If I had to describe Tim Barry in one word, that word would be “real”. This former punk rocker turned folk rock hero is about as real as they get and I am not just saying that. He is a talented musician and a wholesome human who just lives life day by day. Barry, who used to front the legendary Richmond punk rock act Avail, has been going his own route since about 2004 playing solo shows all over the world.
In his fifth release, 40-Miler, Barry seemingly has taken his acoustic guitar and played from his hard-working heart. The album was put out by Chucksaah Records.
It’s an honest and to the point album where Barry talks about his previous involvements in bands, travels, and personal reflections on the life he has lived. The album leans more country driven than that of past releases by the man known to hitch rides on trains the old-fashioned way. The result is hands down his best release I have ever heard to date. It is safe to say that Barry may have created his own masterpiece without even thinking about it.
“Wezeltown” starting off the album with a soulful yet poignant Barry declaring “I pity the beautiful as the beautiful, they do pity me.” Fueled by hand-clapping and realization, this song was more than an opening track, it was a preach aimed at all the hardworking folk out there who don’t take everything for granted. “Driver Pull” was more like a personal conversation between the listener and Barry on a front porch moments before he hitches a ride out of town.
The title track “40-Miler” continued with the Barry’s storytelling and did not disappoint. Reminiscing about his traveling times in boxcars and tour vans, Barry also states he has “nothing but miles and miles” to continue on. I especially loved when Barry declared ” I’d rather stay broke than play fake ass shows.”
“Adele and Hell” was heavy on the country rock and perfect in every way. The duet between Barry and longtime friend and local Richmond recording artist Julie Karr was a match made in heaven. Karr gets down on this track with Barry that sings about a broken relationship. The harmonica playing aside the twangy guitar accompanies the signing so well. Hands down, this is one of the better tracks on the album. I was floored when I heard it.
Barry pays tribute one of his bad ass friends who plays in Lucero as well as in Glossary in the track titled “T. Beene”. This track, to me, was the country answer to NOFX’s “Punk Guy” with Barry recalling some crazy ass memories of a talented man who had lead an interesting life.
My favorite track on the album, “Fine Foods Market”, actually pokes fun at Barry as well as many of his fans who have “ironic mustaches” and drink PBR. I loved when Barry sung “oh look there goes another hipster kid”. He may have been making fun about everything, but was also quick to wonder how it all came about.
“Amen” was another amazing track full of Barry’s personal attributions and thanks accompanied by harmonica and acoustic guitar. From singing about breaking his hand in Ottawa to almost making it to every scheduled show, Barry sang about his life on the road and even admitted sometimes he would rather just be home. I especially got a kick out of the part where he praised a certain New Jersey band for letting him hitch a ride on their tour bus. It was not just a song sung, it was a celebration of all the hard work Barry has ever done. “Kick me in the head, watch me get right back up again” ends the album as almost a promise from Barry proving he is in this for the long run.
In a recent interview I did with Barry, he stated he actually erased 40-Miler from his he memory once it was completed. He said , “when I am done with an album I step away from it. This helps me gain perspective and hear it freshly.” He called it a “recording detox” and continued with, “I never have an intention with my albums. They come out the way they come out.” How can you not love this man?
Tim Barry is currently touring in support of 40-Miler. It is not a show to be missed.
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.
Tim Barry, the former front man of punk act Avail, has his own solo thing going on these days. If you have not heard anything by him you are missing out. Here is a video from his upcoming release entitled “Thing Of The Past”:
What do you do when you wake up one day and find yourself a little older, a little wiser, and still broke, even after you spend most of your life fronting a punk rock band? Chances are, if you are like Tim Barry, you keep doing what you do when you can just so you can get by and love every minute of it. The Avail front man recently has released his third solo project titled Manchester
again on Suburban Home Records and I must say it is outstanding.
Tim Barry rubs off more as a folk singer on Manchester,even though he is mostly known for being part of one of the more important punk rock acts from the 1990s. Still touring with Avail but not as a fulltime gig, Tim Barry also performs on his own with family members and close friends. I still have yet to witness a live show and after listening to Manchester I really hope he comes to my neighborhood again.
Currently residing in Richmond, Virginia, the carefree musician has his day job, loves his beer, and continues his passion with music. With help from friends and family Tim Barry has recorded a personal album that displays his thoughts as well as encourages you to think for yourself.
Not knowing Tim Barry had a previous solo album this was the first time I heard him minus Avail and I had no idea what to expect. Opening track “Texas Cops” immediately perked my ears with a more personal track about the law, not missing home, and admitting that having a “bad time is better than no time any day”. This track really reminded me of Hank III with the tough lyrics and fun country twang.
“On And On” is not as fast paced as the first track, but more a slowed down folk hymn. I really could feel the emotion in this track. The backing music was just amazing as well complimenting Tim Barry’s gruff voice. “South Hill” was one of the few songs that I have heard where I actually got angry while listening. The track tells the tale of a young soldier thinking he is fighting the good fight, only to return home not knowing right from wrong. I seriously was angry with the outcome of this story turned song and it was not because Tim Barry sung his beliefs, he left that up to me.
The cover of Avail’s “This November” was just awesome and sounded just as good slowed down a tad with the same message, take a breath and deal. “Sagagity Gone” was fun jam about not caring what one more drink will do to you.
The album has its ups and downs midway through but Tim Barry really keeps up with his personal lyricism on all. In “Tile Work” Time Barry declares “consider where I been” possibly letting everyone know why he is the way he is. Slow jam “222” was very sad, yet passionate about not feeling alone, and was one of my preferred tracks on the disc.
For a guy who has been in the punk rock scene for years, it is great to see him continue even if it is a tad slowed down. Where I am a fan of Avail, I can say I am even a bigger fan of Tim Barry’s solo material. It strikes me stronger with his approach at life and personal battles.
With so many artists recording material on their own, some may say that this is a trend. For Tim Barry that is not the case at all as you can almost hear in each song that he is doing it for the sake of recording music, something you can tell he truly loves. His mix of punk and folk throughout really is appealing and begs to be played over and over again. The CD is genuine, honest, and a must have for any aging punker out there who is finally coming to terms with themselves that maybe it’s time to slow things down a little.