If there’s one thing that Bobbo Byrnes is great at (aside from writing heartfelt, illustrative folk songs), it’s keeping himself busy. After spending the past two months promoting his new album, The Red Wheelbarrow, on a solo European tour, he’s glad to be back home in Orange County. But the singer-songwriter doesn’t plan on taking a break anytime soon. “[I’m] always busy,” he says with a jet-lagged laugh. “I landed , and I’ve got a show on Saturday.”
Byrnes makes a trip out to Europe about once a year via Songs & Whispers, the German record label to which he’s currently signed. Thus, these are more like work trips than they are vacations, as Byrnes spends the majority of his time on the road performing for “everything from like 10-12 people to 1,500,” he says. “On this trip I played almost every night.”
However, it does sound like this most recent tour did bare some similarities to National Lampoon’s European Vacation. “It was good, it was bad, it was good, it was bad, and it was good again,” he explains. “I got there and the first shows were really great, everything was going pretty well. Then my car got broken into, I got cleaned out of like everything except my guitars. I had to even order more CDs and everything because they stole all of my merchandise, all of my pedals, my P.A., everything: they just wiped me out. But toward the end of the tour, I was back on my feet and going, so it ended good. But it’s challenging.”
This Saturday, Byrnes will be playing somewhat of a homecoming show at The Harp Inn in Costa Mesa. It will also be the first time Byrnes will be backed by his band, the Fallen Stars, in a few months. “I’m always excited to come home because my wife is here. I don’t just miss her because she’s my wife but also because she’s my bandmate,” he says. “She plays bass and sings and my buddy Matt [Froehlich] plays drums with us. I’m looking forward to playing with them. There’s a certain camaraderie that you miss when you’re traveling by yourself for a long period of time.”
Fans can expect Byrnes and the Fallen Stars to play a mix of new and older material this weekend, including some selections from The Red Wheelbarrow. The new album, which features the likes of Ken Coomer (Wilco/ Uncle Tupelo), Rami Jaffee (Wallflowers/Foo Fighters) and Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music), is one of Byrnes’ most raw and rocking releases to date.
Conceptually, the album was inspired by William Carlos Williams’ iconic poem of the same name, in which the poet vividly describes a scene with just 16 words. “What it comes down to is, you can picture the scene because the poet said it existed. And that’s all art,” Byrnes says. “All art is dependent upon the doing of it. There will always be somebody that’s like, “Oh I could have written that. I could have played that.’ But you didn’t. Somebody had to actually do it.”
This motivated him to travel to Nashville and record with Coomer. Within five hours, they had recorded what would become the first five songs on the album. When Byrnes got back home, he recruited the Fallen Stars along with a few other guest musicians to finish recording the rest of the songs. As a result, every track on The Red Wheelbarrow sounds strikingly natural and unedited. Byrnes, who has a tattoo of a red wheelbarrow on his arm, also attributes this to working with someone who’s been an influence. “Since I was recording with [Coomer] from Wilco, I was kind of going after that sound of their early albums,” he explains,”Where it just sounded like a band playing live.”
Bobbo Byrnes and the Fallen Stars perform at The Harp Inn, 130 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-8855; harpinn.com. Sat., Aug. 17, 4-7 p.m.