One-vocal-corded juggernaut Chris Barron brings a 'cool little grab bag' to The Barn at Egremont Village Inn
SOUTH EGREMONT — While working on his solo record "Angels and One-Armed Jugglers," Spin Doctors lead singer Chris Barron suffered vocal cord paralysis for the second time during his career.
"It was super demoralizing. There was a lot of like, 'Oh my God! Why me? Why is this happening to me again?'" Barron told The Eagle during a telephone interview, noting that the condition isn't supposed to be chronic.
Barron's voice was confined to a whisper for about a year before he recovered. His time off from singing gave him an opportunity to reconsider the album, which producer Roman Klun had recommended involve a backing studio band. Eventually, horns and strings and a full rock 'n' roll arrangement were added.
"He saw these songs with a much larger scope than I did. I kind of knew they were a little too big to fit into just an acoustic framework," said Barron, who had been thinking about the practical side of making an album when suggesting the stripped-down sound. "When I lost my voice, I came back to this project with a bit more of a 'take no prisoners' attitude."
Barron will bring that mindset to The Barn at The Egremont Village on Saturday night, though he'll be interpreting the songs acoustically. It's his second trip to the South Egremont venue in as many years but his first since the record's Oct. 20, 2017, release. His set list will include all of "Angels and One-Armed Jugglers" as well as Spin Doctors hits and lesser-known tracks.
"It's a cool little grab bag," Barron said.
The title track of his solo album is still grounded in acoustic intimacy despite possessing a greater sonic landscape, including drums and bass, on the record itself. It was also prescient: Barron wrote it before his latest vocal cord struggle.
"Basically, I'm the one-armed juggler," he said. "I'm the one-vocal-corded singer."
Barron is best known for his full-throated work with Spin Doctors, the rock group that rose to prominence in the early 1990s with "Pocket Full of Kryptonite." The record has sold more than five million copies and features "Two Princes" and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong."
"If you want to call me baby / just go ahead now. / And if you, like to tell me maybe / just go ahead now," Barron sings in "Two Princes," a song that was nominated for a Grammy Award and reached No. 7 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1993.
Grunge was popular at that time.
"I called us the alternative to alternative. I really liked Nirvana and Soundgarden — I was never a fan of Pearl Jam — but I liked a lot of that music," Barron said.
While he is "vehemently opposed" to music that promotes nihilism, Barron said that Spin Doctors' music isn't just sunshine.
"We just weren't nihilistic," Barron said. "If you look at 'Pocket Full of Kryptonite,' there's tunes like 'Refrigerator Car' and 'Shinbone Alley.' Those tunes are as dark as any of that grunge stuff. It's not like we neglected the darker side, but at our darkest, there was always a pinhole of light. There was always a way out philosophically and artistically."
That mentality would be needed in the coming years. Guitarist Eric Schenkman left the group in 1994 after the release of its second album, "Turn It Upside Down."
"I left without knowing exactly why," Schenkman told The New York Times in 2005.
In 1999, Barron suffered his first bout of vocal cord paralysis, further inhibiting the band's efforts.
"Music has always been an arena where the melee of my personal, emotional turmoil plays itself out. So, both times when I lost my voice, it was sort of traumatic," Barron said. "But it also forced me to undergo a fundamental assessment of my inner life and how I process emotion and what I'm really dealing with and things I'm not dealing with."
Schenkman is now back with the band, which also touts drummer Aaron Comess and bassist Mark White. It has produced two studio records since 1990. The group will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a show at Brooklyn Bowl on Nov. 8, an occasion that has allowed Barron to reflect on his appreciation for his bandmates.
"I'm proud that I fell in with Eric and Mark and Aaron. In the panoply of all these bands, I think the three of them are three of the truly great musicians of the '90s, and I'm proud that those guys — they kind of came along and snapped me up," said Barron, a Bennington College dropout.
Barron knows that much of his recognition comes from his early work with the band.
"For better or for worse, I'm that goofy guy in the funny hat in the 'Two Princes' video for most people," Barron said.
He is comfortable with this label because of its long-term benefits.
"There a lot more to my career and my musicality than that dude in the silly hat. But at the same time, I embrace that, too," he said. "I'm glad that people have some way of knowing who I am and that I have a pathway for music to be my job for the rest of my life, hopefully."
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251
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