The Grateful Dead's Bob Weir is planning to dip his musical toes, so to speak, into the country genre with the release of a new set of tunes that he's labeling "cowboy songs."

While recording in both New York and in the San Francisco Bay area, Weir has been collaborating with folk artist Josh Ritter on the project, but he's also been bringing in a variety of other artists, including Josh Kaufman, John Barlow, Scott Devendorf, Walter Martin and Gerrit Graham.

“It’s going to be a pretty eclectic group of musicians kicking into this project,” Weir tells Relix magazine. “I’ve done a few sessions recently with Joe Russo, who’s more or less from [the New York] neck of the woods, but I’m also working with some of my guys out [in the San Francisco Bay area] on the project. At the same time, we’re going to downplay the emphasis on the playing and play up the emphasis on the storytelling.”

The foray into "cowboy" territory isn't a huge stretch for Weir, who has always had a penchant for roots music. He even incorporated tracks such as "Me and My Uncle" and "El Paso" into the Dead's repertoire.

“Cowboy songs have always been an aspect of what I have done,” he says. “The idea is to draw them down to the essence of where they came from. Why did I start singing cowboy songs? Well, that’s because -- when I was a kid -- that’s what I did. I worked on a ranch. I worked with cowpokes, and I learned a little of that culture. I spent time in a bunkhouse with guys who had grown up before radio had made its way into people’s lives in that neck of the woods. The culture was such that they would sit around at night and tell stories and sing songs. I picked up a little of that, so I’m sort of chasing that down a little big right now.”

Ritter, whose next album, Sermon on the Rocks, is due out on Oct. 16, says that he struggles to properly explain how he feels about working with the iconic musician.

"Bob Weir’s voice is like a lion; his bearing is wise. Being in the room with him is like being on the range somewhere in Wyoming. He expands the space he’s in until it’s all big-sky country," Ritter says. "I hope that I managed to get some of that big sky into these songs, but if I didn’t, Bob will.”

Weir seems to be equally happy to be collaborating with Ritter.

“We have the same instincts, musically speaking,” Weir says of Ritter. “We’re looking for a story with music and the spirit in that regard, and so we enjoy working together.”

A title and release date for the upcoming album have yet to be announced. Weir was recently the subject of a Netflix documentary, The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir, which is available now for subscribers to the online streaming service.

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