The Spin Doctors, who are set to play at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2 at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, are experiencing a bit of a renaissance, as lead singer Chris Barron says. With their new blues album, “If The River Was Whiskey,” they are simultaneously reaching back to the earliest roots of the band, while looking forward into the future. Barron spoke on the phone with BDN reporter Emily Burnham, just before boarding a plane to Maine.
Emily Burnham: With “If The River Was Whiskey,” what inspired you to make a blues record, after all these years?
Chris Barron: We did the 20th anniversary tour [in 2011] for “Pocket Full of Kryptonite,” and we’d perform that album and then do an encore of fan favorites. But the fans wanted to hear the old tunes we’d play back in the day when we first started out in NYC, and those were blues songs. Those clubs we played in back then wanted covers, not originals, so we wrote an evening’s worth of crusty old sounding blues tunes, like Elmore James and Willie Dixon. We totally got away with it. And that’s the material the fans wanted to hear that night, so we started playing them and got an amazing reaction. It just made a lot of sense to make those into a record.
Burnham: You guys have played together for 25 years. What are the secrets to the same four guys getting along for that long?
Barron: I’m not going to lie — it’s extremely difficult. It’s like a marriage. It’s all about compromise and understanding and work, but instead of two people, it’s four. It’s a crazy web of dynamics between each individual and the other three. You have to say things that are tough to say and tough to hear. But we all have to put the band first, and at this point, we’re old enough to know that it’s really rare to find the kind of musical chemistry that we have. That is an amazing thing. You really have to put the band up above your own ego, which is also really hard because it’s your ego that’s the thing that gets you up on stage and gives you the audacity to tell people to pay attention to you.
Burnham: I read somewhere that you keep your Rolling Stone cover and gold records in your bathroom. Do you still, and why is that?
Barron: [laughs] It’s for two reasons. One, it shows that I don’t take the whole thing super seriously. And two, everyone who comes into your house eventually has to go into the bathroom, so it ensures everybody’s going to see it. I liked that paradox.
Burnham: What’s next, for the band or for you?
Barron: We’re going to continue to tour this record for another year, and then we’re back in the studio. We haven’t started writing, but we definitely have a creative plan. We were talking about making a funk record, but this whole blues thing has really been great, so we were talking about another blues record — though more of a blues rock record. Less straight blues, more melding both rock and blues.
Burnham: It sounds like you guys are really charged up, creatively.
Barron: We are! We hadn’t done a record in a long time before this. The last one was “Nice Talking To Me,” which was in 2005, and we’ve been sitting on a bunch of riffs and I’ve got lots of lyrics. There are a lot of ideas clicking. It’s been something of a renaissance for the band.