Cubicle Concerts: Bobbo Byrnes
The acoustic troubadour and world traveler talks creating for the sake of creating and performs three songs
Bobbo Byrnes has seen it all. A self-described “acoustic troubadour and world traveler, inspired by Kerouac and Pollock,” as his Instagram bio says, Byrnes puts on a one-man show brimming with sincerity. The 51-year-old has been around the globe and back, playing his Americana rock in just about every dingy European bar you can imagine, strumming alongside Neil Young and the Foo Fighters and just about anyone else vital to American rock. He first got his kicks in the ’90s New England band The Gypsy Mechanics, touching down in the Granite State every now and then to perform, record or visit his parents, who had a place on Belleau Lake in East Wakefield.
Despite his rockstar, Forrest Gump-esque lifestyle, Byrnes is as humble as they come, dedicated to his music in a quiet, heartfelt way, eager to talk about his world travels, musical inspirations or even his favorite kind of toast — which is a subject of intensified interest for him. Byrnes eats toast just about every single day, and right now, prefers cinnamon raisin. He even popped out a toaster and made the Cubicle Concerts team several slices before he performed. Bobbo Byrnes is a class act — an “unofficial ambassador of goodwill,” in his words.
“The goal is to just keep doing it and keep connecting with people and learning and growing,” Byrnes says. “Why not? The world’s not hurting from more art. Just keep creating it. We need more.”
Bobbo Byrnes — and Bobbo’s mom, a welcome audience member — stopped by New Hampshire Magazine’s office in June to perform three songs for our Cubicle Concerts series. Watch his performance below and check out his website (bobbobyrnes.com) for updates on where to catch him live. Video created by Alex Kumph (@akumph) and Michael Dowst; sound engineering by Ben LeBeau.
New Hampshire Magazine: If we can imagine your style as a reanimated Frankenstein monster made up of the body parts of your influences, who would be the arms?
Bobbo Byrnes: The arms are Mike Campbell, who plays guitar in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I try to play guitar like that. It’s amazing that anybody can play a Tom Petty song. And what I mean by that is, he’s using A minor, G, C. He’s just playing regular chords and telling stories and songs. That’s everything right there. You don’t have to be fancy to get across to people.
NHM: The legs?
BB: Mum says Tina Turner — that’s a good one! The legs are Joe Strummer from The Clash, and just the endurance of doing that, just to keep on doing.
BB: Torso is Paul Westerberg of The Replacements. That’s where all the spit and gnarl comes from — “Grrrr.” When I first heard The Replacements, I heard somebody writing songs that I identified with and realized that you didn’t have to be magical to create songs, you could just tell your own story. There’s a lotta “F you” attitude in their stuff, too, where, anytime the record label folks showed up, they would just do the worst show imaginable. They’d just do all the covers of terrible stuff, then the record label people would leave and they’d do a blistering set. It was self-sabotage — I try not to inhabit that too much. With all of it, you go for the authenticity. Whatever it is, it’s just authentic. And that’s what I go for. When your stage persona is so far removed from who you are in reality, that’s a dangerous place to be.
NHM: The brain?
BB: Pete Townshend. I try to keep myself stimulated and keep learning and growing, and throughout his time with The Who, he was always listening for new sounds and trying to change and adapt. It wasn’t that he was trying to change for the sake of change; he was always trying to learn new things.
NHM: The eyes?
BB: Oh, wow, you’re doing every body part!
NHM: This is the last one! You’ve done pretty good. I mean, you haven’t really hesitated. Most bands we have in, they struggle with it, flail a little bit. You’ve done very good.
BB: Now I’m stumped.
Bobbo’s Mom: Taylor Swift — looking forward.
BB: Taylor Swift’s a good one. And also, just always taking the energy, whatever energy that’s thrown at you, and turning it into something positive. Thanks for the answer, mom, that was good.
Bobbo’s Mom: I would’ve asked about the heart, too.
NHM: Well, I guess I asked about torso. We can do heart as well.
Bobbo’s Mom: I would’ve asked about heart. I would’ve. Whose heart would you want to have, in the music? I mean, I think about Willie (Nelson), who’s always playing. Merle Haggard.
BB: I don’t think about Merle Haggard at all.
Bobbo’s Mom: I like Merle Haggard.
BB: Okay. Mom likes Merle Haggard.
Bobbo’s Mom: I like Merle Haggard.
BB: But Willie Nelson for sure. Not only that, but Willie Nelson’s heart — and Dolly Parton’s heart — have always been embracing the audience and always embracing the good. And the two of them still creating. I heard a joke recently how Dolly Parton was saying she was really upset that people don’t realize she’s got a great ass, too (laughs).
Bobbo’s Mom: Hey, okay…