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Before discussing the new album they made together, Martin and Wilson Zellar had a good laugh over the record the Gear Daddy's son is working on with his group, Dad Bod. Yes, paternal band names run deep in the Zellar clan.

To Martin's minor amusement, Dad Bod's members shelved some recordings they had been working on before COVID-19, feeling they had "outgrown" them a year or two later.

"Imagine being in your 60s and still playing songs you wrote at 17," the elder Zellar quipped.

You'll never catch the Minnesota music legend complaining about his old twang-rock band or the cultish, rowdy following they've maintained for four decades. More than ever, he seems to love what the Gear Daddies have.

That said, Zellar is happy to finally have new songs to perform. He's even happier that his son played a pivotal role in making his first new album in more than a decade.

"This will always be my favorite record," Zellar, 60, emphatically stated. "Not just because I got to make it with my family; I think it's really good, too.

"But having them all involved is enough for me to love it like no other."

Titled "Head West" and issued in stores and online two weeks ago, the romanticism-fueled 11-song collection was truly a family project.

Wilson, 28, engineered and mixed it and handled most of the lead guitar parts. He's also playing guitar on a 15-show tour promoting the album, which resumes Thursday at St. Cloud's Pioneer Place on Fifth and continues Friday and Saturday at the Parkway Theater in south Minneapolis.

What's more, Martin's younger son Owen served as a studio engineer on the recordings. His wife/their mom Carolyn Beaudot did all the photography for the packaging. Even his cherished "late-life surprise" daughter Clementine, 13, delivered some percussion — reportedly a smooth recording process save for some of the lingo involved.

"She told me it sounds 'Dirp-y,' but cool," Zellar recounted. "I of course had no idea what that meant."

Talking over coffee with Wilson in Minneapolis before hitting the road for their first tour date in Fargo two weeks ago, the veteran singer/songwriter was quick to clarify he didn't recruit his family for collaborators "just because it seems cute." The album also features backing from longtime bandmates Nick Ciola (Gear Daddies bassist) and Scott Wenum (drummer for Martin Zellar & the Hardways).

"Except for Clementine, everyone involved has the resume and the know-how to play the roles they played," Zellar said. "I really think anyone who hears it will know that's true."

Wilson, too, was worried about signs of nepotism when his dad asked him to help make the record.

"I wanted to be sure what he wanted was actually in my wheelhouse and comfort zone," said the younger Zellar, who lives in St. Paul. "I didn't want to be the one doing the work just because I was there."

"There" is San Miguel de Allende, a scenic and historic city in central Mexico. The Zellar family moved there 18 years ago, after first relocating to Austin, Texas. A native of Austin, Minn., Martin half-joked, "We just kept chasing the sun."

Wilson had since moved to St. Paul, but he still regularly heads south. Martin, conversely, is often north of the border for gigs and would always travel up to Minnesota or Texas for recording.

That changed during the COVID pandemic, when the Zellars had a recording studio built at the family's Mexican home — "a lot nicer than anything I could've afforded to build here in the U.S.," he noted.

In the decade since his last album, 2012's "Roosters Crow," Martin had written very little: "I reached the why-bother stage," he said. "The financials of making a record just don't make sense anymore. And it's always going to be hard for me to crawl out from under the Gear Daddies thing."

With "Head West," though, it's clear Martin hit a big patch of songwriting inspiration — and arguably reached a new plateau.

The album's title track and a couple other up-tempo highlights ("Texas Just Won't End," "Anyone But Me") are classic road songs sparked by long-haul drives Zellar endured between his various locales. More on the downside, the long-married singer — 34 years and counting — sings about the damage he saw the pandemic wreak on other people's marriages in "Better Off Apart" (a duet with wow-inducing young Texas singer Presley Haile).

Saddest of all, he mourns friends and the 2020 death of his mother in "More Than This" and the pedal-steel-tinged "Boats Sinking Slowly."

"We all know it's coming," he sings in the latter song. "We all know the ending to the tale / We're boats slowly sinking, my friend / Sinking from the moment we set sail."

In between the rousing rockers and sad ballads are a few bittersweet and nostalgic songs that reference the Gear Daddies and the mid-'80s Twin Cities music scene that embraced the podunk boys from southern Minnesota.

In "The Road Led Here," Martin sings, "We took the leap before we looked / To say the very least our plan was undercooked / We just kept moving, plowed ahead / Even when the warning lights were flashing red."

The twanged-up "We Ran Wild (Back in the Day)" also reminisces on his early days in the music biz and a "cow that would give milk this long." Most Gear Daddies fans would recognize that line as a reference to the group's 1990 cult hit "(I Wanna Drive the) Zamboni," still generating royalty money for Zellar thanks to its widespread use in hockey events and broadcasts.

"It's been the difference between me being able to do music as my full-time career, or something else," Zellar said with dumb-luck appreciation. "Which is good, because I really am not qualified to do anything else."

With all this singing about the old days and his newfound songwriting spark, Gear Daddies fans can't help but wonder if Zellar might make another record with his old band, their first in 30 years.

Not a chance, he said: "I'm not anywhere close to the person I was when I wrote Gear Daddies songs, and I just don't think the songs I'm writing now would fit.

"Plus, any new songs we'd play would be the ones the audience would just wait through and give a smattering of applause for until they hear the old ones they came to hear."

Still, he plans to continue playing regularly with his old pals: "We're having as much fun as ever." His band for his "Head West" shows boasts three-fourths of the Gear Daddies lineup, too, with pedal-steel player Randy Broughten in addition to Ciola.

Looking to his son, Zellar sweetly noted, "It's such a funny thing — a joy, really — seeing those guys I played with when I was a kid now playing with my kid."

With a brotherly burn to his old bandmates, he added, "Wilson will undoubtedly be the most mature one on the tour, too."

Martin Zellar

St. Cloud: 7:30 p.m. Thu., Pioneer Place on Fifth, $31.

Minneapolis: 7:30 p.m. Fri. & Sat., Parkway Theater, $29-$59 (sold out).