Interview: Tim Barry

Folk / country / punk rocker Tim Barry is perhaps one of the hardest working musicians out there.  He tours when he can and makes ends meet when home, sometimes secluding himself from the real world for days at a time.  He’s been known to hop trains at times and has a great relationship with his fans, sometimes even asking them for lifts to local shows.  He’s always quick to thank said fans for their support and you know he is sincere while doing so.  The guy plays music for the sake of music.

The one time lead man of 80s punk legends Avail recently finished up an all new album entitled 40 Miler.  I can not tell you how excited I was to hear that Barry was releasing new material.  Naturally when I was asked to interview him, I jumped to the opportunity.  As a huge fan of Avail and his solo material, I was thrilled to be able to trade off some questions with Barry earlier this week.

Check out what he had to say, and make sure on April 10th, that you grab a copy of 40 Miler:

BHP: I guess to start things off we should probably talk about your upcoming release.  40 Miler is due out next month.  How are you feeling about this new release?

TB: I temporarily erased 40 Miler from my mind. Writing, planning and record an album is an epic task, as anyone who has spearheaded the process can attest. Once complete, the focus shifts to release work. I self manage, so I’m knee deep in all preparations regarding the recording becoming public. Currently that is mainly tour preparations. When I am done with an album I step away from it. This helps me gain perspective and hear it freshly. I am currently in what I call recording detox. I have no copy of the album at this moment to even reference. I look forward to getting my own copy when it is released on April 10. The album will sound brand new to me by then.

I heard that a 40-Miler is a term that train conductors used when referring to a hobo. Is that right?  Care to elaborate on this?

That’s actually incorrect. But close. It’s a term hobo’s use to slander another hobo. There are many different sects and sub sects in the railroad world. The term 40 Miler is comparable to calling a “mall punk” a poser. Or the new skater at the park a poser. Or perhaps the new worker in the wood shop the “new guy.” Lifer hobo’s, those who live on the rails, can use the term 40 Miler in a derogatory way to describe me. I’m a poser train rider. I take short trips close to home. I do not live on the rails I am a poser. A 40 Miler.

40 Miler sounds more country heavy over folk.  Was this intentional, or was this just how the songs came out?

I never have an intention with my albums. They come out the way they come out, but I think you are right. We focused more on our live sound while in the studio on particular songs. Adding heavy electric guitar and strong harmonica playing by Josh Small and Andrew Alli. Although I certainly left some of the very folk style songs on the record as well, such as Todd Beene.

“Adele and Hell” has a lot going on throughout the song including some duel singing duties.  Who was the lady who helped supply vocals on this track as well as on “40 Miler”?

The lady singing back up on “40 Miler” is in fact my right hand man Josh Small, who often accompanies me on tours; however, Julie Karr is the star of the song “Adele and Hell”.  Julie is a songwriter here in Richmond, VA, who I was lucky enough to coax into singing that song with me. She killed it. So happy it worked out the way it did. She’ll actually be playing her own songs on many of my tour dates this year. West coast for sure, and some up in the north east.

Ha, whoops… So did you recruit anyone else to help you record some of these songs?

Most of the players on 40 Miler are the folks that I tour with. The main players are Andrew Alli on harmonica and Josh Small. Both of those guys have put in many miles on my tours. Julie Karr is new to the crew. Cameron Ralston did all the bass tracks. He’s a Richmond local, and probably the best bass player I’ve had the chance to meet. My sister Caitlin also played violin, as she usually does on my recordings. And Lance Koehler, who has recorded my records for many years now shared the percussion responsibilities with me.

I love the track “Amen” off your new release. What made you decide to write such a song?

It’s funny to write a song out of context. The song “Amen” is a summery of a long time touring on my album 28th & Stonewall. A lot of good, and some bad happened in that year an a half. However, I wrote “Amen” while touring in the lap of luxury. I completed the song, and played a half-assed version live for the first time at the massive Osheaga Festival in Montreal while touring with The Gaslight Anthem, who was kind enough to let me tour in their bus. Funny to write a song about the hardships of touring while on the road with an incredibly giving group of people who fulfilled all of my needs.

How’s that hand doing these days?  I remember hearing about that.

Oh that? Boxer fracture. No big deal.

I want to shake your hand for writing “”Fine Foods Market” (see below for a video I found).  Thanks for the laugh.  Why did you decide to call out the hipster folk?

The original name of the song “Fine Foods Market” is “Tim Barry makes fun of Tim Barry.” Yes, I’m making fun of hipsters. But, I’m making fun of myself more than anyone. I’m at an age where I can tally up all my own idiocy and inconsistencies and publicly humiliate myself with clear conscience.

So, who is this Todd Beene fellow?  Sounds like a hellion.

He sure is. Let’s leave that one up to the listener.

Was there any certain track on 40 Miler that you favored over the rest?

No, not at all. I like all the songs. I dropped perhaps 25 [songs] before picking the ones that made the album. The next task is to find which ones feel the best on stage. I look forward to that.

As do I.  I can not wait to see you play some of these songs live.  Who did the cover art?  Is there any meaning behind it?

There is more meaning behind the cover art that I can articulate, but I’ll leave it at this: The design was created by my best friend Travis Conner who passed away in early 2008. I’ve used his art/photography on nearly all my albums and shirt designs. I refuse to let his memory to fade.

I completely understand.  Nice way to pay tribute.  Moving on, 40 Miler is being released on Chunksaah records.  How does it feel to be on such a great label?

Perfect. I’ve been close to the folks at Chunksaah for far longer than the label has existed. I trust and love all the folks involved with my release. I’m lucky.

So, how was SXSW?  My friend snapped a shot of you playing outside at Red 7 the other day and it looked like an absolute blast.

Whirlwind. Very quick trip. Shows were fun. Here was the schedule: Arrive in Austin via American Airlines at 11pm Thursday. Drink with Hot Water Music at hotel bar until 2am. Wake up at 6am. Eat breakfast. Go on short walk. Shuttle to downtown. Play two shows. Back to hotel to sleep from 11pm until 3am. Arrive at airport at 4:30am for departing flight to Richmond. Arrive in Richmond to have a coffee in my back yard by 11:30am. Head trip.

It doesn’t sound like you were able to see any other acts play SXSW at all.

Nope. Only the folks I played with. The entire line up for the Shirt for a Cure show was fantastic. I also played The Revival Tour show that afternoon. Everyone killed it.

I know you are not the biggest fan of the Internet, but I’ve noticed recently that your website has had quite the facelift.  First off, it looks awesome.  Second, does this mean you are biting the bullet and going to start using the Internet a little more often?

Travis Stom, Travis Stom, Travis Stom.. That man has done wonders for me. He has taken on all of my web design, updating and all logistics. If it weren’t for him, I don’t know what I would do. I am in no way a luddite, and do use all the free social networking sites as much as I can, but I’m simply not as well versed in computers as most folks are. They are the only thing in my life that creates real and pure frustration, so I steer clear of them as much as I can. However, I am not against technology and all of it’s benefits.

So many bands from the past are reuniting and touring or recording new material.  I’m sure you are asked this all the time, but still…any chance of Avail doing something again one day?

Nope. Been and done.

If you could tour with anyone alive or dead, who would you choose?

Townes [Van Zandt].

Finishing up, what’s next for Tim Barry?

Touring time. US, Australia and parts of Canada are lined up now. I’m sure tons more dates will pop up. I’ll probably write a book this year as well. Who knows? I don’t plan much. I just go where things take me.

Download the title track “40 Miler” – I should have a review of the album shortly.

40 Miler drops on April 10th on Chunksaah Records.  Preorder your copy today!

I saw Tim Barry play live a couple years back in Columbus with the Gaslight Anthem and was thoroughly impressed. Click here for a review of that show.

Check out my review of Tim Barry’s Manchester

Check out my review of Tim Barry’s 28th & Stonewall

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