When writing a tag line for Josh Rouse, you can no longer say Nashville-based artist Josh Rouse but ironically you can say amazing songwriter and artist Josh Rouse, whose fifth album is called Nashville. For almost ten years Rouse called Tennessee home but on the eve of finishing Nashville he decided he was finished with Nashville. After the dissolution of his marriage and after months spent soul searching Rouse decided to pack as little as possible, put the finishing touches on his album and split for Algea, Spain. And although he may have physically left his long-time artistic base of operations, he has left the rest of us with a musical tome of that town befitting the beautiful and complex nature of one of the most misunderstood music cities in the world.
But the album didn’t start out being called Nashville, it didn’t start out being called anything. After assembling this group of songs, Rouse ruminated on what to call this collection when a voice from above gave him the answer.
“The record was completely recorded and I was still kinda messing around with names,” Rouse remembers. “And we were flying back from L.A. in July and the Captain came over the intercom and was like ‘We’re landing in Nashville’ and I thought you know what, I’m gonna call the record Nashville.”
Upon reflection the title took on much more meaning to Rouse and it began to be revealed as more than just a random thought flying through the friendly skies.
“It kind of reflects where I’m at,” Rouse states. “I thought that it would be cool to have a record come out called Nashville and it really not be a typical Nashville record. There is pedal steel on it and stuff like that. There are some small country things on there but its really more to expose a different side of Nashville. The people who are doing music that’s more interesting than your really generic country song.”
The songs on the album do successfully encapsulate the different sides of Nashville which are hidden from the view of almost anyone outside the scene – “Life” gives a glimpse into the cosmic country club of the city’s roots and folks outsiders, “Winter in the Hamptons,” and “My Love Has Gone” are perfect examples of the Brit-influenced guitar pop of Nashville’s criminally underrated indie scene, and “It’s the Night Time,” and “Saturday,” put on display the crafty but resolutely human musicianship of the city’s sophisticated bohemian bunch, a group of eclectic talents which includes many of the men in Rouse’s band and most certainly Josh’s marvelously mad co-producer Brad Jones. Whether he was doing it consciously or not, Rouse pulled in many of the myriad elements available in the city’s scene to make a perfect time capsule of the real and modern Music City USA.
“Its an inside title, I guess, for us, the musicians who live there that don’t really live in the world of commercial country music but know about what’s really going on in town,” Rouse reveals. “There’s always been great things going on here outside of country music but no one really thinks of Nashville in that way.”
Beyond being a time capsule, this album is also a post card, and in may ways a love letter, to a city whose vibrant music community and rich history have meant so much in the development of Rouse as an artist.
“There’s no other place like it in the world. Just the history of people who have played on great records, all the great songwriters, and all the stuff that’s there is just incredible,” Rouse relates. “I learned how to write songs from being around all those people and learning things from them and doing it every day.”
“Nashville’s about songs. Its not about looking cool or wearing the right things, it’s a matter if you can do it. I think its pretty cool to be able to sit down with a guitar and have a song come across with just a great melody, the right chord changes and a good feel and that be it. In Nashville there’s people there that know that. You can’t fool them. To be able to do it and do it well, that’s the town.”
“This record is kind of an homage,” Rouse states. “Its kind of a thank you to Nashville because its definitely where I learned the craft”
Although Rouse has obviously been executing that craft rather well for a number of years on critically acclaimed records like 1972 and Under Cold Blue Stars, its probably safe to say that this album truly marks Josh’s first real stab at crafting a semi-traditional singer-songwriter record.
“It feels like that to me,” Rouse agrees. “In the past I could play my songs on acoustic guitar but these songs are definitely more folky in the sense that they’re more simple, more concise. That’s kind of what I set out to do. I said ‘Hey Brad (Jones, co-producer) I’ve got some more songs but lets not really worry about making a record, lets just record some songs.’ Brad had been telling me about Neil Young, about how whenever he had some songs, he wasn’t like ‘Hey I’m going in to make a record.’ He would just have a stock pile of songs and he would go ‘Oh these kinda go good together, this will be the next record.’ I guess I was kind of in a quantity mind. I think these songs are quality but I wasn’t like ‘I’ve got to make a masterpiece!’ or anything like that. I didn’t really have a big plan, I just wanted it to be a song record.”
“I was in Nashville for a reason. I moved there for some reason,” Rouse offers. “At this point in my life I believe things happen for a reason and I think I ended up in Nashville for a reason and part of that reason is to meet all the people that I knew there and to soak up some Southern culture (laughs).”