The Bottle Rockets’ Brian Henneman Talks Ford Econoline Vans and Being Paid to Listen to the Radio

October 20, 2015

Tell us about your tour vehicle. Any notable break-down stories?

We rent vans. Currently Ford Econolines, but the rental company changes them from time to time. Don’t know what’s next, since the Econoline has been discontinued. We wonder daily if they’re gonna go to the new Ford Transit. We’ve rented from the same place since the mid ’90’s. First they had Dodges, then Chevys, now Fords. What’s next? Bein’ new rental vans, we have no stories. Worst that ever happens, is sometimes you get one with no keychain thingie with the remote door unlock thing on it…

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

I don’t know. Got any hints?

How many strings or cymbals do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

None of us break strings. Ever. I think Mark breaks a cymbal once a decade. So, I reckon a couple hundred bucks every 10 years or so…

Where do you rehearse?

Used to rehearse in my basement, but we’ve moved to my kitchen. It’s a kitchen. Doesn’t need much describing. Everybody’s seen one. We just move the table aside and use a practice pad drum kit and little bitty amplifiers. No P.A. Just sing into the air. We’ve been doin’ this too long to have peculiar or crazy experiences at band practice. It’s kinda noteworthy when we even HAVE band practice…

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

First song I ever wrote was when I got my first acoustic guitar, and learned a G chord. It was called “Adooba Dooba”. Sample lyric: “Adooba dooba, adooba de doo. Adooba dooba, adooba de doo”. It only had one chord. G…

Describe your first gig.

In a field. Somebody’s keg party. Don’t know who’s party it was. When the sun went down, they shined Jeep headlights on us. This was in the very early ’80’s. Probably ’80, or ’81. I had a Dan Armstrong See-Thru guitar, just like Keith Richards at Altamont. Cover songs. Some of them being Rolling Stones songs…

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

Current day job is at a vintage guitar shop, called Killer Vintage in St. Louis, MO. I work there when I can, and am free to roam when I need to. Favorite day job was driving for an aftermarket auto accessory installation place. I’d pick up cars from dealers, drive them to the shop for their sunroof and/or leather and/or remote start installations, then return them to the dealers. The place I worked for had customers in a 150 mile radius from St. Louis, so some days your whole day was just makin’ one run. I was basically being paid to drive all day listening to the radio. I loved it. Got to drive every kinda new car out there. Finally, the owner retired, closed the business, and that was the end of that…

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

It hasn’t changed much. Fluctuates. Years with new albums are always better. I don’t really know what would change that in 5-10 years, but it’s always a mystery. You never know what’s gonna happen…

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

Wish I knew I was gonna be doing it for this long. I woulda taken better care of myself in the ’90’s, ’cause I think that mighta made this stage of the game a little bit easier…


When The Bottle Rockets hit the scene in the mid ‘90s, the world wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. With their punk-rock pedigrees and arena-rock energy, their tougher-than-Springsteen storytelling and their romantic hearts sewn bare on their denim sleeves, the pride of Festus, MO confounded musical generalities as they laid waste to clubs across the Midwest and then, soon enough, the nation.

Back in a time when the critical language and resulting idioms for mixing underground rock with country was in its infancy, The Bottle Rockets were fearlessly – and quite loudly – playing rootsy weepers alongside howling rave ups, with singer/guitarist Brian Henneman leading the charge as some sort of Roger Miller of the indie set. It’s a sound propped up (and hopped up) just as much on the pillars of Leslie West & Mountain as it was on those of the Ramones and the Clash.

With their 12th album, South Broadway Athletic Club, the quartet gives a master class in capturing the beauty of everyday life, and painting a portrait of ongoing hope.  Singer/guitarist Brian Henneman meticulously crafts lyric-chapters straight from his well-worn journal. The album’s sharp-as-shit songwriting kicks off with “Monday (Everytime I Turn Around),” and the tough but tender “Big Lotsa Love.” The latter is built on engaging wordplay that takes the listener through the ups and downs of working through the world with someone you care about.

You can find the Bottle Rockets online and on the road.

  • bob

    my favorite band