When it came time to pick a theme for his first full album, it didn’t take Sequim native Robbie Walden long to figure it out.
He just had to look a little past the crowds where he and backing band The Gunslingers were playing.
“Ninety percent of the shows — outside of fairs and casinos — that we’re playing in are bars,” Walden says. “We wanted it to reflect where we are.”
Where Walden is, he hopes, is on the cusp of something big. In the 10-track “Bartime Stories,” available now for purchase or download, Walden combines a pair of his own singles, “Baby Girl” and “Take Me Home,” with a slew of eight down-home country rock songs filled with passion, regret, tenderness and plenty of humor.
“For a lot of my writing I watch what goes on in the bar,” Walden says, referencing tracks such as “Wingman,” “Can’t Drink Away” and perhaps the centerpiece to the album, “The Devil.” That track has a video (see box) and, Walden says, is the band’s favorite track.
The devil, Walden explains, refers to women in the bar with good looks who are up to no good.
“The devil comes in many shapes and sizes,” Walden croons in the tune. “She’ll use her eyes, curves and your drinking to drink all night for free … I saw the devil last night in a red dress.”
But most of the tracks reveal a sweeter side, whether it’s “Bare Feet in the Sand” (“Got my bare feet in the sand / relaxing in the sun getting a tan / you are right beside me we are walking hand in hand / it doesn’t get much better than this”) or crowd favorite “Baby Girl” (“Where are you going, baby girl? I don’t understand / don’t stand in the doorway with your backpack / tell me I’m losing something I want back / oh baby stay by my side”).
Soon after graduating from Sequim High School in 2000, Walden enlisted in the Army and served a tour in Iraq. He was a reconnaissance sniper in a Stryker brigade before he was medically evacuated and honorably discharged after being wounded in combat.
Now living with his wife, Lyndsey, in the Tacoma area, playing a handful of shows each month and planning a fall tour, Walden is a full-time musician, something that daunts even the hyperkinetic wrestler-turned-soldier-turned-mixed martial arts competitor-turned musician.
“I’m kind of a one-man shop, doing everything,” he says. “I’ve always been a do-it-yourself guy. Stuff is just blowing up this for me this year.”
Although he’d recorded a pair of albums before — a 2004 full-length acoustic album, “Head Over Heels,” and a 2008 live band, five-song album, “Stepping Stones” — “Bartime Stories” seems like Walden’s defiant exclamation of presence in the Northwest country music scene, helped in part by a maturing voice and two years of experience playing with The Gunslingers — bassist Jeff Leonard, keyboardist Eric Robert, guitarist Colby Sander and drummer Darin Watkins.
“Some of the best studio and live musicians there are,” Walden says.
Northwest and country may seem like a contradiction, but Walden says he and The Gunslingers are building quite a loyal following and earn plenty of converts each night in those bars.
“I feel like I’m a bass in a trout pond,” Walden says, describing feeling out of place in a noncountry bar —
until his band’s set is done. “‘I wasn’t fishing for this’ — we get that comment all the time.”
Walden says he’s received some interest from small, independent companies but for now, he wants to plow ahead with The Gunslingers in touring and drawing up a new album.
He also wants to write for other artists, primarily Northwest ones, a side of the music industry that Walden seems to enjoy.
“I’ve kind of been working with the right people,” Walden says.
Just in case, Walden is taking a few classes at Clover Park Technical College, getting an applied science degree in refrigeration.
“Hopefully,” Walden says, “I won’t have to use it.”
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org