest song writing lesson ever. 

 

We were working on a tune and needed the fourth line of the first verse. I tossed one out that met the meter and rhyme requirements and he started singing at the top of the verse, came to that line and stopped half way through and just said, "Naw". No "I see what you're saying" or "maybe if we...", just "Naw". That's the way I write now. By myself, with anyone. "Naw" cuts through a bunch of bullshit and wasted time, because it really is just "Naw". Best have a thick skin, quick recovery time and another idea to work around here. I expect the same back.

 

One of my favorite live records by you is the ‘Redneck Savant’ album that I purchased online through ChangesOne back in the day. What are your thoughts on how you can sell your music these days?

 

Well, the stuff we haven't sold to a distributor we sell ourselves. [From] Homemade Sin's first record forward: ‘Savant’, ‘Live Out Of GA’, etc… we basically made for a one time little payday. The rest of our stuff is available at danbairdandhomemadesin.net.

 

‘SoLow’ and ‘Rollercoaster’ are both available now. Read our review of ‘SoLow’ HERE.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © Trudi Knight.

 

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