The proposed Urban Cowboy TV show that Rob Baird auditioned for a couple of years ago did not pan out. But it did help give him a few songs for his upcoming fourth album — including the track “I Tried,” premiering exclusively below.
Rather than a part, what Baird got out of the process was a “fairly intense” long-distance relationship that informs a great deal of the After All album, which is due out Jan. 11. “I didn’t make the cut, but I started dating a girl and kind of realized that a long-distance relationship is gonna be tough, basically, in the two industries we’re in,” the Austin-based Baird tells Billboard. “We both agreed it was an interesting relationship — especially me as someone who’s in the business of telling stories. We lived at the San Jose Hotel (in Austin, Texas) for 35 days — kind of a shotgun relationship, if you will, like ‘Oh, man, I’ve never done anything like this before…'”
After All isn’t entirely about that relationship, though Baird notes that, “As a whole, it’s taking you from song one to song 10 through all the motions of a breakup.” “I Tried,” however, was explicitly inspired by his brief encounter with the actress. “It’s about a road trip we took to Marfa, Texas,” Baird says. “At the core it’s about putting yourself out there and doing your best but kinda knowing it’s not going to work out.
“We tried to make it work with a couple of trips, and I made the trek out to Lala Land a few times. I eventually realized it was over, and we broke up over the phone — basically I told her I loved her and she hung up.”
The After All album, following 2016’s Wrong Side of the River, was recorded direct to tape in Nashville with producer Rick Brantley. “It’s the first time I made a record where I got everyone that I knew that I loved in a room together to make music,” Baird says. “We took our time and got the right people and did something I’ve never been able to do before. Kinky Friedman once said that an artist should at least once get a chance to make a record completely the way they want to do it, and that’s what we did here. This record really changed my life.”
Baird has a handful of shows booked for the rest of the year and is “ramping up” for a more extensive tour to promote the album’s release during early 2019. “I think the plans are starting to come together, and I’m excited,” he says. “I definitely feel secure in where I’m at as an artist and moving forward. It’s not just some guy in Texas trying to be a songwriter. I have a lot of confidence in this record. It’s another step ahead.”