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Music City Musings - Rod Picott

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Rod Picott - Our paths cross yet again with this talented songwriter and performer who we have been following for some time. This former construction worker has built an acclaimed career on a solid foundation of strong chops and heavy touring since his debut 17 years ago. He follows up the well-received "Out Past the Wires" with a much anticipated collection out this summer.

Music City Musings - Rod Picott

MCN: In a town teeming with talent what makes you standout in Music City?

RP: Writing. I worked incredibly hard at songwriting from the day I arrived. There are walking trails and coffee shops full of great players but many folks confuse a great arrangement for a great song. They aren't the same thing. I'm not a singer's singer, I'm not a player's player but the one thing I can do is write. That's the most important piece for me and it's where I put all my chips. I love songs. I don't care if you're in tune or in time. If the bones of the song are great - I'm in. There are people like Jason Isbell who happen to have all the gifts - an incredible voice, virtuosity on his instrument and songwriting chops. That's an amazing thing to experience. But just a great song does it for me.

MCN: What is the most significant musical experience you have been a part of - or witnessed - in Nashville, Tennessee?

RP: There isn't a specific moment but just after '94 when I moved to town there were a few sort of golden years. John Prine was here. Gillian Welchand and Dave Rawlings were killin' it. Lucinda Williams was here. Guy Clark, of course, was here. Radney Foster had a full on hit album with great songs. There was a feeling of credibility and artistry in the air. It's largely gone now but that's not an insult to Nashville. Things change. People move on. But I feel very lucky to have been in the mix when vibrant rooms like The Radio Cafe in East Nashville were making a go of it. I hosted a writers night for a short time and the talent was incredible. Two friends from that writer's night went on to write top ten hits. I used to watch old rock and roll footage with Gillian and Dave. The learning curve was steep and I had my crampons knifed into the ice. I wasn't letting go.

MCN: I recently heard Nashville described as a dreamer's town. Can you encapsulate the size and the scope of the dream you brought with you to Music City?

RP: This is a tricky question for me. Sure, I had a dream but I'm a hammer and nails guy. I'm not a "sit around conjuring my dream" guy. I simply went to work. I looked at it this way: most people want to be the best writer at the open mic or better than the folks they hang around with, but I didn't see it that way. I felt like I moved to a town where John Prine wrote "Unwed Fathers". So that was my goal. I didn't see any sense in aiming any lower. Now, am I as good a writer as Prine? No. But I'm twice the songwriter I would have been if I'd not made that my benchmark. So I didn't sit around dreaming. I locked myself in a room and wrote.

MCN: What are you currently promoting?

RP: I have a brand new album titled Tell The Truth & Shame The Devil. It's the most raw and honest recording I've made. It's completely stripped. Just the guitar, my ragged voice and some harmonica. I'm also releasing my first book of short stories, titled, Out Past The Wires (Working Title Farm Press). I'm still fascinated by the process and completely engaged in the work. In the last three years I've released three albums, two books of poetry (God In His Slippers, Murmuration Mezcalita Press), written another book of short stories and a novel that will hopefully publish next year. I tour constantly so that part never ends. Luckily, I just happen to be one of those animals who can write anywhere at anytime. It's not a toughness thing. I just always have my antenna up so I never stop working.

MCN: Nashville is an amazing place. Many call the Tennessee capitol the "It" City while some say we're experiencing growing pains. Either way, it's a fun topic of conversation and the subject always elicits strong opinions. So we ask - what do you love and what do you loathe about the town known as Music City?

RP: You are exactly right in the subtext of this question. The growth is bringing wonderful people, restaurants, coffee shops, entrepreneurs and a vibrancy that is special. But with every wish there comes a curse. The growth is too fast. Enjoying the city is difficult when it takes an hour to drive six miles (just two days ago for me). There's no effort from the powers that be to control the growth. You can't stop the money. I hate seeing those beautiful old craftsman houses in east Nashville torn down and those tall and skinny's go up. It's like trading a vintage Gibson for a new Taylor. Both nice guitars but seriously that old Gibson has more songs in it.

MCN: When you find yourself in Nashville and the surrounding region and you are out looking for a bite to eat - what is your go to place to dine?

RP: It's counterintuitive but I spend so much time on the road, (most years around nine months), that I just want to be home cooking my simple chicken and vegetable dishes when I'm home. Nashville has upped its food game in a big way the last seven or so years. Mas Tacos is amazing. There's a tiny Italian place called Villalba in Nippers Corner that's homey. Marche' is great. Margot is great. Now having said that, I haven't even been to many of the brand new crop that has popped up. If it wasn't for the line, I'd have lunch at Mas Tacos every day. I always loved The Tin Angel even though the room is quite loud. I hear it's done and dusted now. Probably to make room for more condos (see above). The city is alive right now, that's for sure. I can hear it humming from way over here in South Nashville. Hummmmmmm

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