Th AngryCountry Interview: Rushlow

Following a concert performance in June, Rushlow invited me on their bus for an unscripted, unplanned interview. After they spent a few minutes interviewing me about Angry Country; we got down to what I was there to know: Who is Rushlow? Michael: Well Tim, of course our readers are aware of your previous work as the front-man for Little Texas, but some of them may not be aware of your new group, so if you would, could you all take a moment to introduce yourself and tell us how you came to be a part of this new group.

Rich: I’m Rich Redmond, and I play drums, and percussion, and I’ll even dance a jig if it will help.

Kurt: Kurt Allison, lead guitar.

Billy: Billy Welch, keyboards and vocals.

Tully: (Pulling my microphone right to his lips) Tully Kennedy, base and vocals.

Michael: You don’t have to be quite that close (Laughing)

Tully: Oh I need to be, I want to make sure you get it right.

Tim: Yeah, should we spell our names too?

Doni: Doni Harris, Acoustic [guitar] and vocals

Michael: Okay, and how did you guys come together?

Tully: Tim, you got the good story.

Tim: The nuts and bolts of it: Little Texas ended in ’97. I took a couple years… almost two years to kind of figure out what I wanted to do outside of what I had done for eleven years. I kind of thought I had found that. I love David Malloy, and we had a great time cutting a record. [Referring to his self-titled solo-album] It was a lot of fun doing something away from a group effort. A lot of fun, a lot of freedom and exploration of myself in my vocals. Nobody telling me ‘this is how it needs to be’ it was more like ‘Tim, how do you want it to be?” That was a real neat feeling for me. We had fun making the record, and everything was going great. The album was out, and the single went top-ten and then…. Atlantic closes. That sucked (laughs.)
At the time it really sucked, but I look back now and know that God will sometimes close a door, but open a window – and he totally did that for me. I believe firmly that everything that has happened for the best. I really believe that. I’m not dissing anything I’ve done up to now, I’m very proud of everything I’ve done. It’s all stepping stones in your life and career, and I choose to see those side by side. I firmly believe that this band [Rushlow] Is by far the deepest, neatest, most honest thing I’ve ever done – and that’s a fun thing for me.

Rich: Me too!

Tim: (Laughing) And these Guys too! When Atlantic folded I backed up and Billy Welch started playing keyboard for me. Doni Harris was playing – well obviously he’s my cousin, but he’s been playing acoustic guitar and singing with me my whole life. Kurt Allison had been playing a few shows with us, and he introduced us to Tully and Rich. The vibe was just sort of electric and we just sat down and I said ‘Look, I’ll spend any money I’ve got and any I can borrow – just come with me and let’s go do some gigs. I don’t mind playing songs from my past, but let’s not use that as our merit, let’s try to create something new and work towards that.’

Two years later, a lot of bands and beat up busses later – we worked hard for a couple years and got to the point where we were able to play for some labels. Lyric Street heard us play and requested a showcase. They said, ‘We get it, and we want to sign you on two conditions: One, that you call the band Rushlow; and Two that you play on your own records [most artists use studio bands when recording] because you guys have you own sound and we like it.’ That mattered to us. It was really a nice thing. In Nashville that doesn’t happen a whole lot, so it mattered.

So, we cut our first four sides – one of those being “I Can’t Be Your Friend” and they said ‘We’re going to put this out, go finish the album.’ So it really happened fast, we went from so slow to [Tim makes the sound of a Ricocheting bullet.] And then it stopped again. We had about a four-month layover while Lyric Street worked on their other artists – who are all very important as well.

Now, the album’s out and “Sweet Summer Rain” is our single and we’re off and running. That’s where we’re at now, trying to find our spot. We have some edge to us, but we like the edge.

Michael: Are you finding any difficulty getting accepted as Rushlow when so much of Nashville and so many of the country music fans still want you to be Little Texas’ Tim Rushlow?

Tim: It’s funny you say that, because I can totally see how somebody could think that. Not at all, I think that ironically a lot of people when Little Texas broke-up thought that I would immediately come out with a solo album that was reminiscent of Little Texas….

Michael: But, you didn’t. Your solo project was completely different.

Tim: No, as a matter of fact I disappeared from it, I just walked away from it to write music and figure it out. When I did come out with something, I think it was from a more tender, personal side. But, with this thing, this band, there’s just no comparison. You really can’t compare it to Little Texas at all, we’re totally different. A different breed. I look at it as if this is the first band I’ve been in. I had a great thing with Little Texas, and that’s a part of me forever, and the fans do want to hear that stuff still, so we’ll throw a song or two in every night and we enjoy doing that. But they (gesturing to his band mates around him) have given a fresh edge to what I think of those songs and it’s neat. Instead of going ‘oh I don’t want to play those songs’ they’ve embraced them. That’s what we did with God Bless Texas tonight.

So, back to your original question: I never felt – even from Lyric Street – I never felt from them that they wanted anything other than a nice liner note that I’ve been in Little Texas. For the dates we book, and the liner notes it’s a good thing. But we’re trying to make that a neat fact, while building our merits on who we are – the band. So for me it’s real refreshing. We get to start from scratch. It’s almost more fun that way.

Michael: Okay, for those who haven’t made it out to see Rushlow yet, what can a fan of country music expect from a Rushlow show?

Tully: I got this one guys. When you come to see us play you’ll get an honest band with heart. We’re playing what we love to play, and we love to play for the people. You definitely won’t feel cheated. If you come to a show you’re getting an hour and forty-five minutes of whatever we play and what the people want to hear. That’s what we do, and that’s what we’ll always do. We really do love to play. I was talking to one of the guys in Lonestar during sound check today and he was like “Dude, you guys act like you’re totally digging this.” and I said I was and asked if he wasn’t. He said “Yeah, but you guys are like animals, like you can’t wait. Well, we can’t.

Tim: The key to us is that we’re taking a real grass-roots road, taking our music one show and one fan at a time. We’re real accessible; there’s no hype and no baloney. We’re one of those groups that like that go and hang out with people – we are- and I think that makes a big difference. We’re out here to do it.

Doni: I think when you’re in the business at our age – we won’t go into that age thing – but when you’ve been doing this for a number of years, you loose that attitude that you had when when you were like sixteen years old playing in your garage just for the fun of it. And you’re in a band and it’s all exciting. Well, we still have this! And that’s a major accomplishment! Usually it goes away. You get jaded and it’s not good. We’re still excited.

Tim: People want to be entertained. They don’t want to come to a show and see guys just standing there playing, they want to see a show. To be fair to them, they will get a show 150% when they come to see us. If you look at our show tonight, we played like six or seven Rushlow songs, a cover we’re going to cut, and a Little Texas song. But we played those six Rushlow songs like they’re big hits on the radio. I believe that if you play them like hits, then people will like them like a hit, and maybe they’ll go out and buy our record and dig your music enough to walk up to you someday and tell you “That should have been a single!” about a song you played for them in concert. That’s when you know you’ve penetrated a fan the right way. We hope to slowly accomplish that one fan at a time.

Tully: And they tell a friend, and they tell a friend….

All of them in Unison: and so on, and so on, and so on.

Michael: Well, you’ve talked a lot about your fans, so I’ll ask one of my favorite questions: What does a fan mean to you?

Billy: What do you say to a fan who spent fifteen dollars on something you’ve done. It means more to us than they might think. We know, we’ve bought records. It’s not just putting fifteen bucks down… it’s money. Of course you do it for the love of music, then you take the next step and actually get to play in front of someone, and that’s the biggest reward you can get. When you’re playing music and they’re enjoying and you’re enjoying it. I think as far as fans are concerned, there’s no greater joy in the world than to look out there and see somebody singing a song that’s never been to radio. They’re singing every word to the song, and the only way they could know that is by listening to your album over and over.

Tully: That will bring a tear to your eye.

Tim: That’s the pinnacle of doing this. Allow me to interrupt…

Billy: Go ahead… but try to beat that (they all laugh)

Tim: We went out of the country for a while. We were gone for fifteen days, and visited eleven countries in those fifteen days. We played for most of the troops in every one of those places. We came back and our record was releases. We had to go to Buffalo, New York and play an acoustic show. We were kind of miffed because it was an acoustic show, and it was for our label and for radio. We weren’t getting paid anything – which is no big deal because we’re not in it for the money. Music can’t be about money, believe me.

We did sound check with these broken-down instruments that weren’t ours, and they were falling apart as we played them. Well, we leave and we go to our hotel – and this all goes back to the fans, I promise – We get tot his hotel where the floors are so cold you can’t take your shoes off, and you can’t take a bath because there’s no hot water. We get ready to go and then a snowstorm hits. We’re like “Perfect, no one’s going to show up.”
But we head to the venue anyway, and you can’t see the road because it’s snowing so much. We get there and there’s a hundred people in a line around the building.

Tully: So obviously, we’re confused, and we’re wondering if we’re opening for someone else. (they all laugh)

Tim: Okay, so they wait in line and we get inside… and they’re going nuts. We played until our fingers bled, and everyone was singing every word to every song. That really touched us. It was our first show after coming home, and we didn’t know if anyone had the record yet, but they did. That was a real touching moment for me.

Rich: You just want to touch someone when you create something… and then you’ve accomplished more than you ever could have imagined.

Michael: Very cool. So what’s coming up for Rushlow?

Tim: We have a LOT to do. We’re hitting the ACM’s, Fan Fair. One day at a time, one fan at a time, one radio station at a time. We want to make believers out of the fans. And I think until they see us live they can’t know what we’re all about. They need to come out and see how much we love to play. I think we have a long career. If we didn’t believe that we should find something else to do.

Michael: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

Tim: I think mainly: to whoever clicks on and decided to read this… Thanks for the interest. If you’re interested in who we are, then awesome. Come see us and check us out. Buy a record, whatever.

Tully: Definitely come see us live.

Billy: Come see us, because that’s how you’re going to know that we’re for real.

Kurt: We’re out to build a career from the ground up, that’s how you do it right.

After spending a half hour with Rushlow it is clear to me that these guys are right when they say they love to play together and mix well with each other. The words you see above represent less than one-third of my conversation with Rushlow as they were joking and poking at each other’s comments throughout the interview. I would have included more of their joking, but it was difficult to transcribe their words when they were all talking over each other.

Rushlow is a band you do need to see live, that I can tell you from experience.

My thanks go to Tim, Rich, Kurt, Billy and Tully for taking the time to sit down with me.