Fishing for great songs

The Baltimore Sun

Fresh off a stadium tour with the Dixie Chicks, singer/songwriter Bob Schneider is used to grinding out a living on the road. He has released more than a dozen albums, solo and with previous bands, but makes most of his money by playing live.

Schneider comes to Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis on Sunday and the 8x10 on Monday.

How have your live shows changed in the past 15 or 20 years? Have you matured?

If I got an audience that wasn't listening, or I was having a bad day or something, I would make it harder for people. I think I used to react a little bit more to that sort of thing negatively.

Actually, that's not really true. I think I'm just trying to make up an answer to your question. I think the actual answer is, obviously I've matured in life, but as far as the shows go, I just try to put on the best show possible - to do something special and natural. People are taking time out of their lives ... and I take that very seriously. I just try to be entertaining for sure, but also something special.

When I go see a show, I want to be moved, whether it's my [rear] or my heart or my head. I want something about it to move me. I guess that's what I'm shooting for.

How often do you write new music?

Sometimes I do it every day. I usually write a song every time I sit down to write one. Sometimes I do it two times a week. Sometimes two a month. It's rare that I write two a month. I usually write anywhere from four to 10 songs a month.

I keep them all in a jelly jar underneath my bed, and I throw them out into the crowd and see what happens. I play maybe half of them live at least once. If people like them or I like them, then I'll keep playing them.

When I first started playing, I didn't have any material. Even if the songs[stunk], I'd play them a lot. But now, with the songs that I have, I'm kind of like an NFL team of grown, strong men. For one of the new songs to sit on the team, they have to be pretty serious to compete with the all-star lineup that I have right now. A lot of the songs come and go now. In the past, songs probably got more stage time.

Sounds kind of frustrating.

For the songs! If the songs are like real people, but they're not. They're just - they're not. ...

I write a lot of songs. It's kind of like fishing. I put my pole in the water, and I usually catch something, but it's rare that I catch a big fish. Most of the songs that I play in the set are big fish. I catch a lot of small fish. I wave the small fish around the stage as soon as I catch them, but usually I throw them back. I don't throw them back, but I'm trying to get an analogy that works with that.

Is it nice to catch a fish?

It's always nice to catch a fish. It's nice to catch a bigger fish. It's really nice to catch a huge fish. It's weird and strange when I catch a fish that's bigger than any fish you've ever seen. But usually there's some dark, looming figure in the water that you know is there, and you keep fishing for it.

And every once in a while, you see somebody else that's caught the big fish, like Kanye West with "Gold Digger" or Billy Ray Cyrus with "Achy Breaky Heart." And you're like ... I was fishing in that same water. I could have caught that fish, but they caught it.

Bob Schneider plays Rams Head Tavern at 9 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $22.50. The venue is at 33 West St. in Annapolis. Call 410-268-4545 or go to Schneider also heads to the 8x10 on Monday. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. The club is at 8-10 E. Cross St. Call 410-625-2000 or go to

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