The Core: Rusted Root

Mike Greenhaus on May 1, 2013

Singer/guitarist Michael Glabicki discusses Rusted Root’s new, fan-funded album The Movement.

Rusted Root Freaks Unite

We were developing a lot of music on tour and the fans were hearing the songs develop in front of them. People were getting excited and we thought it would be a nice extension of that connection with our fans to go into the studio and have creative packages [through a fan-funding campaign] so fans could feel connected to the growth and production of the record. We had some fans come into the studio for a day and they were part of the record’s energy. They sang a little bit – shouted or handclapped and that kind of stuff. It’s getting back to the days of us starting out with our fans being up close and a part of the process.

Low Pressure, High Energy

With the way the industry is now, fan-funding allows you to be creative and connect with your audience. It’s a great way to market your record – it’s a great way for people to know that you’re doing a record and to get them excited about it. Financially, I think it works well, too. It pays for itself as it moves along. You don’t get the money all at once, but you get it at each step – from recording basic tracks to doing overdubs to mixing to mastering. The money flows nicely, and it’s not a high pressure thing. It evolves and is part of the creative process. [ The Movement was eventually released on Shanachie.]

Rhythmic Roots

For a lot of these songs, I came up with drum rhythms and then let them play for a period of time. Then, I’d just scat – and sing – until something came out of it. There’s a very rhythmic propulsion to this record and, even on the slower songs, you still feel that groove. That developed over the two years prior to going into the studio. About six months before the record went out, we went into the studio and started working with the band and arranging the music – working it up live. With each record, we try to fill a spot that we think is missing in the live sets. We’re a live band and always approached music from the perspective of a live set. The last record, Stereo Rodeo, put some dark, heavy shadows in the set and some lyrical content that was different. It was a little more introspective – a little deeper and darker. On this record, it was time to swing back and make it not necessarily a lighter record, but a happier record. It is a more joyous record, a more celebratory record. The rhythms are a bit more ecstatic.

New, Non-Rational Thoughts

Preach [Freedom (drums, backing vocals)], Colter [Harper (guitar, backing vocals)] and Dirk Miller (guitar, backing vocals) joined about six years ago. It’s fun and exciting to go against the rational thought of an established band. [Laughs.] Preach had never played drums before and we were doing this benefit for Obama’s first run for president, and our drummer at the time couldn’t make it. So we said, “Hey, Preach, play drums, see what happens.” It was totally fun and he did a great job, so we asked him to play drums from that point on.

Nomadic Creatures

When we first started [as a band], people were wondering if we would go the route of the Grateful Dead-jamband scene. To me, it was always up to the next song I wrote – the next vision I had for where to take the band or the landscape that was presented in the rehearsal space. As far as the industry – and with the jamband scene being a part of the industry – I could never really fit in. I never felt part of any category, whether it was jamband, pop, rock or even world beat. I could go there and have a good time with it, but I don’t want to live anywhere. I guess I’m more of a nomadic creature.

A Window View

I wouldn’t mind having a song on the radio. I wouldn’t mind eight million people buying our album, but I never feel that is up to me. I write songs that mean something to me that I feel transform myself – or could transform an audience. I look outside this window from where I’m sitting and if the industry or the general consciousness comes and wants that song, then I’m happy. If not, then I don’t really care about it. I’m just doing my thing.