Interview: Rusted Root

joe zorzi gets sent on his way…

While the name Rusted Root might not immediately ring a bell, their song “Send Me On My Way” most surely will. The song made huge waves and was used in tons of movies like Matilda and Ice Age. But Rusted Root has a lot more going for them than just that one song.

They’ve got somewhat of a cult following. They’re known for their unique blend of sounds and their mix of acoustic guitars and percussion instruments and their great live shows.

Rusted Root just released their seventh studio album, The Movement, on October 30th and Pop-Break had the opportunity to speak with guitarist and vocalist, Michael Glabicki about their career spanning over two decades. How are things going, how was the tour this summer?

Michael Glabicki: It’s been going great. We have a lot of new material and it’s going over well with the fans.

PB: How is mixing in the new material with the old stuff?

MG: We’re playing about six new songs in the set with a lot of the older material and it’s going really good. You know, fans have been downloading the live takes of the new songs so they’re already showing up and singing all the words and stuff so that’s cool. It’s been a great response. You know, we’ve developed this music live in front of audiences and tried to bring that energy onto the album and at this point both the album and the live versions are pretty stellar.

PB: And I know you guys are big on jamming out a lot live and stuff, so how much does it differ from the recordings?

MG: Not much. Not much at all actually. We sort of have key moments – mostly between the older material we’ll improvise, but as of now the new stuff is pretty well set.

PB: What’s the thought process between the album name? (The Movement)

MG: It’s one of the songs on the record and there’s something about the song that we’re all loving and it kind of defines the record.

PB: For this record you guys used the whole Fortunate Freaks Unite packages and it’s kind of similar to a Kickstarter. How did that work for you guys to fund the record?

MG: It was fun because it’s really just an extension of what we do and just getting creative. In a sense it was a community kind of thing. We offered opportunities for fans to come to soundcheck and play some percussion during “Send Me On My Way”, we film it and send them a video, so that was cool. And we’ve had concerts at peoples’ homes, just trying to be creative with what we do and creating opportunities to do it.

PB: You guys have been around for over 20 years at this point. How different is it now from when you started. You know, trying to get people to listen to your music, you’re able to get people to do things like this (Fortunate Freaks Unite packages) now. Has it been a big change for you guys?

MG: Yeah. There’s just more to do now. There’s a lot more to do to get the word out there.

PB: Do you think that makes it harder or easier?

MG: Um… I’d say it’s harder, actually. I mean, just ‘cause anybody and their mother can put out a record now and promote it. And there’s just so much out there and back in the day, it’s just like if you went out and you play live and you can get a crowd moving and, you know, create some excitement live word of mouth would take care of you. Nowadays it’s just tougher.

PB: 20 years together, is it hard staying with the group of people and everyone staying on the same page for that long musically?

MG: We’re constantly evolving and everyone’s constantly evolving as individuals and I think the toughest thing is we just have less time to come up with the music and develop the music. So, there’s just a lot more intense focus that needs to happen.

PB: You’re known for a very unique style of guitar playing. What’s your personal favorite kind of guitar to play? How does it effect your sound?

MG: Actually I play all different kinds of guitars from the cheapest to the expensive ones. But Larrivée is kind of my favorite right now. It’s one of the first ones that came out when we were just coming out and the guitar was, I don’t know there’s just a special sound to them. The ones now, I’m not so crazy about.

PB: You do have a very unique sound. What are your inspirations guitar-wise and just musically overall?

MG: I don’t know man. I think the sound of the acoustic is just an inspiration in itself. It’s so big and the percussion and overtones and sort of symphonic sounds in it and you know, if you use some of the different tunings and stuff you can try and get this whole orchestra thing going. But I think when I saw Michael Hedges play, that kind of opened up my world to that whole thing. Not that I do anything close to what he does, but just the use of the guitar in a broader sense. But you know, Santana and Neil Young and Jimmy Page. Those are kind of the rock and roll end of it.

PB: How does playing live compare to recording?

MG: There’s a lot more control in the studio obviously and it’s been good for the last two records to be able to produce and engineer and the band’s been trusting with that and that’s been great, so there’s been a lot more focus in where we can go and how well we can do it. I think that’s been really good. But live, it’s fun, it’s spontaneous and each night you connect with a different crowd and they bring something different and it’s just kind of a surprise, like ‘Oh, this is what it’s gonna be tonight, okay’.

PB: How are the songs usually written for you guys?

MG: Normally I bring the songs to the band and you know, it kind of happens all different ways. Sometimes, I’ll just bring the acoustic guitar and a vocal and everybody will fill in. I’ll be surprised by what people come up with, like things I wouldn’t expect. Then there’s other times where I’ll bring a song and I’ll have ideas as far as drums, a bass, or how background vocals should go and kind of lay those out for everybody. And then there’s maybe one song where it happened spontaneously.

PB: Is this just for the new album or is this pretty much how you guys have always been doing it?

MG: I would say that’s pretty much the norm. I mean, the first record we had four years to really develop it and there’s a lot more interplay in that one where you weren’t quite sure what was happening, you know, it just sort of happened. There wasn’t a lot of talking. Just ‘cause I think we were young and we would just keep playing the song until it worked.

Rused Root frontman Michael Gablicki

PB: Going back a decent amount of years now, “Send Me On My Way” has been huge. How does it feel to have that in so many different movies and so many different things?

MG: It’s been great. Since Ice Age and Matilda came out with “Send Me On My Way” there’s a lot of kids coming out now and a lot of young people that are digging the song and they come out to see the band and then they see the live experience and they’re in, you know? And so, we really have kind of been rejuvenated by a lot of that energy and it just draws a lot of attention to the band, which helps for marketing purposes and all that.

PB: When you guys made the song, did you think it was going to be a hit or going to catch on like that?

MG: I think we kind of knew it was special and there were people coming up saying ‘Hey this is your single’. And we’re like, ‘well let’s just focus on playing it tonight’. It wasn’t like we had big plans for it. But we kind of knew it was special.

PB: Your band name, Rusted Root. Where’d you guys come up with that?

MG: Well we had a pretty big gig booked. It was actually our first gig and we just had to quickly come up with a name. So we just sat around and threw some words around and that’s how it came about. Didn’t have any meaning or anything, but ended up being a great name.