Country Music Hall of Fame member Bobby Bare is known for his laid-back and easy-going manner. Still, every once in a while he gets a little upset. He recalls one such time in the late 1960s where his temper flared up a bit.
“I got a call from Tom T. Hall’s publisher on Thanksgiving Day,” Bare recalls to Billboard. “He said ‘I got a song that you oughta hear.’ I said ‘Ok.’ He said ‘Right Now.’ So, I drove from Madison all the way downtown on Thanksgiving. I was kind of P.O.’d, to be honest with you.” As it turned out, the 15-minute drive was worth it – even on a holiday. “I got over it when I heard the song,” he said. It turned out to be “Margie’s At The Lincoln Park Inn,” a No. 4 hit from the winter of 1969. “He was right. I needed to hear it.”
The 82-year-old performer releases a new album, Things Change, this week. It’s his first project since 2012’s Darker Than Light, and he credits the title cut to one of his fellow legends. “Hoyt Axton always said ‘The only thing I ever learned in life was that a cowboy hat is going to blow off in a high wind, women rule the world, and things change. After Hoyt passed away, I got to thinking about that. I got with Jeff Hyde another buddy, and wrote a song about it. If Hoyt was alive, I’d probably give him a credit on the song,” the singer says sheepishly.
Bare admits that the album wasn’t necessarily planned. “This happened by accident,” he says. “An old fishing buddy of mine down in Florida and his girlfriend were both going to get married. They had been together for a long time, and he asked me if I would get my guitar out, and record them a version of the old Don Williams song ‘You’re My Best Friend.’ I told them I would be more than happy to. I was telling my good friend Max Barnes about it, and he made a track for me, which he did as a surprise. I put my voice on it, and it turned out good, almost as good as the Don Williams record. I sent it to my friend, they played it at the wedding.” Bare then cut “I Drink” from the pen of Mary Gauthier, and the recording process was full steam ahead. “That led to another four or five sides, another few I had cut with Jimmy Ritchey. We put them together, and they all fit. It turned out to be a really good album.”
“I Drink” is one of a pair of Gauthier compositions on the album, and the singer says he definitely is a fan (watch him discuss it in the exclusive video above). “To start with, I think that Mary Gauthier is a wonderful writer. She’s also become a good friend. I had heard her recording of ‘Mercy Now’ on the radio, and it blew me away. Later, I was doing a thing with Marshall Chapman, and she was the guest. She sang that one and ‘I Drink.’ When we were looking at songs for the album, we did both of them.”
Bare shares the microphone with reigning CMA Male Vocalist of the Year Chris Stapleton on a re-cut of his 1963 hit “Detroit City.” Bare says he enjoyed the recording experience with Stapleton.
“We were having fun. I told him ‘Chris, you’re not singing harmony with Bobby Bare on ‘Detroit City.’ We’re The Everly Brothers. You be Don, and I’ll be Phil.’ You can tell we were having fun. We cranked it up, juiced it up, and you can hear our hillbilly phrasing. We’re both from the same part of the country. He’s from Paintsville, Kentucky, and I’m from Ironton, Ohio – which is just about sixty miles up the road.”
In a career that has been marked with recordings from writers such as the afore-mentioned Hall, Mel Tillis (“Detroit City”) and the late Shel Silverstein (“Marie Laveau” among many from the late tunesmith), Bare has always had a knack for finding a great song. In fact, when asked what he would like to be remembered for, that’s where he began. “I’d like to be remembered for singing some great songs. I always surrounded myself with the greatest songwriters in the world. I guess the great songs probably led me to the Country Music Hall of Fame even more my than my singing. I just hope people will remember my contribution to country music, because it’s what I love. I was living in Hollywood when I cut my first hits, and I had a chance to do a gig as the leading actor in a TV series for Warner Brothers. I had already done a movie, and was going to do another. All of a sudden, I realized that it was eating up all of my time. What I really am is a country singer. I wasn’t an actor – never wanted to be. I told Warner Brothers that I was going to Nashville to join the Grand Ole Opry, get married and have a family. I hope people will think of as a decent country singer who surrounded himself with great songs.”
Things Change will be released on Friday, May 26.