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All Abord for Tim Barry’s ‘40 MileR’

Last Updated 4/25/2012 1:46:47 PM

By: John B. Moore

All Abord for Tim Barry’s ‘40 MileR’Singer-songwriter, train enthusiast and all around badass Tim Barry was one of the first punk rockers to unplug, pick up an acoustic guitar and prove punk rockers make fantastic folk musicians.

On his latest, 40 MileR, quite possibly his best solo effort (and he has four other great records to compete for that title), Barry proves once again how powerful good writing can be. With his unmistakable baritone, some harmonica and more than a few songs about trains, Barry has turned to his old friends at Chunksaah Records to help put out this record. 

Barry spoke recently about 40 MileR, working with his longtime buddies from the Bouncing Souls and why trains keep showing up in his songs.

Innocent Words: Chunksaah [label owned by The Bouncing Souls] is putting this new record out. You've had a pretty long relationship with those guys, haven't you?

Tim Barry: Yes, I've known the folks who run the record label Chunksaah for far longer than the label has existed. I'm thankful that I can leave the manufacturing, distribution and other release responsibilities to a group of people I trust, care about and can honestly call good friends. I do all of my own management, so having a functioning independent record label helping out takes away a tremendous amount of stress.

IW: You seem to create fully fleshed out characters for many of your songs, which is something that doesn't really seem to happen all that much anymore – aside from Springsteen records. Do you find it more satisfying to create characters in songwriting rather than simply drawing on your own personal experiences all the time?

Barry: Well, I do a little of both. I draw from many personal experiences and create characters. I travel a lot. in many formats. I also interact and am close to many different kinds of people. And I love their stories. I love hearing about people’s different experiences. I truly feel their pain and joy almost as if it's my own. Much of that pops in my lyrics, whether I welcome it or not.

IW: There seems to be a number of train references on 40 MileR. Was that a conscious decision?

Barry: Train references are something I have difficulty shaking from my songs. Train culture and its community is a bigger part of my life than the musical community. I spend more time around train riders and other freight train enthusiasts than any one group of people. I spend a lot of time in train yards and riding trains. It's natural for me to sing about what I'm most interested in, although I am aware that most people don't understand the references. It's a very coded culture. In no way am I trying to be inclusive in my writing. I only write what I know.

IW: So what it the capital "R" a reference to in the album title?

Barry: Its gangster shit. Nothing worthy of discussing.

IW: "Fine Foods Market" is a great song and sounds like something that you've been thinking about for a while. What were the circumstances around you writing that one?

Barry: There are really no profound experiences regarding the song “Fine Foods Market,” where I literally poke fun at myself in every line. Fine Foods is a local beer/grocery store in Richmond's Oregon Hill neighborhood. I had stopped in there to grab some beer one night and came home to play the guitar and relax. The song popped out of nowhere. I penned it, laughed about it, demoed it, and it was done.

IW: I also love the intro and outro to the album. It reminds me of some of the classic Replacements’ records when they just let the tape roll. Can you talk a little bit about recording those parts? Who was in the room?

All Abord for Tim Barry’s ‘40 MileR’Barry: The outro on 40 MileR is improvised. The studio was full of people that evening. There were friends, kids, video people, musicians, and so on. There was a good vibe, and folks were in good moods. We were simply getting down and making noise, and thankfully it was tracked. I really enjoy that ending for the record as well. In my mind it's a perfect summary.

IW: Do you have any favorites off this album yet?

Barry: I dropped about 25 songs before recording 40 MileR. I like all the tracks that made the album. Touring starts next week. After a while on the road I will find the songs that I most enjoy playing live. I look forward to ending the recording cycle and getting back into a road cycle.

IW: Have you set summer tour plans yet?

Barry: Yes. I'll be touring the U.S., Australia and parts of Canada from now until early September.

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