THE LAND THAT PLAYS BOTH KINDS OF MUSIC – country and western – has spawned its bastard child.
Bare Jr. has shown Nashville what a dulcimer sounds like through a distortion pedal. And if support for its tongue-in-cheek Immortal/Epic debut, Boo-Tay, is any indication of success to come, Bare Jr. will teach the masses that hard-hitting rock ‘n' roll can indeed come from Music City. But don't fret; this rock band is said to exhibit all the down-home charisma and charm you'd expect from the country music mecca.
Band leader Bobby Bare Jr. could be considered a jagged chip off the old block. He is the son of country music legend Bobby Bare, who currently performs in an all-star group called Old Dogs with Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed and Mel Tillis.
However, being seen as riding on Dad's coattails is no concern for Bare Jr. "Nobody my age or younger has any idea who my dad is," he told POLLSTAR. "My dad's not Bob Dylan," he joked. "So it's really not an issue because we're not trying to sell this music to fans of my dad."
In the meantime, Americana radio has (probably unknowingly) played papa Bare and baby Bare back-to-back, which Jr. thinks is bizarre.
His first stage performance was with Dad at age 4. He was nominated for a Grammy by age 5 for singing on his father's song "Daddy What If." But Bare Jr.'s childhood career came to an end at age 7, when his father decided he didn't want his kids getting corrupted by the music business.
After college, Bare Jr. took it upon himself to re-enter the biz. "I just had the need to perform, really, which I love doing," he said. "Then I wrote really bad songs for a long time and then they started not sucking," he laughed.
The band Bare Jr., with Mike "Grimey" Grimes (guitar), Tracy Hackney (dulcimer), Dean Tomasek (bass), Keith Brogdon (drums) and Bare Jr. (vocals and guitar), formed in Nashville three years ago. The band started by playing once a month. By its sixth gig, a publishing deal was signed. By its 10th gig, the record deal was in motion.
Each member of the band's business team – manager Kip Krones, agent Jonathan Levine of Monterey Peninsula Artists, and record execs Paul Pontius from Immortal and Vince Bannon from Sony 550 Music – expressed interest in Bare Jr. on its demo tape alone. During this year's Concert Industry Consortium, Levine said he had never before signed a band he hadn't seen live. He based his decision solely on passion for Bare Jr.'s witty songs of dysfunctional romantic relationships.
Krones, who had given up management (The Outfield) for a record company career, vowed to never manage again until Bare Jr. came along. He heard about the band through word of mouth, got a cassette and set up a meeting for the next day. "I just loved that record and loved the fact that [the frontman] grew up in the business and almost nothing I would throw at him would be a surprise to him," Krones said. Plus, he knew he had a radio hit on his hands.
Pontius, who also signed KORN, was slightly more discriminating. He needed to know the band had more than just a great recording. "From my position at Immortal, we have one thing to rely on – that's the band being great live because you don't get radio right away. You don't get a lot of other opportunities. Those opportunities come as the artist develops," Pontius said. The minute he got a glimpse of Bare Jr.'s live performance, he was sold.
In the age of record company consolidation, the band feels fortunate it decided to sign with Immortal. The way things turned out, its second choice would have left it label-less. With Immortal/Epic, it seems Bare Jr. is getting all the attention an up-and-coming act needs.
"When you're choosing a label, your biggest fear is to be just another piece of shit tossed up on the wall," Bare Jr. said at the CIC. "When you go to these companies, you can sense who's tossing the quickest and moving on to the next." Apparently, Immortal/Epic has put its money where its mouth is in standing behind the band.
Bare Jr. was on the road, performing nearly 100 shows before any work was done on the album. The label has worked with high school and college students across the nation to help with promotion. Recently, the band's fan base was boosted to a new level when its first single, "You Blew Me Off," hit radio waves.
No money was wasted on trying to build the act too fast by filming a video and such. Bannon pointed out that it is important to have a good manager who won't pull the trigger too quickly on an act. "If you break the bank early, you screw yourself early," he said. As Levine put it, this band's foundation is being built on concrete rather than sand.
Bare Jr. recently completed a month of Southeast dates with The Black Crowes, an outing Jr., himself, said was the best. "It was great. [The Crowes] abused us and cussed at us right off the bat, so they made us feel completely at home," he quipped. "We felt like we were one of them."
The band will continue on a headline tour in North America and do several festival dates this summer.