From Joni Mitchel's Blue to Taylor Swift's Red, artists have a long history of releasing works rooted in heartbreak and introspection after the end of a relationship. Rob Baird offers what is sure to be one of the year's best explorations of loss, pain and vulnerability with After All (out on Jan. 11 via Hard Luck Recording Company).
On his fourth album, the Texas-based singer-songwriter traces the seven stages of a breakup, from desperation to acceptance and eventual hope.
"I went through a pretty crazy breakup with someone I was close to beforehand. We started dating and it kind of all unfolded that way," Baird tells Wide Open Country. "When I started writing it just seemed like that's what was coming out."
It all began with an audition for the now-axed television series Urban Cowboy ("I was supposed to be this oil rigging country singer who's going to Gilley's," Baird explains). What followed was a month-long stay at Austin's Hotel San José and a whirlwind relationship that ended with a breakup over the phone.
"Weird times. Good times. Probably the only girl I have really loved in my adult life thus far and this is how we got this record," Baird says in a press release for the album.
In the aftermath, Baird spent a lot of time writing at his kitchen table with longtime friends and collaborators. After All was recorded at East Nashville's Battle Tapes studio and produced by Rick Brantley under the direction of Jeremy Ferguson (Cage the Elephant, Lucie Silvas).
"We got all of our mutual friends together that understood what we were trying to do. There was no studio magic. It's just us playing music to tape," Baird says. "Having all these people that I love--that are like family-- around me made it special."
Title track and album opener "After All" chronicles the post-breakup desperate search for answers.
Throughout the record, Baird deals with feelings of denial ("Losing Hands"), bargaining ("Devil Woman Blues"), anger ("Ain't Going Back to You," "Gimme Back My Love") and eventually turns to solemn reflection and the beginning of acceptance with the album's debut single "I Tried."
Baird says "I Tried" was born out of a conversation with a friend.
"I was feeling pretty much like I really tried to make this work out. Obviously, it didn't," Baird says. "I think that was the catalyst of the record. I was definitely writing from that whole place pretty heavily. Hopefully I don't have to do that again. But I enjoyed the process."
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Baird grew up in Memphis and later moved to Texas to attend TCU in Fort Worth for ranch management. Music quickly won out. ("I started playing music and that was way more fun than ranch management," Baird says, laughing.) Before leaving college, Baird secured a five-year gig as a staff writer at Carnival Music in Nashville.
"That was such a good education for five years. I learned a lot about songwriting from a lot of different people. It's really nice to be independent now because we get to go make records and do what we want. But learning on Music Row is invaluable. I feel like it was a really lucky experience to have."
There are shades of Ryan Adam's Heartbreaker album on the reflective "Burning Blue" and the gorgeous "Best That I Was," which finds beauty in letting go of a relationship while holding on to lessons learned.
Baird says he has plans for a live album in the future. After all that's happened, he has plenty of stories to share.
"I have all these stories...about how all these songs came about and it's kind of a big part of my show. I think people get a lot of serious vibes off my records and when I play the shows I don't really take myself that seriously," Baird says. "I have all these stories about touring with Travis Tritt, or the way I got a song in Nashville. It really kind of ties the whole show together. So we're excited to get something out that's presenting that side of me as an artist."
After All is the follow-up to Baird's 2015 album Wrong Side of the River.
For more information on Rob Baird, visit here.
'After All' Tracklist:
1. "After All" (Rob Baird/ Burleson Smith/ John Baumann)
2. "Losing Hands" (Rob Baird/ Burleson Smith)
3. "Devil Woman Blues" (Rob Baird/ Burleson Smith)
4. "Give Me Back My Love" (Rob Baird/ Burleson Smith/ Z Lynch)
5. "Greedy Eyes" (Rob Baird/ David Whitbeck)
6. "Ain't Going Back to You" (Rob Baird/ Brian Douglas Phillips)
7. "I Tried" (Rob Baird/ Burleson Smith)
8. "Burning Blue" (Rob Baird/ Burleson Smith)
9. "Green Grass" (Rob Baird/ David Whitbeck)
10. "Best That I Was" (Rob Baird/ Burleson Smith)