Bob Mould has a knack for writing songs that make the listener feel something. It could be something angsty as hell from the stuff he did as part of Husker Du during the eighties or his band Sugar during the nineties. Or, it could be something pleasant and nostalgic, like on his latest solo album, Sunshine Rock. His way of making music is intense, straight to the point, and absolutely genuine. Mould is going to be showing all of this and more when his solo tour stops at the South Orange Performing Arts Center in South Orange, NJ on January 25 and at Iridium in New York City on January 29.

Sometimes when a musician performs by themselves without a band, choosing which songs to play can get tricky due to figuring out what works without the accompaniments. Mould enjoys it because it gives him more freedom with the set list and a way for him to shift with the mood of the audience.

“Being solo, the set list can be a bit more open as compared to rehearsing a band for a tour where the catalog can be more restricted,” he says on picking which songs to play by himself. “For choices, I usually just try out packs of songs that are familiar to me and I know people like. Then I’ll take the temperature of the crowd to figure out what kind of vibe we’re going to get into later in the night, whether it’s full on punk rock or I might turn it down a bit. They’re pretty aggressive shows and, it’s funny, when I talk to people who didn’t know what to expect, the first 15 to 20 minutes can be a blur, but then they’ll start to imagine the parts of the songs that are on the records.

“It’s a funny thing but people seem to like the shows,” Mould adds. “They’re intimate and they’re fun for me and I just show up and do it, I guess.”

As mentioned earlier, Mould’s latest record has a nostalgic vibe to it. The reasoning for that direction comes from him wanting to put out more optimistic material while also showing appreciation for the music he grew up with.

“A lot of Sunshine Rock is an homage to a lot of the sixties music that I was raised on when I was a child,” he explains of the new album. “Stuff like The Beatles and the Beach Boys, hence the album art that’s reminiscent of those mid-sixties releases on Capitol Records. It sort of touches on that spirit and that innocence. One of the keys was really trying to be more optimistic in the wake of a couple records that centered on loss. Lord knows, loss continues, but Sunshine Rock was a conscious effort to try to write more upbeat songs and I think for the most part it worked [laughs]. There’s a stretch in the middle of the album where it gets heavy but not as heavy as other records I’ve made.”

Sunshine Rock is also Mould’s 13th solo release, which is so many that he even admitted that he lost count during our conversation. What keeps him being so prolific is the joy he gets from making music with his band, which consists of Jon Wurster from Superchunk and The Mountain Goats on drums and Jason Narducy on bass.

“A lot of it is the excitement of getting together with my rhythm section… Jason and Jon,” he mentions. “The more songs I write the more likely it is that we’ll get together to make an album. As I get older, touring gets a little bit tougher, and Jon and Jason have their own busy lives, so we get less time together. The excitement of getting in the big studio to make the big records with those guys definitely keeps me going. As far as writing in general, it’s observations while having a lot of time to think about the future and look at where we all are in the world right now. 

“I know what I’d like to see, and I try to share those thoughts with people in a way that hopefully resonates with them, or at least gets them thinking about what they want to do with their lives and the choices we’re all going to have to make, especially later this year. I just try to keep it simple these days and I’ve had stretches where life is complicated, and writing is complex. Now with every good song, there’s a bonus.”

Mould has also lived in Berlin since 2015. Living in a different city in a different country is a welcome change for him along with it being an educational one.

“My German is very poor so there’s that communication thing where I sometimes feel that I’m just floating through,” he describes about living in Berlin. “I’m sometimes not certain of what’s happening around me but there’s something exciting about that. It’s a very safe country so I don’t view that aspect of living there as a threat. I’ve lived in a lot of places in the U.S. and to have spent as much time [in Berlin] as I have over the past four years, it has been a real gift and a real eye-opening experience.”

Plans for Mould after this current run of shows consist of him going to the West Coast for a bit, playing some more shows, and then heading back to Berlin. Following that, things are sort of up in the air, but prospective plans are in place.

“After the tour, I’ll hopefully be heading to San Francisco to do some housekeeping, work, and reorganizing of a lot of personal stuff, like archives and things like that…. I got some more dates coming up in March and in April, I’ll be heading back to Berlin for a while. There’s some band touring that’s being penciled into the calendar, and if and when that goes to ink, there will maybe be some more shows.”


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