For over a quarter-century now, musician Bob Wire has entertained his fans with engaging lyrics and always-stellar live shows. But Mr. Wire is actually the alias of acclaimed Montana author Ednor Therriault, whose 2019 book “Seven Montanas: A Journey In Search of the Soul of the Treasure State” is a true chronicle of the treasure state. Therriault spoke recently with the Montana Press about his writing career, his love of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska and, of course, his alter ego.
MONTANA PRESS: Are you surprised, Ednor, at how the Bob Wire personna has persevered over the years?
BOB WIRE: I’m a little guilty for cultivating it, but I found out early on that having an alternate persona is a valuable tool for my creative enterprises. So I started using the “Bob Wire” name to write for certain publications, and basically anything that’s musically related, record reviews and concert reviews.
But as time went along, I have been playing music in town here since 1994 using that name – I became well-known locally.
Lately, I’ve had the bizarre issue of having to work to get my real name out from under the shadow of my fake name.
MP: Why do you think fans received your music so well?
BOB WIRE/EDNOR THERRIAULT: I get some good feedback and probably the most typical thing that I hear is that people enjoy a song that has a story to it and has characters.
My storytelling and character development are influenced by John Prine and Springsteen and even Dylan in some cases. For me, the lyrics are the thing. I try to keep it concise, and not precious or self-serving.
MP: Do you have a hard time letting go of a song as far as knowing when it’s done?
THERRIAULT: There are two schools of thought to it. You do have to sit down, and the song will pour out of you when it comes, when that inspiration hits. You just have to be ready, get out of your own way and let it happen. The flip side? I heard once that good songs are written and great songs are rewritten.
I think the song I’m most proud of took me over a year to write. It honored the person I was writing the song for. That song was called, “Saigon.”
I didn’t want to get any of the details wrong because I have a lot of respect for veterans, in particular Vietnam veterans. I wanted this song to tell the story of this guy who was there at a certain time
After that song came out people asked me if I had been to Vietnam.
‘So obviously you served in the war? I’m like, ‘No. I would have been nine years old, for one thing.’ It’s typical of how I approach my non-fiction writing. You just research the hell out of something until you are writing from a place of authority.
MP: How have you evolved as an artist from when you first started to where you are today?
THERRIAULT: I’m much more comfortable in my skin, in who I am and what I do. I feel like I have a pretty high standard. If I think it’s good, I think there are other people who will also think that it’s good but I can’t let that drive the creative process. I think just ‘gaining confidence in my voice’ for lack of a better all-encompassing term.
MP: Is it difficult to balance the music side with the writing side?
THERRIAULT: I would say being a musician and being a songwriter has impacted my writing in a very positive way. It has given my writing and my prose a sense of rhythm that I don’t think a non-musician could naturally come to that.
MP: What can fans expect from the upcoming Montana Happy Hour show?
THERRIAULT: I call myself the insensitive singer-songwriter; you can find my music filed under ‘uneasy listening.’ I’m an entertainer so what I’m going to do is the same thing I’m going to do for a live show, where I’ll play mostly my material that is fun. It rewards people who are paying attention to the lyrics.
These online shows are a big challenge for the artist because they are lacking the personal live connection. I’ve only done one this summer, and after the hour I was exhausted and dripping sweat and felt like I had worked my ass off. I’ll play two hours or more in front of a crowd and not have to stop, because we feed off that energy and feed it right back to the crowd, that exchange of musical energy and joy.
MP: I noticed previously you stated your love for Springsteen’s Nebraska. It ranked #150 in the Rolling Stone Top 500 albums list recently.
THERRIAULT: It’s not the most upbeat album to listen to. I think it’s the most important album of his career and he’s one of the most important songwriters in rock and roll. It influenced a lot of my writing for sure. The first time I tried to write a song that was consciously paying tribute to Nebraska was a song called “Cold Blooded Killer.” It’s almost cartoon-ish, given how many people die through just three verses and a chorus!
Bob Wire performs live on the Montana Press Monthly Facebook page as part of Montana Happy Hour on November 19 at 5 p.m.