by Jane Roser
What if you had the chance to ride around on a tour bus with your favorite musician, listening to songs they haven’t released yet, hearing behind-the-scenes stories and basically keep pinching yourself the entire time wondering how you got so damn lucky? Well, you can and no, this isn’t an Almost Famous cosplay, this is so much cooler.
L.A.-based musician Robert Schwartzman (frontman of the band Rooney) has created a stripped down, unplugged and unique tour concept which kicks off September 19th in Boston and literally rolls into Philly September 21st. Only 30 tickets will be sold for each tour stop and will feature a solo performance in which the audience chooses the set list, an exclusive listening party of Schwartzman’s upcoming LP (which will be released early next year), a Q&A, meet and greet, copies of his new EP and a chance to win….wait for it….a signed Fender guitar (and yes, I started taking guitar lessons after I purchased my ticket, just in case).
“I came up with this concept awhile ago,” explains Schwartzman, “I had just put out a solo record and started playing some shows. I played an acoustic song on stage and it went over really well; the logistics of bringing a band out can be overwhelming and I felt like I had never played my songs acoustically for an entire show or embraced a stripped down set as a way to tour. I don’t really think of myself as a singer/songwriter because I believe music has many layers to it, but to strip it down is really the best way to hear a song for what a song is-just lyrics, chords and melody, so it forces me to rethink how I play them for an audience.”
Schwartzman enjoys the creative process of finding new formats to promote his music, especially if it’s fun and imaginative. “I think the industry today is so undefined that you can do a lot and people are more open than ever to receive something that’s new,” explains Schwartzman. “All of the factors that come into booking a tour can be limiting. When I get on stage and turn my amp up, I’m giving you a show that you’ve already seen before, so it’s been fun for me to re-imagine how I could tour. Plus,” he laughs, “I really love the bus.”
Growing up, Schwartzman learned how to play guitar and piano, but was mostly drawn to writing music. “My brother had a band [Jason Schwartzman is the lead singer of Coconut Records and former drummer of Phantom Planet] and I would go see him play. It was exciting and sounded so powerful-that thumpy, knocking you off your feet sound and I just wanted to write songs and play them live, so I started my band Rooney. I got into music by writing music and I just kept doing it because there were people to play for.”
Schwartzman released his solo album, Double Capricorn, in 2011 and his new guitar driven rock/pop EP will be a taste of his upcoming LP. “It features a few songs from the LP,” says Schwartzman, “I made it in my studio in L.A. and had musicians that I love collaborating and recording with help me on it. Double Capricorn was sort of like a Frankenstein monster in that it was a collection of songs that I had been making when Rooney was on break and then when [the band] went on hiatus I thought I would buckle down and make a [solo] record. It had different styles and sounds of what I was listening to at the time, but this new record feels like there’s more continuity and it’s music that I love; I’m really proud of it.”
Fans don’t have to wait until 2015, however, to hear some new tunes. Schwartzman contributed to Palo Alto‘s soundtrack; a film directed by Schwartzman’s cousin Gia Coppola and written by and starring James (the man who can literally do everything) Franco. The lead single “It’s You” was recently released, along with a music video featuring scenes from the film.
“This song really pulls on your emotions,” says Schwartzman, “but in the right way. It coasts along and has a groove and simple arrangement. The lyrics aren’t literal, so there’s a lot of room for interpretation.”
Schwartzman is the first artist to ever use this tour concept and won’t be the last (David Pack of Ambrosia will also be doing his own California Roll Tour later this year). “I’ll go ahead and say on record that if it goes well, I would like to do this again,” Schwartzman says, “there’s just so many layers to this cake: it’s unplugged and intimate, it’s inside a moving vehicle, it’s just a different experience. We are the venue.”
Dweezil Zappa once said, “the reality is when you write a song, you should be able to strip away all the instruments and just have a song right there with an acoustic guitar and a voice, and the song should be good.”
From what I’ve heard so far, fans can expect this show to include great songs, fun stories, a cozy atmosphere and possibly even a new signed Fender guitar. Penny Lane would approve.
Join Schwartzman in Philly! Tickets are still available and there are two “tours” for the evening. You can find out if The California Roll Tour will be coming to your city, purchase tickets and vote on the set list here: http://californiarolltour.com/