In honor of the 20th anniversary of Rooney, Robert Schwartzman embarks on the band’s first ever solo acoustic tour. Robert sat down and answered our Quick Six questions.
PCB: It’s Rooney’s 20th Anniversary, what’s kept you going this long?
Robert Schwartzman: I just feel really happy to have started a project that people enjoy. I just love playing these songs and I respect what was built over the years and I feel like it’s not something that comes easily. I feel very grateful to have the project and I’ve been doing my best to keep it active. It’s been pretty wild looking back that it’s been 2 decades since the band played its first show in LA at the Troubadour. Just the fact that I get to make music for people who enjoy the music, makes me happy.
PCB: What are some challenges of doing a solo acoustic tour?
RS: It is very challenging. In my mind it sounded like it would be a laid back, more chill show in the approach from a musician’s perspective. It’s been very rewarding because I think people have given me good feedback at the meet and greets. I’m here to make music for the people coming out, so it’s really for the audience. As long as they’re having a good time, that’s all I care about. On stage, it’s a challenge because I’m by myself. I have no one to play off of. Keeping time is hard when you don’t have a rhythm section. I put a lot into my singing so I kind of wear myself out a lot. I’m not really good at holding back vocally. When I sing on stage I sing like I’m cutting a record, so I want every note to be perfect, which can be really tiring. I get in my head a lot and I worry a lot while I’m playing that I’m not doing a good job, so when I’m playing by myself I get more critical of the show. Every time I think I’m not doing a good job, I meet people after the show that say they loved it and it was one of their favorite Rooney shows they’ve been to, so that makes me feel like it’s working.
PCB: Last year, you directed your second feature film, The Unicorn. What’s similar about the process for you when directing a film vs creating an album or designing a tour?
RS: There’s similarities for sure. When you make a movie it takes a lot of planning and a lot of thought of how you’re going to approach it so you can make sure every day on set is used to its fullest. In post production- its like making an album, you can play with footage to try to shape a scene, it’s very similar how you can play with different tracks within a song and shape how you tell the story of the music. It’s like when you cook dinner for people, you’re creating an experience, so it’s all very tied together. I think when you put on a show, you’re creating an experience as well. I care about the flow of the show and what people are going to take away from it. All of these moving parts you just want to align in a way that creates and experience and is exciting for the audience. I think that movies for me have a similar type of process. I find them very, very tied together, music and movies. At the end of the day, we’re creating an experience, something for somebody to enjoy.
PCB: What made you decide to cover Hall and Oates’ “Maneater?”
RS: I grew up loving Hall and Oates. Luckily, I had older siblings who showed me music that was beyond my years. Hall and Oates almost have a second wind in their career for an audience today. I don’t know if it’s a guilty pleasure or just good music that people have caught on to, but I’ve been a longtime Hall and Oates fan. Before I even started Rooney or writing songs, I was a huge fan of “Maneater.” There’s just something really chorally and melodically exciting that just resonates with me. I don’t know what made me cover it to be honest, I think I just was wanting to do different covers. I had recorded it many years ago and I had been sort of sitting on and wasn’t sure when to put it out. We live in this time today in music where you can just kind of put songs out as you feel motivated to. I feel like there’s no real rhyme or reason to today’s industry, things just happen in unexpected ways. So it seemed like, let’s get this song out and enjoy it because I love it and people should hear it.
PCB: What was your favorite Rooney song to adapt for the acoustic solo shows?
RS: I love playing “Stay Away” acoustic. Certain songs just work acoustically. The way they sound on a certain instrument, certain songs really shine. It goes for any song and any instrument I think. Some instruments really can grab on to the beauty of a song and it can take on a new life. I think “Stay Away” is one of those songs acoustically that works. Same with “Blueside.” I think it’s mainly because I wrote them on acoustic guitar. Songs that I wrote on piano obviously seem to work better on piano when I sing them by myself. I will say this, and it’s not even promotion I’m genuinely just telling you, I really like playing “Time and Time Again,” the new song from The Unicorn Soundtrack. That song is just so fun to play acoustically, there’s something really perfect for it. It really is a true acoustic song and even the arrangement on record is just acoustic light drumming and pedal steel. The hardest song to play- well the one that’s most different is probably “Not in My House” because it’s just me by myself and that song is heavily bass. “Second Chances” does work acoustically, like people are diggin’ it, but in my mind it doesn’t work- but I guess it does because people seem to like it. And then “My Heart Beats 4 U,” sometimes when I play the verse I’m just wondering if it’s working acoustically because it’s just like two chords back and forth.
PCB: There were two new songs out this year and a songbook with B-sides is coming out, but it’s been 3 years, are we going to see a new Rooney album soon? Perhaps something acoustic?
I would love to record some of these shows and be able to mix them. I would love that actually. There’s something pretty special about an album that’s a different sound. This is just a thought, going back to the time we live in now- this time of music I think that we have to be willing to take chances and not just do the same old thing. What I mean by that is like make an acoustic record, make a covers record, make an EP, put out a single, put out an LP, mix it up. There’s no rulebook anymore about “you have to do this or do this.” An album cycle truly is undefined today, so I think mixing up the type of experience that’s created is important for all artists and I would hope to give fans of Rooney something different each time. I don’t mean different like “I need to reinvent my sound.” I just mean different like the product is different. It’s not the same type of experience and I’m not going about it the same way.
Thanks to Robert Schwartzman for his time – I’ll have a review of the Break the Wall 2019 Tour later this week, so check back in for that. Check below to see Rooney in a city near you!
BREAK THE WALL 2019 TOUR – LIVE & ACOUSTIC!
Kyle Dodson is a writer, comedian, Rock Solid Podcast producer, Batman aficionado, facial hair connoisseur, and oxford comma supporter.