He’s a software developer and a lawyer, but it turns out that music is closest to New Jersey musician Bob Burger’s heart. Originally from Erie, Pa., Burger went to Penn State to study electrical engineering.
“I developed on my own musically. When I went to school, I looked for something that I could relate to with music. I was into electronics, so I decided to take electrical engineering because it had applicability to music. Years later, I could say a similar thing about law school. I took a lot of intellectual property courses, so it all kind of melds together,” explained Burger.
In the meantime, Burger wrote songs and had his own band. He got a break when he met fellow Jersey musician Glen Burtnik after moving here in the 1980s.
“He’s been a central figure in my career. He had just gotten his record deal (with A&M). He saw us play and asked if I was interested in writing songs for him,” Burger said.
Through Burtnik, Burger was introduced to many musicians on the New Jersey scene.
Their partnership continues with Burger’s new album The Day After, as he co-wrote “Piano at the Bottom” with Burtnik.
When asked about the origin of the song, Burger replied, “I wrote it in my sleep! The idea came into my head a long time ago when I was playing a hotel gig with my brother. He had a keyboard he didn’t like and we wanted to throw it down the elevator shaft. Well, what if someone found a piano at the bottom of an elevator shaft? I woke up in the middle of night and started writing it down. The song kinda wrote itself. I was stuck on one verse and turned it over to Glen. He wrote the music for that one verse, which made it work perfectly.”
Overall, Burger is excited to get this album out. He started writing the songs in 2008 and began recording the following year. Recording took about two and a half years.
“I knew when I was making it that I was doing something pretty good. I had the songs all written. I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to work on it.” said Burger.
Burger also put a lot of thought into the presentation of the album. The listener will find “turntable sounds” at the beginning, middle and end of the album. He explained that “when I was putting the final touches on the record, I put together a sequence, and it didn’t sound good to me. I wanted to sequence it as if it were an LP with two sides. In the old days, people would have a favorite side of a record. I was looking at things that you lose in change. One of the things that struck me about vinyl is it created anticipation: ‘Oh, it’s gonna start!’ I was trying to recreate that.”
Once the album was released in January, it was time to promote it. When Burger was asked how an independent musician like himself promotes his albums, he replied, “I have a publicist. I went to local radio stations like WBJB to get airplay. Obviously, the Internet is a good source of promotion. The best promotion is my live shows, especially when I get to play the bigger venues.”
And Burger does a lot of live shows, usually two a week. “I love to play! Playing a lot has helped me to build a following,” explained Burger.
Unfortunately for the rest of the country, it is unlikely that audiences elsewhere will benefit from the Bob Burger experience.
“I’m very busy. I’m not all that crazy about traveling on the road. If opportunities come up and it makes sense, I would do it. I get a decent amount of notoriety and get to do whatever anyone else would do in a microcosm,” said Burger.
Bob’s current band consists of vocalist Lisa Bouchelle, guitarist Jimmy Leahey, bassist John Rogers and drummer Jerry Gaskill, who also plays with King’s X.