The Spin Doctors’ Chris Barron Returns to the Road in support of his Latest Solo Album
By Rob Nagy
The epitome of a balladeer with pop sensibilities, the Spin Doctors’ front man Chris Barron has released his latest album, “Angels Are One Armed Jugglers.” An 11-song masterpiece, of what may be Barron’s finest work, offers a collection of original compositions showcasing the diverse talent of a thriving artist whose creativity knows no boundaries.
“I’ve taken stock of everything I’ve learned about music,” says Barron, from his home on the upper West Side of Manhattan. “I’ve got to a point now where I’m just following my nose. These songs range from old jazz standards to funky beer-hall folk tunes. But I’ve never really been that interested in genres. I’m just interested in songs. I think the reason it’s so eclectic is because the songs were chosen more thematically than based on genre.”
“The songs were written just me and a guitar, so they lend themselves to being interpreted just by a singer and guitarist,” adds Barron. “This record is really a return to what I started out doing. I set out as a kooky, gawky kid with a guitar, and I’d like to go out and tour this record, just me and a guitar. It’s come full circle.”
“I think we did a good job. I got lucky with this batch of tunes. When we heard the playback of the songs the hair stood up on our arms. We didn’t stop until it felt magic and I think we got a pretty nice record here.”
While it’s difficult to favor one track over another, stand out songs include, “Angels and One-Armed Jugglers,” “April and May,” “Darken My Door,” “In a Cold Kind of Way,” “Saving Grace,” “Too Young to Fade” and “Raining Again.”
Barron rose to international prominence in the early ‘90s with the Spin Doctors. Their triple platinum debut album “Pocket Full of Kryptonite” (1992) yielded the hit singles “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.” An appearance on Saturday Night Live and a member of the roster of the inaugural H.O.R.D.E festival, along with Widespread Panic, Blues Traveler and Phish solidified the band’s standing as a major player on the jam band circuit. While subsequent album releases did not achieve the commercial success of their smash debut, they enjoyed a loyal following of fans, which continues nearly four decades later.
“I love being in the Spin Doctors,” says Barron. “We’ve been playing together a very long time — thousands of stage hours, time in the studio, time in vans — and I feel like we’re now in this really cool phase of our career. I have no intention of leaving the group.”
“I love those guys,” adds Barron. “We’ve been band mates and friends for 30 years next year, since our first gig. We are very lucky because everyone in the band is a virtuoso player and we have something a lot of virtuoso players never have which is this musical repartee amongst the 4 of us, it’s the original guys in the band. It’s really hard to name a band that has been around as long as us that have all the original guys. It just gets better and better as the years go by.
“People say, ‘don’t you get tired of playing Two Princes?’ says Barron. “I’m like, ‘No’ because every time we play it or all of the songs we play, you never know quite what’s going to happen. We as a band can bop along playing any of those tunes and be having this musical conversation without anybody on the outside knowing that we’re doing anything special or different. We can just subtly play something differently by playing a different note or pull the rhythm back a little or react to each other in various musical ways. Nobody knows, the song is the song. But we are playing this game of kick the can. It’s awesome!”
“This solo project is really about learning and just expressing the broadness of my musicality,” says Barron. “I’d be lying if I said that the response to this album doesn’t matter to me,” adds Barron. “I would like a lot of people to enjoy this record. It would mean a lot to me for it to be well received. Because in my heart of hearts, I really believe it’s a beautiful record. I got lucky with this one. It’s better than I could have imagined or hoped for. But whatever happens, I have the satisfaction of knowing I’ve made the best record that I’m capable of making.”
In the spring of 1999, Barron was stricken with a rare acute form of vocal chord paralysis, affecting his ability to talk and sing. Given a 50/50 chance that he would ever sing again, Barron regained his voice a year later.
“I actually lost my voice again last year, which was just extraordinarily rare and strange,” says Barron. “People talk about sacrifice, it’s very real. When I lost my voice again I gave music a break. I kind of felt that music and my body had betrayed me a little bit and I couldn’t really do anything about it. This was just unheard of and a very, very rare thing to have happen.”
“I’m lucky enough to have a career where people come out to see me live and I’m still playing with the Spin Doctors and enjoying a solo career,” says Barron. “I want to continue to make a good living playing music and making great records. If you do great stuff, and make really good music it gets into people. My job and my perceived place in this world is chewing on a pencil, coming up with some nifty chords on a guitar and then going into the studio and recording.”
Chris Barron, with special guest Angelee, performs at the Kennett Flash, 102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, PA 19348, on Saturday January 27, 2018 at 8:00 P.M. For tickets and information, visit www.kennettflash.org.
To stay up to date with Chris Barron visit www.thechrisbarron.com