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| 7 December 2018 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Grass-roots rocker Rick Monroe, brings his brand of country music within the grooves of his most fully realized album to date, Smoke Out the Window, today via Thermal Entertainment. The album is available now everywhere. At the heart of it, these 11 tracks of Smoke are the literal extension of Monroe’s stage presence, now properly unleashed in the studio environment, with the resulting music having forged a category all its own. “I know we’re not up-the-gut mainstream country by any means — and I don’t even know what mainstream country even is anymore,” Monroe confesses. “I also know we’re not super-heavy rock either, so I’d like to call what we do blue-jean country rock. Fashions come and go, but blue jeans are a timeless statement that never fades — and that’s what I want my music to be.” We get Rick to discuss new music, touring, and much more…

Toddstar: Thank you so much for taking time out, man. I really appreciate it.

Rick: Oh, yeah. No problem, man. You wrote the review that we just had on 100% Rock. Awesome – thank you very much.

Toddstar: It’s a great album and a fun listen. For somebody’s who’s normally a rocker that likes a bit of the country stuff, you kind of hit the nail on the head, bringing all the different stuff together.

Rick: Thank you. We just need more and more people to start realizing that. So, hopefully, we’ll get there.

Toddstar: With this album, and some stuff in the past, you’ve done some collaborations. On this album, you have two guys that I love, Cody Hanson and Marshall Dutton from Hinder. How did it come together that you were able to hook up with those two guys for the track?

Rick: Well, a mutual friend of ours had been saying we need to get together and write. I had an open week and so did they. He said, “Man, if you want come out and stay at my place and just spend the week writing with these guys, they’d love to write with you.” I guess he played them “Good As Gone” and they thought that was a cool song. He’s like, “Well, you should write with this guy.” So we put it together, and I went out, and we wrote about five or six songs. “I’ll Try” just ended up being one of the ones that they were looking to cut it. And then their label’s like, “Guys, it’s not heavy enough,” or whatever. And I was like, “I think it’s perfect for me.” So we ended up cutting it.

Toddstar: When it comes to this release, Rick, what are the couple of moments for you that stood out for you; that you will take with you the rest of your life, from writing to production, to seeing this thing hit the streets?

Rick: Well, I think it was just so organic, from the beginning. It started off that we were just going to demo a couple of songs. And JD, the producer, just had such a good feel about him with writing because he and I wrote “Rage On.” The way he approached it was we started demoing. I got the guys from my band in to cut them, which usually you use a bunch of Nashville guys. It always felt like it was just an easy, natural thing. Next thing you know, we have five songs done. Now we have eight songs done. And now it’s like, “Hey, let’s do a whole album.” So it’s never like we really set out to do an album. We just set out to record some music. So I think because there was no pressure like that, we ended up just, I think, coming up with some really cool, off-the-cuff stuff.

Toddstar: I would agree with that. With some of these songs, what song do you remember just came the easiest to you? Not necessarily writing, but actually putting it down on tape? I don’t know if I should use the term ‘tape,’ but you know what I mean.

Rick: We used digital tape [laughs]. Honestly, they were all different. “October” is a very personal song. So that one was just one of those I sat down and it basically wrote itself, which was kind of an intense experience. And then, the last song that we did, “Truth In The Story,” the label’s like, “Well, we want one more song.” And we actually had a song that I wrote with Royal Bliss that they sent me all the backing tracks, and I was just going to replace the bass and the vocals on it. And as we’re doing the bridge, it was like, “Man, let’s see if we can come up with one other thing on our own.” And we wrote “Truth In The Story” right in the studio. He had a groove. I happened to have a riff that went with that groove with a melody. And so the three of us, the bass player, and JD and I, just knocked it out.

Toddstar: What is it about “Cocaine Cold & Whiskey Shakes” that really dives into the soul of Rick Monroe?

Rick: Actually, the funniest part about that, I tried to get several people to write that song with me. And I kept going to other writers, I’m like, “Man, I got this song idea,” you know? And no one wanted to touch it. I was really surprised. It doesn’t say go out and do cocaine. It’s actually about a guy who’s trying to get over pain in life, and it’s not a good thing. And everybody just kept, “Nah, well maybe.” And so I ended up writing it over last Christmas. It was funny because I had my 17-year-old nephew sitting there as I’m writing it. And he’s like, “Mom, Rick’s writing songs about cocaine.” I was like, “It’s just a song, man.” But it’s all right. To me, it’s got that cool, raw, old-school country feel; that honest, kind of an outlaw song.

Toddstar: You hit it when you said outlaw. That is what I had thought – it lined up in the whole Jennings mode for me, as far as the groove, and the lyrics, and the momentum behind the song itself. You mentioned “October.” That was the other one. Those are the two songs that you kind of authored all by yourself. What’s it like for you when you know you’re putting songs out there that are so personal?

Rick: It’s a weird thing because there’s a whole aspect from writing it to producing it to singing it and everything like that. There’s so many facets that I don’t think you really get that focused on even how it affects people or the outcome. By the time you’re done with it, you’re just like, “Oh well, okay. Now I gotta go play it.” So it’s always amazing to me when people mention one of the songs and actually get what it’s about. When they go, “Hey, I heard such and such.” And they know. And I think that’s always amazing. Everything’s open to interpretation. And so some people will take something different from a song. And I think that’s cool, too.

Toddstar: You wrote with quite a few people on this. You wrote some stuff with JD. We talked about Marshall and Cody, and you’ve had other writers. Who’s still on your magic wish list? Who do you want to write with?

Rick: I don’t have anybody in particular that I would. I guess John Hiatt. If I could write with John Hiatt, I think that would be pretty bad ass. I mean, there’s certain people that I think are great. I mean, there’s a bunch of big writers that you’ve probably never even heard of that would be cool. But I just want to write with people that have good ideas and people that want to create music that means something.

Toddstar: The album, Smoke Out The Window, it’s been out a couple of months now. What’s the feedback been like? And what’s it like for you to get that feedback?

Rick: So far, all the reviews have been pretty much all the same. They like the feel. They see that we’re trying to. We’re not treading new ground, but we’re doing it in a different way. I think we’re putting together two different kind of genres. And I feel like we did a good job of mixing them. And it’s been really cool. I’m glad that people pick up on that. That’s been a good thing.

Toddstar: That said, you have the rock influences in your music and in your life, what’s the one rock album you wish you could have been a part of that it just influenced you so much, you wish you could have been there?

Rick: Oh, man. That’s tough. There’s several Queen records that I think would have been amazing to be around for. Van Halen would have been pretty cool. Appetite for Destruction, Zeppelin, probably, and this is so many things like that I think would be amazing. Any Allman Brothers record would have been cool.

Toddstar: Like I mentioned, the album has been out a couple of months and you’ve been hitting the road a little bit, touring behind it, getting it out there for the fans. Is there talk of doing a full-blown tour? I know up here in the Detroit area, we’d love to see you hit a stage again soon.

Rick: Yeah, we’re working on it. I mean, we’re in a weird position because we’re not big enough to carry a tour, but we’re too big to just kind of play club dates, like smaller clubs. So we’re kind of in the middle. And we’re working on trying to get on through with somebody. I mean, it’s a tough landscape out there right now. Everybody’s fighting for real estate because tours are the only way to really make money. So I think we’re also trying to, because we’ve been being pushed as a country band for so long that when people realize that we’re not just a country band, it expands the bands we can play with, but it’s just not getting the knowledge out there that we’re available to do that. I mean, I always joke that we can open up for everybody from the Oak Ridge Boys to Halestorm and have a set that would work either way. It’s just a matter of time that we start getting tours. Like I said, everybody just needs to get to know what we’re doing. I think people still have their idea of who I am. A lot of that was because I was with Jäger for so many years. I think a lot of people just thought of me as the Jäger guy, you know what I mean? I was their brand ambassador, and I was kind of the face of country Jäger. I don’t think people really opened up to me as an artist as much, cause they were like, “Oh, that’s the Jäger guy.” So we’ve had to kind of battle that in the last couple of years.

Toddstar: You’ve always gone over really well in smaller clubs. You’ve always gone over really well and you seem to have that joy and that love when you’re on that stage. What’s it like, what’s it for you to be on a stage where you can instantly connect with your audience when there’s not 20 foot of speakers or a huge pit? What’s it like for you to be able to look right down into somebody’s eyes and know that they’re digging the show?

Rick: Well, that’s the best part of doing it. One cool thing was like when I was out touring with Eric Church, those guys used to mess with me. And they’d do things like they’d turn the house lights on. Usually when you’re on stage, you can’t see anybody. But I got to a point where I really kind of enjoyed that. I mean, there’s 5,000 people, but I can see everybody. So I’d be like, “I think, to me, that’s cool.” So I liked to make eye contact. I liked to interact with people. I mean, that’s why we do this. That’s why we play live. If I can’t get people going or if I can’t connect with them, it drives me crazy.

Toddstar: When’s the last time you were star struck and who was it, Rick?

Rick: Ah, last time I was star struck… Actually, I think when I met Robert Plant. I mean, I wasn’t, I was just more interested. I wanted to go talk to him. And he’s a super nice guy, and I know people that know him pretty well. Actually, I get more star struck by athletes and stuff like that. I’ll never throw a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl. I’ll never slam dunk a basketball. I’ll never hit a home run. So when I see those, that’s something I can’t do. So I’m always really impressed with those guys. So musicians, I mean, I play music.

Toddstar: On the flip side of that coin, what’s it like for you when you get a fan who gets in front of you, and you know they’re a true fan, and they’re just tongue-tied?

Rick: I try to be extremely open and personable to everybody, so I don’t think people ever get that uncomfortable. And I think if you’re really approachable, people feel that. But you make stupid little jokes and you do things to kind of make people feel more at ease. And if you kind of notice that somebody’s being a little bit uncomfortable like that, you put a little extra effort into making them not uncomfortable.

Toddstar: Well, I’ve interviewed you in the past. And you’ve always been an easy conversation. It’s always less of an interview with you. That’s the fun part for me. I mean, it truly is like I’m sitting talking with somebody I’ve known for years. You’re very open and very communicative when it comes to that kind of stuff.

Rick: Thank you. The funny thing is, is that I started a podcast earlier this year, Road Life and it’s been really cool because I’ve been able to be on the other end of it and interview people. But the people I’ve been interviewing are other musicians but also I’ve interviewed Grant Fuhr, a bunch of comedians, anybody that makes a living on the road. So it’s been fun to be on the other end of it, too.

Toddstar: Rick, if you could pick a moment or two in your professional career that you’d like a do-over on, not necessarily that it was a bad experience or that you would want the end result to change, but is there anything you’d like a do-over on?

Rick: That’s a hard thing to say because certain things lead you certain ways. You could say in hindsight, “Yeah, I’d rather have done this than that.” So I don’t really think there is – what we do turns us into who we are, good or bad. The biggest part of this journey is what kind of a person you’re becoming more than anything else. So, I think I’m good.

Toddstar: I’ve got one more for you before I cut you loose, if you don’t mind. Looking over the track list for Smoke Out The Window, and I always hate this type of question – I don’t want you to pick a favorite kid so to speak – but when you’re on stage and you know one of these songs is coming up in the set list, what song really kind of gets your adrenaline flowing, knowing you’re about to play it live?

Rick: It always changes. It always changes with what the crowd’s like and what we’re doing. “Good Is Gone” always kind of gets it. We always end with “Gypsy Soul” and I always know that that one’s going to hit it. You kind of slow roll people. By the time it’s over, they’re crazy. And we recently started adding “I’ll Try” into the set, which we never had that one in the set and that one’s been doing really well. I don’t know. I mean, that always varies by the crowd. If you have a really rocking crowd, you know something’s going to be good. If you have a real kind of intimate crowd, maybe something more mellow will get them.

Toddstar: Cool. Well listen, Rick, again, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you. It’s always fun when you get to talk to somebody when dig the music. That makes it fun for me.

Rick: I appreciate it, man. And I appreciate what you guys are doing for us. And yeah, the review was great. And hopefully, we’ll get up there soon. Thank you, brother.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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