Spin Doctors singer Chris Barron is fascinated by the secret life of songs.
Not that he expects everyone to understand his interest. "I tend to let my imagination run a little wild in thinking about that stuff," he admits, speaking over the phone from his record company's New York offices. "You can really go off into imagining the hidden characteristics of songs and what they're doing in
people's minds, and in the open air above and around the crowd.
"But from the stage, it's really interesting to watch, night after night, what songs do. Noticing, 'Oh, a fight breaks out on this song.' Or if we've got people interested in slam-dancing, that they always seem to start slam-dancing in that song. I'd always thought the song was a ballad, and people are slam-dancing to it. Consistently."
Still, a song is going to do what it's going to do. "They're like little babies that grow up into autonomous creatures of their own," he says. "Each one goes out and interacts with the crowd in its own way."
That's one of the reasons Barron and his band mates are eager to be on tour again. With a new album, "Turn It Upside Down," in the stores and selling steadily, the Spin Doctors have a whole new brood to play with and observe.
"One of the things I'm really excited about is that by putting this album out, we're pretty much doubling the amount of released material that we have," he says. "Because when you play a song that's on a record, there's always that faction of people that are, like, hoping you're going to play it. But if it's not on a record, that faction of people is usually really nominal -- if there's anybody at all."
Barron also has personal reasons for welcoming that diversity. After spending 3 1/2 years on the road behind "Pocket Full of Kryptonite," its major-label debut, the singer found himself going through definite phases with the old songs.
"It was a rotating thing," he says. "There'd usually be one song I was sick of, and then after a little while I'd get back into that song. Most of the time, when I got back into it, I'd be more into it than ever."
Not everything on "Turn It Upside Down" is new. "We've got sort of a mixture of seasoned material and brand new songs," he says. "Because I think it can be a mistake to put out all brand-new material. Especially with your sophomore effort, you want to put a couple of your best feet forward. Try and capitalize on whatever you've gained in terms of craft. And also try and gain on your seasoned stuff as well."
Among the older tunes are "Big Fat Funky Booty," which Barron describes as "one of our early get-'em-up-on-their-feet songs," and "Hungry Hamed's," a tune about an eatery once frequented by the band.
"It's closed now, but it used to be on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Flatbush, right in Brooklyn by the Brooklyn Academy," he says. Barron feels bad that Hamed's won't benefit from the publicity but adds that the place did benefit somewhat from the band's patronage. "That was one of our live staples for a long time back in the club days, so I know a lot of people went out there and did the French cruller pilgrimage," he says, laughing.
Besides, Barron has deeper ambitions for his songwriting than boosting Brooklyn eateries. "I've been writing songs since I was 15, and of all the things I do, it's probably the thing I do best," he says. "I mean, I'm 26, but I feel that I'm in kind of an advanced place, especially as far as lyrics are concerned. I'm not saying that I'm better than anybody; I'm just really enjoying the challenges of lyric writing at this point in my life."
Call the Doctors
To hear excerpts from the Spin Doctors' "Turn It Upside Down," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6111 after you hear the greeting.
Go for a Spin
What: Spin Doctors in concert
When: Wednesday, July 20, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion
Tickets: $27.50 pavilion seats, $20 lawn
PD Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets, (410) 730-2424 for information