Photo credit: CM Howard
Our team was sitting down for a Mexican dinner after working a full day at the SXSW music/film/interactive festival when this guy in a funny hat, thick-rimmed glasses, and a vest, began making melodies like we had never heard before. We stopped, turned, and just stared for a while. Literally.
Roem Baur caught our ears immediately. There’s something infectious about this man’s melodies, regardless of what you consider your music “preference” to be. Heck, a few of us consider metal our preference, but found ourselves dumbfounded by this folk/blues/jazz/rock/something performance taking place a few feet from our small table.
M7-37: Is that even a proper way to describe your music? How would you describe your style?
Roem: “Bipolar.” I’m not kidding. My earliest memories were listening to Gospel Hymns and classical music in the kitchen with my Mother, and then walking outside to the garage where my Father was restoring hotrods and British motorcycles and playing Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Cheap Trick and The Cars records. As a kid, I loved both.
It’s funny, I went to college where I was supposed to deconstruct all of what I thought I knew about music, and then when I started to create, my earliest influences became my compass.
People tell me all the time they can hear it all in my music… and maybe why my music doesn’t easily fit into a specific genre.
Short answer, “Soulful blues rock with a classical melodic sense.” I don’t really set out to write a style, I just try and follow my muse and get the hell out of the way of a good idea. Hard to say who’s driving this thing. Sometimes I’m the madman behind the wheel, sometimes, the white-knuckled passenger. That’s the rush that keeps me coming back to the writing table, guitar in hand.
M7-37: What’s the music scene like in the Bay Area these days, and where do you see it headed in coming years?
Roem: The SF scene is always changing. There is such an atmosphere for innovation, and even in my own band of talented music minds, my ideas even take second tier to the best idea in the room. This city has a legacy of rock and roll, and an expectation for fresh sounds. You feel the hustle for creative genius, for something truly unique and progressive, and everyone here is listening for the next great piece of art. Because there’s not an “industry” like in Nashville or LA, it’s not an integral part of the vibe. Sure, deep down, everyone wants validation in the form of monetary success, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a working musician here who wouldn’t jump at the chance to have a sustainable level of income for their art, as opposed to throwing their career into the industry roulette of being rich with a “hit.”
That said, as SF becomes more and more the Silicon Valley, with the influx of young money moving to the city, most creators are waiting to see if the Google’s, Facebook’s, and Apple’s etc are going to gentrify the city into a giant weathy suburb, or give it’s resident artists the respect and support to continue to make SF the reason why all of them moved here. The rents are outrageous because of the second internet boom, and I see a lot more respect from the internet-rich for the ability to write 1′s and 0′s right now, rather than flats and sharps. It’s not a healthy trend.
Maybe we all adapt and become DJ’s. What’s a soul for, anyway?[Laughing...] I kid.
It’s an interesting time for SF as a music scene, and I’m grateful to be a part of the artists (DJ’s included) making a living there, but I’m concerned for the future of “analog” music. There needs to be a collaborative effort to preserve the future of this culture rich city. San Francisco is not an oil field to be pumped, it’s a natural forest to be preserved and grown organically. Most 20-something millionaires have no idea what that means.
M7-37: You just came off a West Coast tour, right? (We ask that like we didn’t attend one of your gigs in LA). How’d that treat you?
Roem: Haha. It was great to see you guys in LA. Bed|Stu made it possible to tour from San Diego to Seattle, and a huge part of the tour’s success in getting the word out. It’s so rejuvenating as an artist to play for so many new fans and far away friends. Solo tours are fun. It’s like inviting people into my writing room just me, my guitar, home-made stompbox on stage. It’s raw energy and intimate at the same time. My favorite tour so far.
M7-37: By the way, which guitars are you rocking these days?
Roem: My favorite guitar right now is a 1958 Gibson ES-125, typically a jazz guitar, I love the sound of the old P-90 pickup through a little Fender amp cranked to 10. Lots of bluesy tone, grit when I get on it, and a warm, mellow, saturated string tone on the opposite end. I also have a Gibson J185 acoustic, which I write with when the mood strikes. Gibson seems to do it for me right now. These guitars are almost 40 years apart, but feel like sisters of the same ilk, to me.
M7-37: As you know, we’ve been stalking you online and in person since that fateful night in Austin a few years back. So why stop now? What’s on your calendar the next few weeks/months, and where can people hear the melodious madness in person?
Roem: My CD release show for my new EP “Roem and The Revival” was this past September in San Francisco, so now it’s on iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify. And I’m really excited to be back on the road this December, in LA, SD, Arizona, NM, Austin, and through the midwest to Chicago during my annual winter tour. I’m pretty easy to “stalk” as I always post photos and videos of my travels on the road to the social sites.
M7-37: Well, we’re serious when we say we’re mad for your tunes. Thanks again for inspiring us with your craft.
Roem: My pleasure. Thanks for giving me another chance to be heard.