We’re sitting in Bobby Meader’s house, Meader and I. We’re going to listen through his debut album, We Are the Blues We Write, the only album he’s made in his life, to figure out what it’s about. And I mean “we.” Because by the time we get to the sixth track, Meader says he often doesn’t know what the songs are actually about, besides a loose, but definite, theme: “I mostly write about things that I hate.”
There are only a few songs on the album that he says had real emotion and meaning behind them. And those are the ones we’re playing.
It was only two years ago that Meader started writing songs. At the time he was a server at a Strip restaurant, making more money than an early 20-something knows what to do with. So he bought a house. Then a sleeve tattoo. A nice guitar, the one he still plays today. Then he bought an RV, with plans to move to Vail, Colo., get a job on the slopes and snowboard day in and day out. But he never made it to Vail. Just a Starbucks parking lot, where he stole Wi-Fi and wrote songs for five months. He still had his job. He even still had the house. He just wasn’t in it. “I lived in that RV on purpose, for no reason,” he says. “I lost my mind.” And he didn’t find his mind until last February, when he quit his job.
The fact that he only really started writing songs a couple years ago should mean this is just a boredom project for a guy with too much money, the way a CEO takes up muay thai or jai alai. But the surprise here is the strength of the music. It’s not technically complicated, or particularly prodigious by any means. But it’s heartfelt, a broken man with the raspy voice of an old punk turned soft, who strums like a (very) early Dylan or a Denver, supporting himself on harmonica. It’s endearing, though often loathsome, and peppered with regret. The kind of music that makes you think of bad breakups and that trip to the woods you were supposed to make months ago.
These days the money’s gone, and Meader hasn’t had a job since February. He’s starting to get a little nervous. As he describes this, “40 Dollar Bill,” his song about the fear of being poor and impoverished, comes on. And it’s then we realize the songs playing in the background have been, more or less, mirroring our conversation. Or maybe vice versa. We’ve talked about his disdain for people desperate for companionship (“I’ve Lost”). About the father he hasn’t seen since he was in eighth grade (“A World You Will Create”). The time he spent in the RV he still hasn’t sold (“This Van Keeps Me Alone”). Even though he says the songs just came out of nowhere, it’s clear We Are the Blues We Write is a narrative of Meader’s life. And for him, it’s the only thing he’s ever really cared about.
“This is the one thing I don’t have to question,” he says. “I just want to tour and do living room shows … and not have to worry about wasting my time getting a fuckin’ job.”