On the night before
his third album, Under Cold Blue Stars, was released
in the States, Josh Rousejetlagged after getting
off a plane only a day earlieris about to play in
a tiny club in Paris, Francethe one country in Europe
where his album isnt being released the following
day and wont be for another few weeks. An odd place
then to begin the tour, no doubt.
A page on his website, JoshRouse.com,
is called "Joshs Journal," and it has only one brief
entry which reads in part,
Things I would like to
1. Sam Rockwell and John C. Reilly in a movie together.
2.Vincent Gallo and Harmony Korine in a free-fighting
3. My own line
of t-shirts(if you have a white hanes or fruit of the
loom t-shirt, bring it to the show and I will demonstrate).
At the end of the interview,
I handed over a t-shirt and a black marker for him to
demonstrate number three. After taking a few minutes to
"conceptualize," he wrote the words, Sad White Boy,
saying that this is how he had described himself earlier
in the day for a Swedish journalist who asked him to do
it in three words. It is an inside joke, Rouse told me.
Last time they played in Europe a friend asked him, "
what CDs did you bring? A bunch of sad white boy music?"
"All that melancholy stuff, its pretty much true,"
Rouse said with a laugh. We spoke in the bar, an hour
before the concert, while U2s Achtung Baby
played in the background. The new album never came up.
is the first show of your new tour, and it begins in Paris.
How does your performance change when you are playing
in front of audiences whose mother tongue is not English?
Rouse: It doesnt
really change musically, but Im a little timid about
talking to the audience. I just dont know if they
are understanding me. Theyll laugh or just look
at you blankly and you think to yourself, 'I just shouldnt
have said anything' (laughs).
So you were born
Yeah, in a town called
Paxton, which is just outside of North Platte. Its
actually about three and a half hours from Lincoln, where
there is the nearest airport.
And since then
youve lived all around the U.S., and settled in
Yeah, Ive been there
for about six years.
How much would
you say moving around has affected the kind of music you
make? It seems that often, among the ways musicians are
pigeonholed, is to expect them to be part of a certain
music scene in one city and that their music will be of
Right, right. Living all
over gives the music a sense that you are moving sometimes.
But being in Nashville
theres almost a friendly
competition when it comes to songs and recording and things
like that. Which is really good because there are some
great songwriters there. I actually went to college outside
of Nashville for about three years and then I moved into
Nashville just because there were places to play. So when
I got there I definitely got my shit together. I really
didnt have it together before that. I started focusing
on writing songs, said to myself I was going to do a record,
and thats what I did. And it worked out really well.
Looking at some
of your songs like "Suburban Sweetheart," "Directions"
and "Little Know It All," I see
its mostly D/G/A chords, very simple stuff. Is that conscious
on your part, or how it comes out?
Its just how it comes
out. Pretty simple. I try to stick to that. I like simple
songs. I was a big Cure fan when I was younger and I just
like those simple three chord songs with really great
melodies that were kind of moody at the same time. Sometimes
I will think a song is too simple or too boring. And Ill
record it and go, "oh that really works." Its just
those three chords in different orders. But its just a
science to it. Most of my songs are just a
couple chords and it's about how you play them and how
long you stay on each one. It always fascinates me when
I learn a song, a Velvet Underground song or something
like that. Ill just be sitting around and Ill
start playing it and Ill say to myself, "wow, it
just stays on A for a long time, then just switches to
D and stays on it. Its where they change the chords.
The melody guides that. It usually just happens for people
who write songs. It does for me, at least. I sit down
and things just come out.
some of your music on TV shows like Ed and Roswell
and Dawsons Creek as well as in the 2000
Ethan Hawke film of Hamlet. And now your song "Directions"
is in the Cameron Crowe film Vanilla Sky. I would
think that having your music chosen for a film by somebody
like Crowe, with his own rock and roll credibility is
like getting the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. How
has that affected things for you?
It was exciting just to
even know that Cameron Crowe was a fan of mine. I was
able to go to the premiere in L.A. and hang out with some
stars. We didnt really hang out with them, they
were just there. Its a thrill to be on the soundtrack
with those other artists,
and Im sure its created more talk or whatever.
More people more aware of my name or have heard one of
my songs that wouldnt have an opportunity to hear
it before. And Ill probably make some money from
it, but you know
Bono hasnt called me or anything
How did it work, exactly?
Did they send you the script?
Well, I saw the Spanish
version, Abre Los Ojos. His music supervisor Danny
Branson called my manager and left a message saying, "Hey,
Im sitting here with Cameron Crowe and were
fans of your artist Josh Rouse, so give us a call." Chris
called them and they explained that they wanted to use
"Directions" in a scene in this new film. I think Chris
had read something about the film in Entertainment
Weekly or something
and that was about it. We
were like, "Yeah man, use it." I mean thats really
the only source of income. I dont make money selling
records. So its good for the publishing. After this
record, this next year, well be getting closer to
breaking even. Well be able to have a tour manager
and a bus. When we tour at home, I have my own van.
Yeah, its a conversion
van, I just take the backseat out. Its like punk
rock touring. Play six days a week, Sunday, we drive.
I tour manage myself. Its very do-it-yourself.
There are a lot
of rock stars we read about who have that celebrity guilt-complex.
That is bullshit. Im
sure some of that has its problems, but I dont know
how they would feel about getting up early in the morning
to do promotion, driving eight hours to a gig, unloading
all your equipment and soundchecking it with some soundman
who ran sound for Black Sabbath in 1978
that attitude is a load of shit. They are really rich
and want something to complain about. Johnny Rotten said
it best. "If you dont want to be famous, just quit."
Thats the best point. Id love to play in front
of 5,000 people a night. It would be great. I dont
have that indie-scene idea of "Im too cool to play
for more than
" People that play music want to have
an audience. You cant be selective about who likes
Now that the hype
of Napster and file-sharing has died down, what is your
take on the place of the Internet in music? Your own site,
Joshrouse.com is getting more comprehensive now, and you
can even stream the whole album.
I think it is important
and a great medium for people discovering your music.
Its not helping to sell a lot of records. If I were
to put out an Internet-only release it would only do so
much. CD burning reminds me of how people used to make
tapes for you. The same thing but on a whole different
level. Which is really nothing but good. Im cool
with it. I mean, if I want a record, Ill go buy
it. There are a lot of people still like that. If some
16 year-old wants to download my whole record, man, let
him do it, because stuff spreads through kids a lot better
than it does adults.
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