It seems like you can count on singer-songwriter Bob Schneider to be in Houston at least once a month or so to pack the Mucky Duck of House of Blues for a night of drinking and revelry.
But Friday night, presented by the Duck, he'll be haunting the Wortham Theater Center's Cullen Theater with the Moonlight Orchestra, a group of players who are helping him ring in the holiday season with a set of Christmas standards, and his own stuff. Also, Dallas-based lass Sarah Jaffe will be on hand for a few songs and some holiday chestnuts herself.
Rocks Off recently talked to Schneider about how he came to be involved with an orchestra, of all things, after years of being an Austin guitarslinger.
Rocks Off: Was this orchestra idea rolling around in your brain for years?
Bob Schneider: It's been a slow progression. I wrote some strings arrangements for I'm Good Now and after that played a couple of shows with the Tosca String Quartet and added a couple of string arrangements for that.
At the beginning of this year, I recorded a record that had string arrangements on the entire record and so it seemed like playing those songs live was the natural way to go. We had the idea to do a Valentine's Day show and perform some standards, so we added some horns and a jazz band and the Moonlight Orchestra came into being.
I have a seven-year-old son now, so I have an appreciation for the holidays that i haven't had since I was that age.
RO: How did you get Sarah Jaffe involved? What songs will she be helping out on?
BS: Sarah is on my record label and I've been a fan of hers for the last few years. We tried to get her to do the first Moonlight Orchestra show with us in February, but she was already booked on a tour, so she was the first person I called when we were putting together this show.
She's performing her song "Sucker For Your Marketing" which has some beautiful orchestral arrangements and a stunning version of "O Holy Night." She is incredible live and a high point of the show.
RO: Which of your songs will make the set-list cut? "Big Blue Sea" seems like it would be holiday-ready. "Losing You" not so much...
BS: Well, even though it's a holiday-themed show, it's not a syrupy-sweet Christmas show. I've always been a big fan of Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas album because it's so beautiful and melancholy. So we kind of touch on that theme a bit in this show.
Of course, we'll be playing "Big Blue Sea, "Honeypot" and "Tarantula" as well, because you have to have some fun.
RO: What about the Christmas end of things? The holiday-music onslaught began weeks ago. What will you do to make these songs refreshing again?
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BS: I find most Christmas music to be really annoying, but there are some incredibly beautiful holiday songs and those are the ones we'll be playing. The musicians in the Moonlight Orchestra are some of the best in the country and the performances are truly incredible.
You will not hear a better version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" than when Lex Land (another guest at the show) sings it.
RO: What holiday cuts do you love the most? Which ones do you hate?
BS: My favorite Christmas song ever is "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues. It makes me cry almost every time I hear it. My least favorite is probably "Deck the Halls" (makes vomit sound).