Alt-country singer-song writer Bobby Bare Jr. has been making music since 1974. He's recorded and toured steadily over that 40-year period, but it's been four years since his last studio album. Bare says "babies and breakups" as well as "complicated adult situations" led to the long gestation period. He was also working on a documentary about his career. The resulting film, Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost, will show at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Waterloo Arts Screening Room that's next door to the Beachland, where Bare will perform that same night. "I tried to convince them to call the film Bobby Bare Jr.: World's Greatest Lover," he says with a laugh. "But they wouldn't go with that. It's mostly just how difficult and complicated my life is. Divorces, breakups and keeping baby mamas happy. The music business is totally unpredictable but I've known that all my life. I pay all my bills and I keep this boat afloat but it's horrifying for someone to come into my life and watch me do this high wire act." Those various complications inspired the terrific songs on Undefeated, and Bare recently talked about each track.
"North of Alabama by Mornin'"
BB: I have often left California and gone straight to Nashville or vice versa. The song is just how crazy that is to make that trip in a passenger van. It started out just with that real bluesy guitar riff and then I chose to share it with my keyboard player and he did an amazing job of coming up with a keyboard part that's just as interesting as the guitar part. My bass player did his talking walkie-talkie talk through his guitar. He can talk through the pickups and they make this crazy sound.
"If She Cared"
BB: Yeah, it's a love song unless you're the girl I was on a date with. She came up with the idea that if my ex-girlfriend cared, I wouldn't be with her now.
"The Big Time"
BB: The whole song is about me when I get famous. I always tell the joke before I play it that when I'm home in Nashville hanging out with my best friends, I tell them that I can't wait until I become rich and famous. I say, "I'm never going to hang out with any of you motherfuckers again. I'm going to do what they call it in Los Angeles and upgrade." That's what that song is about. There's keyboards and some crazy guitar. It's funny but somewhere during the song, I think the audience thinks I mean it and stops liking me.
"Don't Wanna Know"
BB: I had a girlfriend tell me I could look at her emails anytime I wanted to. She left her email open on my computer once. I typed in the words, "I miss you," and an email to her old boyfriend came up.
"The Elegant Imposter"
BB: It's about how a girlfriend once stopped loving me, and it was like a new person was there who didn't like me anymore. It's about how confusing that is. You can hear a vibrato guitar on the tune.
BB: I guess it's a waltz with the time signature. I thought it would work for the album title because it's one word and easy to say. It's pretty direct. The album title was possibly going to be Undefeated, Darling, but we decided Undefeated was pretty good. It sums up the album. It's a getting-dumped album. I figure if I can get enough people to laugh at the stuff that scares me the most, it makes those issues not as horrifying.
"My Baby Took My Baby Away"
BB: I always say that having a baby with a woman is like having the best looking guy who ever lived move into your house and steal your lady. That's really what happens. It happens to every single guy who has a baby with a woman. Hayes Carll is a good songwriter and I knew he would get it, so we wrote it together. I play banjo on the song. It's the first and only time I've ever played banjo. It's a cheater banjo. It's strung just like a guitar.
"Blame Everybody (But Yourself)"
BB: I had had a country song idea about going from "wild and crazy" to "mild and lazy." I had a whole different angle on it. It was something like, "You used to like my pickup truck." I abandoned that part and just wrote it because it's just the most obvious, dumbass thing to say or do. I imagine me giving advice to my children, and telling them, "If you're going to blame someone, just blame everybody else. Don't blame yourself." Like Mr. Rogers.
"Forever Became Never Again"
BB: It's about a breakup again. How did it go from forever to "I'm never going to do this again"?
"Don't Stand at the Stove"
BB: It's mostly a rocker. The words are a reference to two of my baby mamas. The first time I found out I was having a baby with my ex-wife, she was standing at the stove and looked over her shoulder and said, "I'm pregnant." Skip ahead five years and my new girlfriend is standing at the stove and says, "Bobby, I'm having a baby. I'm pregnant." It happened two times to me in the same exact kitchen at the same exact house.
Bobby Bare Jr. with Cory Branan, 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $10, beachlandballroom.com.