Biography – A Perfect Day
During the summer of 2010, BOB SCHNEIDER and his friend accepted an invitation to cruise around Lake Travis near their home in Austin--an afternoon that unwittingly wound up inspiring the singer and songwriter's latest album, A PERFECT DAY.
"It was a beautiful day, really lovely on the lake," Schneider recalls. "He had his iPod plugged into the speakers on the boat and was playing some songs, and I was like, 'Oh, I'd love to have a CD that I could put in right now that would fit this mood.’ That's where I got the idea to do this album. I wanted to make a CD where you could be hanging out on the lake on a beautiful day and put it in and you're never going to press skip. It's just the right music to play while you're hanging out and enjoying the day with your friends."
And A PERFECT DAY is just that--12 tracks of easy grooving, soulful melodies that sound like sunshine and slip into the ear as smooth as a chilled daiquiri. But, as is typical of Schneider, they're hardly pro-forma, follow-the-dots boat songs; rather, he cuts a wide swatch of music to chill by, from the light, summer groove of the opening track and first single "Let The Light In" to the soulful earthiness of "Honeypot," the ringing ambience of "Everything You Love,” the bouncy pop of "Funcake," the relentless, brassy funk of "Am I Missing Something,” the insistent wiggle of "Hand Me Back My Life" and the loose-lipped-and-limbed, good humor of "Peaches" and "Yeah, I'll Do That Shit."
And also typical of Schneider, elements of darkness seep into these sunny sojourns. "God will destroy everything you love if you live long enough," he declares at one juncture, while at another he notes that "It's too late to think that anything is going to change." And in "Penelope Cruz" he laments that "every day my dreams seem farther and farther away"--although he agrees that wanting "to make a baby with Elizabeth Taylor around 19 and 57" may be a little far-fetched.
Schneider--who recorded A PERFECT DAY in Austin with producer Dwight A Baker--doesn't spend a lot of time trying to analyze and understand this duality, however. "I just write songs," he explains. "I just make up songs and then usually I kind of treat them like poetry. If there's a phrase or a line it that I really like, then I'll end up liking the song.
"Like in that 'Penelope Cruz' song, there's the line 'I want to fall in love like I was falling off the face of the earth.' If I get a line like that on a song, then I'm really happy with the song. But I don't know where that line came from; it's just, like, a gift that dropped into my lap while I was writing. So that's what I'm always shooting for, to get those little sections like that that fall into the songs and make them special for me."
It's that magic that the Michigan-born, Germany-raised Schneider has pursued since the early 90s, when he dropped out of his art studies at the University of Texas at El Paso to pursue music full-time--starting, professionally, in the band Joe Rockhead and then in the Ugly Americans and the Scabs, all of which led up to his solo career in 1998. He debuted with SONGS SUNG AND PLAYED ON GUITAR AT THE SAME TIME but thought about adopting another group name, Lonelyland. Instead that became the title of his second album, and Schneider has since added another 11 titles to his catalog, including a pair of live albums, and EP (2009's LOVE IS EVERYWHERE) and a holiday release (CHRISTMASTIME, also in 2009), as well as his last studio album, LOVELY CREATURES, which featured the national AAA hit "40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet)" as well as a collaboration with Patty Griffin on "Changing Your Mind."
Along the way Schneider also contributed songs to a variety of movies-- including Miss Congeniality, Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back--and to the TV series “Men In Trees.” His whopping 24 Austin Music Awards range from Musician, Male Vocalist and Songwriter of the Year to Best Bluegrass Band for Bob Schneider's Texas Bluegrass Massacre, a testament to his refusal to be hemmed in by genre classifications.
"I definitely don't limit myself," Schneider says. "A lot of times I'll be writing songs and pissed they're going in the direction they're going, but I just finish them and then write another one instead of trying to force it to become something else."
Thanks to that approach, Schneider figures he has a library of 600-700 unrecorded songs ready at any given time. He tapped into that, as well as writing brand new material, for A PERFECT DAY, grabbing about 150 that might fit the sonic concept he had for the album and subsequently narrowing it down to 30 possibilities.
"We ended up not using any songs that were too maudlin or melancholy," he says, "or any songs that would be offensive or would be inappropriate if there were kids on the boat--no songs with the words 'shit' or 'fuck' in it. There were some really slow songs; those didn't go on there, either, and some super rocked-out, thrashy songs. And I didn't want to put any rap songs on there. We just worked out way down to the best songs that fit the vibe I wanted."
"Let the Light In," as it happens, was a song Schneider says "was always going to go on the record for sure." It grew out of a weekly "songwriting game" he plays with some of his colleagues online, where someone presents a phrase that everyone has to incorporate into a tune; in this case it was "not a pretty pair," and "Let the Light In" was not only the song Schneider came up with but one that he felt was the best choice for a first single--even with seemingly random references to the Wicked Witch and the Tin Man from The Wizard Of Oz.
"I have a very active imagination and a mind that's slowly driving me crazy," he says with a laugh. "So there's a lot of stuff, a lot of stories that get created in my head, and that phrase is what brought this one out for me."
Schneider--who's watched Austin become a mecca for the movie industry--pretty much assigned himself the impetus for "Penelope Cruz," however. "I think she's one of the most attractive women in Hollywood," he notes, "and I read somewhere that she dated pretty much everybody she's made a movie with. So I was like, 'I wish I was an actor so I could make a movie with Penelope Cruz'-- and have sex with her, basically. And then another part of thought it would be cool if I had a song with her name in it, because then someone might go, 'Hey, there's some guy who wrote a song called 'Penelope Cruz.' We should check that out' and somehow I could go out with Penelope Cruz. But she just got married to Javier Bardem, so that fucked up my whole plan..."
A committed road dog, Schneider--who maintains a Monday night residency at the Saxon Pub back home in Austin--plans to burn some significant rubber on tour to support A PERFECT DAY. But there's also that large body of existing songs and that "very active imagination" that keeps new tunes coming, so even as one album comes out another is most assuredly on the way.
"It's pretty crazy," he acknowledges. "I'll think, 'Oh man, I really want to write songs like Mason Jennings or Griffin House’ because I really love that kind of heartfelt, earnest, acoustic, heart on your sleeve sort of music--then I'll write electronic stuff that sounds like Kanye West. So I really don't feel like I have much choice in the matter; I just try to let it be what it's supposed to be and don't ask questions. I just do the work and then sort it out later."