Bob Schneider figured he’d be dead by now. He’d become a rock star, do copious amounts of drugs, nail some groupies. Live fast, roll hard, die young. This was his plan, the all-too-familiar path of rock-star youth gone wrong.
Still alive at age 43, Schneider is about 16 years too late to realize his Kurt Cobain ambitions.
“My original plan was to become famous like Nirvana or the Rolling Stones, then die in my late 20s,” the always tongue-in-cheek Schneider says during a recent phone interview. “But I got into my late 20s, and I hadn’t died yet, and I wasn’t successful enough to where if I did die, it would have really mattered that much. No one would have cared — well, maybe like 50 people. I had to rethink my original plan.”
That reevaluated plan has allowed Schneider to become one of the foremost singer/songwriters on the Texas music scene, a more modest success than he might’ve hoped for, but it’s also given Schneider a longer life, and a 3-year-old son. Schneider, who still calls Austin home, comes to San Antonio Saturday, December 13, for a solo show at Sam’s Burger Joint.
“I definitely don’t think happiness is contingent on success,” Schneider says of his newfound outlook on life. “My motto has always been that I’d rather be really famous and successful and miserable than to not be so successful and still be miserable,” he says. “I would rather be as famous as possible, and I still want to be as successful as Bruce Springsteen. It’s probably crazy to imagine it could still happen, but I still believe that I am good enough to reach that level of success. I just haven’t gotten there yet.”
Schneider did experience modest success in the mid-to-late ’90s with bands the Scabs and Ugly Americans, and as a solo artist, he’s released eight albums in the last decade. He’s come close to the famous, even if he’s never joined them. He opened for the Dixie Chicks on their 2006 tour and dated fellow Austinite Sandra Bullock.
But Schneider insists that, in many ways, he is still very much a struggling musician.
“I lose money touring outside of Texas, but playing out-of-state is an investment towards building an audience,” he says. “Most of the money that I’ve made is through either CD sales or just playing in Texas. It’s tougher and tougher to make a living playing music right now, and it’s only going to get worse.”
Schneider estimates he’s written more than 1,000 songs over the course of his 20-year career. During that time, he has embraced seemingly every genre imaginable, from funk to country, rock to folk. He has also eschewed, for the most part, autobiographical songs, which has helped him avoid the woe-is-me redundancy that befalls a number of independent singer-songwriters. While others focus their songwriting efforts on personal trials and tribulations, Schneider simply observes the world in which he lives.
Of course, with a child, Schneider doesn’t write as often as he once did.
“I used to have 24 hours a day, seven days a week to write,” he says. “Now, it’s a few hours here and there where I can write, and the rest of the time I’m watching my son so he doesn’t get in trouble.”
Fatherhood has also (somewhat) softened the outspoken, occasionally brash Schneider. An example …
“I used to see pictures of dying kids in Ethiopia and think how horrible it was, but there was really no feeling on my part,” he says. “Now when I see that, I think of a parent who can’t feed their child and how horrifying that feeling must be, a child starving to death in front of your very eyes. `Fatherhood` has just expanded my vision of the world in ways I never imagined. Everything becomes more real and less academic. It’s more about feeling.”
After spending approximately a half-hour on the phone with Schneider, one of two things is apparent. He’s either a) incredibly sarcastic and self-aware (likely), or disenchanted that his brushes with mainstream fame (opening for Dave Matthews Band and the Dixie Chicks, dating a famous actress, having his songs featured in movies such as 40 Days and 40 Nights, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Bullock vehicles Miss Congeniality and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) never led to Springsteen levels of rock stardom (not as likely).
He speaks often about fame and happiness, sometimes separating the two, other times referring them as if the former inherently breeds the latter. He knows he’s good as what he does, and isn’t exactly thrilled that other, far less talented purveyors of musical crap have found success.
“Why am I not as big as Sheryl Crow?” he offers as an example. “Well, besides the fact that she’s better than me. But why am I not as big as Jessica Simpson? Maybe she’s better than me, too `said in sarcastic tone`. I don’t know who I could give as an example.”
A few ideas: Fall Out Boy, Air Supply, any musical outfit featuring Scott Stapp or Fred Durst.
Not to say that Schneider seems unhappy with his current state. Maintaining a living as a full-time musician still qualifies him as “the luckiest guy on the planet.” He raves about the joys of fatherhood and Top Chef. But make no mistake; he’s looking for more exposure, even if that means soundtracking an ad for a feminine hygiene product.
“If a tampon company wants to use my song, I’m going to let them use it — it’s a form of revenue,” Schneider says. “Ten years ago, I might have made enough money to where I wouldn’t have wanted my songs associated with tampon companies. Nowadays, you have to get the money where you can.” •
8pm, Sat, Dec 13
Sam’s Burger Joint
330 E. Grayson