Hope springs eternal on opening day of baseball. So with yesterday’s festivities and the recent release of band’s new album 3rd, we decided to catch up with Scott McCaughey of the Baseball Project. We talk A-Rod, world series predictions, and Big Star.
Your new album is called 3rd, a reference to both the base and its your third record. Who is your favorite third basemen, all time?
It’s also a reference to Big Star 3rd, one of our favorite albums! I don’t know if I could definitively pick my favorite third-sacker of all time, but there are plenty I’ve admired. Eddie Mathews was a childhood hero. Brooks Robinson’s incredible plays in the 1970 World Series made me realize for the first time the defensive demands of the position and how well it could be played. I loved Darrell Evans when he was with the Giants, for his stellar defense and power, and Captain Sal Bando during the A’s dynastic run in the early ’70s. And now there’s the sheer enjoyment provided by Pablo Sandoval – and I hope this year will be the year his talents are more consistently displayed.
The album features lots of topical baseball tracks, including “13” a song skewering A-Rod. As a Yankees fan, was it hard for Steve Wynn to participate in the song?
Steve wrote it as a Yankees fan, voicing his frustration in the constant distraction that A-Rod had become to the team and the season. For years I harbored a soft spot for Alex, as I watched him come up with the Mariners as such a young, enviable, and eminently likable talent. Of course, his departure from the M’s was the first hint at what would be a long career of self-serving decisions and alienating fans. Actually Steve’s song was even harsher as first written – Linda Pitmon and I actually convinced him to tone it down a little!
How difficult is it to write an entire album about just baseball? What is the writing process like?
Every time I think we’ve tapped out all the players and angles and stories, more come to mind, and I realize it’s a pretty deep and bottomless well in front of us. For one thing, it’s a continuing saga, and more situations and characters throw themselves (sometimes sacrificially) at us with each season. And then there’s a century and a half of history to mine. I find it inspiring to tackle subjects other than my own foibles, worries and exploits. We actually had quite a few more songs for this record than we used. But I like to think we recorded the best 17!
During the recording of the album who had more bragging rights: Scott McCaughey the Giants fan because they won the World Series most recently or Mike Mills because the Braves made the post season last season?
We were recording the album last August and September so I wasn’t doing any bragging about the Giants, as it was already well apparent that they were taking another odd-numbered “off year”. Now it’s 2014 so look out! Ha. However I was completely stoked about the A’s having another unbelievable year out-doing the big-bucks Rangers and Angels. So it was a fine time to be recording an Oakland Athletics anthem! Mike had the Braves doing very well and we paid tribute (albeit somewhat coincidentally) by recording THREE songs about variously deserving and colorful Braves. As for Steve and Linda, let’s just say the Twins and Yankees weren’t really distracting them from the business at hand.
What story from last year’s baseball season is most song worthy?
It’s probably time for us to write a Big Papi/Red Sox anthem called “This Is Our Fucking City”. I’m sure our fave keyboard man and honorary BBP member Josh Kantor, the Fenway Park organist, wouldn’t mind a bit!
Who do you think will make the world series this year?
If the Dodgers DON’T make it, they are a bunch of total losers, and I’d love to hear the excuses they might come up with. That team is just loaded, both personnel-wise and money-wise. On paper the Nationals looks extremely strong, but they also did last year and flopped pretty miserably. The Tigers ought to take the AL, even with their recent injury woes.
Finally, what is next for the Baseball Project?
Promoting the heck out of this record, which I hope means going to lots of baseball games this year! And in July and August we will be touring much of the U.S., including a Hall of Fame show at Cooperstown, and no doubt various clubs, minor and major league parks. Our mission, to let all fans and players know that it’s o.k. to like good music AND baseball. And us, because that’s exactly what we are!