As he prepares to release his fifth album, Rob Baird is getting comfortable with displaying his true self in his music. Throughout his life, Baird has spent time in cities like Memphis, Fort Worth, and Nashville, but has recently settled down in Austin—a city which he says helps his creativity. Now, he’s working hard to instill a sense of authenticity into everything he does. Before he takes the stage for our next Front Porch Session on March 11 (RSVP here), we sat down to chat with him about everything from his songwriting process to the type of energy he finds in Texas’s capital city.
How did you get started as a songwriter and musician?
I was in college and I started off at this place called The Aardvark in Fort Worth. I originally went to TCU to get a ranch management degree. I started playing music, which is something that was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to do. Then I put together a band and we toured through the SEC schools. I stayed on that path and made a record right before I got out of college, and then signed a record deal with a company out of Nashville—a publishing deal. I was in.
How do you continue to find inspiration for new songs at this point in your career?
We just wrapped up our fifth record, which is fun. I’m always trying to improve and that kind of keeps the wheels turning. I found a really awesome group of people that I’m recording with. I actually just had lunch with a guitar player who just moved to Austin. He’s a longtime Nashville guy who actually used to write at [Carnival Publishing], the same place I did. I found this band and the studio that we love. And my producer and I’ve been working together for over 15 years. It’s all coming together. We’re going to start releasing new stuff.
Will you be playing any of that new music during our next Front Porch Session?
Yeah, man, I had a show last night and I probably played four or five new songs.
What is your songwriting process like? Do you start with lyrics, a melody, chord progressions?
I start with a melody and then fill in the lyrics after the fact. Melody has become more important as I’ve grown as a songwriter. I feel like if you start with lyrics all the time, you’re not able to grow the song and make the music grow with the thought process. I pretty much write with a small core group of people that serve as co-writers. One person in particular is kind of an editor for me.
In regards to your most recent album, After All, you say “Thank God I got out of my own way and back to my roots.” Can you elaborate on what you meant by that?
I don’t know. I feel like what I was chasing back then was trying to find authenticity, I guess.
Do you feel like you’re still going for that authenticity with the new material that you’re releasing soon?
That would be the ideal goal. I think that maybe what I was talking about on the fourth record, now that I think about it—that was kind of the first record where my producer Rick and I worked together to make something. We had learned all this stuff from other producers, but it was kind of time for us to start figuring out how to produce our own records in a way that we wanted to. And so with the new record, we’ve had a chance to do that and live with our mistakes from After All.
So, you’re shooting for something that feels a little more natural?
Yeah, a new processes.
You’ve lived and made albums in Nashville and Austin. How are those cities different? What do they have in common?
I think they both offer different creative outlets. I like living in Austin because I think it makes me more creative. It’s less of the industry side that I fall into very easily in Nashville. But I also really love working in Nashville, just by the pure nature of how great everybody I’m working with is and how quickly we’re able to take a song from its infancy and have it complete. We were able to record four songs a day, which is incredible. I mean, a normal breakdown for me down here, it’s like two a day at best.
Was it your love of Texas songwriters that made you want to set up shop in Austin?
I think it was as simple as a record label saying just go down to Austin, see what happens. I was like, cool. My sister lived down here so that made sense. And it’s definitely easier to start playing in more venues [in Austin]. But I very much consider myself not necessarily a Texas country guy or anything as a songwriter. For me, Austin’s the right place for being able to be creative. I like being able to build my own little world down here.