NEW BUFFALO - Jimmy Stafford feels like he's in musical limbo.
While the guitarist and his band, Train, are currently on a summer tour, he and his band mates - fellow original member and front man Pat Monahan as well as Jerry Becker, Hector Maldonado and Drew Shoals - are anxiously awaiting the Sept. 16 release of "Bulletproof Picasso."
"This is always a weird time," Stafford says by telephone from Nashville, Tenn. "There's this limbo time between albums when the single is out but the record isn't so we don't want to play too much of it because people don't know it, but we at least want to play a song or two because we're excited about playing the new stuff. You don't want to put a song no one has heard between 'Hey Soul Sister' and 'Meet Virginia' because it feels like a lull in the show. So it's tricky."
Luckily for fans of the San Francisco-based band, they are assured at least a taste of "Bulletproof Picasso" during Friday's tour stop at Four Winds Casino Resort's Silver Creek Center thanks to the early success of the new single, "Angel In Blue Jeans," which debuted at No. 30 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart on Monday.
While the single has what Stafford describes as a bit of a "Western vibe," he says the song also hints at what's to come.
"There's a lot more up-tempo rock stuff on this record," he says. "It's a little more old-school Train. It's not quite as quirky. I think our older fans are really going to appreciate this record. We're really excited about it. I just listened to it last night at home in Nashville with my parents, and personally, I think this is the best collection of songs that we've put on a record."
That's quite a testament given the band's past success, which includes three Grammy Awards, and the hits "Meet Virginia," "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)," "Calling All Angels," "Hey, Soul Sister" and "50 Ways to Say Goodbye."
It's been a good run for Stafford and Monahan, the last of the founding members whose independent release in 1994 had them opening nationally for Barenaked Ladies, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Counting Crows a few years before landing a recording contract. Stafford was living in Los Angeles when he got a call from Rob Hotchkiss, who had been performing in San Francisco with Pennsylvania transplant Monahan.
"We had all met through different bands in L.A.," Stafford says. "After about a month or two they called me up and asked if I'd move up and join them. It didn't take too much convincing. I had been in a band with Rob before, I knew Pat was really talented and I was looking for something new. It's proven to be one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life."
Along with Charlie Colin on bass and Scott Underwood on drums, Train spent the next three years touring nationally before finding mainstream success with their 1998 self-titled debut album, which featured the hit "Meet Virginia."
"We weren't an overnight success by any means," Stafford says. "It was a grind so when stations started playing our music it felt like we made it. We felt like we were on the right track, and it actually made us work harder."
It was Train's 2001 album, "Drops of Jupiter," which won two Grammy Awards, that proved to be the game-changer.
"Luckily for us, there's been a number of game changing moments in our career and 'Drops of Jupiter' getting nominated for a Grammy and then us winning was definitely one of them," Stafford says. "You don't go into music thinking you're going to win a Grammy. You just hope someone digs your song enough to play it on the radio, but once you win a Grammy you are forever known as Grammy Award-winning Train. It almost becomes part of the band name so that was huge for us."
What was equally huge for Train was the success of "Hey, Soul Sister," the hit off their 2009 album "Save Me San Francisco."
"That one sort of kickstarted our career," Stafford says. "We were coming off a bit of a lull. We had three years off and didn't know if anybody would care about Train anymore so 'Hey, Soul Sister' was huge for us. It also brought a much younger fan base to us. It makes our shows really interesting now because we still get all the old-school fans but now they are coming to the shows with their kids. It's a different energy and it's really fun."
Stafford now hopes the forthcoming "Bulletproof Picasso" will build on the success of their sixth studio album, 2012's "California 37," which featured songs such as "Drive By" and the admittedly quirky "50 Ways to Say Goodbye."
"Trust me, we didn't set out to use a ukulele or a mariachi band, but it's whatever the song dictates," Stafford says, referencing the past two albums. "I don't think that direction was a conscious thing. Before 'Save Me San Francisco,' we just decided to write with outside writers instead of just keeping it in the band. You have to write 20 songs to find one gem and we needed 10-11 gems so we were willing to try anything to revitalize our career."
Stafford admits he is still adjusting to not having Underwood in the band. The drummer announced earlier this year he was leaving before Train headed into the studio, making Stafford and Monahan the lone original members.
"It's different because we played together for 20 years," Stafford says. "But Drew is really great and did an awesome job playing on the new album. It's a new dynamic and in many ways it's kind of exciting. Every time we've had a change in the past it seemed a necessary thing for the band to keep going. I'm not sure if we'd still be a band without the changes we've made in the past. So it feels like a fresh start."
And about that new album? Well, Stafford can't seem to get enough of it.
"Everything feels like it's taken a step up," he says. "Musically it's our best record, production wise it's our best-sounding record. It's the best lyrics Pat has written and he's singing better than ever. It's exciting to be along as long as we've been and in my opinion, producing our best work."
Contact: jbonfiglio@TheHP.com, 932-0364, Twitter: @HPBonfiglio
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Silver Creek Center, Four Winds Casino Resort, 11111 Wilson Road, New Buffalo
How much: $100-$200
Contact: 866-494-6371 or www.fourwindscasino.com
Artist info: savemesanfrancisco.com