It's 5 o'clock on a Wednesday, and Ricky Stein has spent his afternoon driving from San Marcos, Texas, southeast to Lubbock. Tonight he'll perform his original roots-rock songs at Bash Riprock's, a college bar one block west of Texas Tech University.
Three hundred and thirty-three miles separate San Marcos and Lubbock, and Stein is driving all of it alone.
"I don't mind," he says when he pulls off the road to talk to me by phone. "I actually kind of like it. I've written songs when I'm on the road by myself."
This month, Stein will drive alone from bar to coffeehouse and state to state, guitar in his backseat. He'll play solo shows in Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana, all before Memorial Day.
"I just love to play for people," says Stein. "I'm addicted to it." Stein's Madison tour stop is Friday, May 21, at Mother Fool's Coffeehouse.
Stein, 26, grew up in Austin. He still lives there when he's not on tour.
His father, Rick Stein, was an Austin musician in the 1970s, but Ricky says he didn't catch the music bug until he was in high school. That's when he went to a house party and saw a friend play a cover of Santana's "Oye Como Va."
"There was just something about the way he was playing it," says Stein. "I thought it was so cool, and I knew that's what I wanted to do."
Stein released his solo debut, Crazy Days, in 2009. The album is a diverse set of roots-rock. "One and the Same" shows off his bluesy side. "Keap St." is a bittersweet, mellow country-rock song. The piano ballad "Tarrytown" sounds like an Elliott Smith song.
When he's not playing solo, Stein performs in Austin as part of the .44, a roots-rock band that released a four-song EP earlier this month.
Stein will drive alone more than 200 miles from Minneapolis to Madison on Friday. Then he'll play to a Madison crowd to earn gas money for the next day.
And that's just how he likes it. "It's what I want to do every night."