Brooklyn Arts Center • 516 N. 4th St.
Friday, September 30th
Doors 7 p.m. • Show 8 p.m.
$20-25 • www.brooklynartsnc.com
My first encounter with Rusted Root was watching 4-year-old Matilda from the 1996 movie, making pancakes when her disgustingly evil parents, the Wormwoods, left her alone at the house. I can remember myself at 7, bobbing my head to the booming voice that echoed “on my way” as Matilda whisked the batter.
The band’s 1994 explosive hit became the anthem of my college roadtrips, even a decade after hitting the charts. My roommate Nina and I would tailor mixed CDs to encompass the theme of our destination—to Miami for spring break, admittedly, meant lots of Pitbull and Daddy Yankee. To Raleigh to visit her family allowed the inclusion of OAR’s “I Feel Home.” Still, no matter where our trips ended, our CDs always began with “Send Me on My Way.” We’d pull out of our driveway and hit I-40 with no caution, belting the tune through open windows.
Although the line-up has changed since 1992 to include four new members, Rusted Root continues to pump out ethnic rhythyms and hypnotic lyrics—complete with enthusiastic bird-like calls and layered harmonies. The folk-rock group thrives on Afro-pop influences and has collaborated with the likes of The Grateful Dead and Dave Matthews Band. The album featuring my roadtrip theme song sold over 2 million copies. NASA engineers even chose the diddy as their wake-up music for the Mars Exploration Rover Mission. (Eat your heart out, Pitbull. Who wants to hear “I Know You Want Me” being blasted from the moon?)
Today, the seven members of Rusted Root are working on their eighth album and a full-length documentary, both to be released in March. They’re also vigorously touring the nation as if they never missed a beat. During its current tour, the band will make a stop in Wilmington at Brooklyn Arts Center on Friday, September 30th.
I had a chance to speak with Michael Glabicki—the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter, and an original member of Rusted Root. Nina, this one’s for you.
encore: You guys are approaching your 20th anniversary. What do you feel is the band’s biggest accomplishment of the past two decades?
Michael Glabicki: I think just our longevity, really, which involves a constant search for new directions and searches within ourselves, spiritually and mentally. And just doing it as a family, on the road—I mean, if you look around, there aren’t many bands that can say they’ve been out there for 20 years.
e: Have you found much has changed in the band’s style over the years?
MG: Yes and no. I think we build off of our past. We try to never let go of the past, but to make it point A. We want the next point to be B, not M. We want it to be connected. I think there’s a lineage to our sound; although, we’re constantly exploring new sounds. I think it’s as unique as when we first hit the scene and people were like, ‘Woah, where’d that come from?’
e: As the primary songwriter, what happens when you bring an idea to the band to become a finished piece?
MG: I present it, and that can be very formal, or I can just sneak it in on a sound check and take people off-guard to see if they’re actually resonating with it. Liz [Berlin, vocals/percussion] and Patrick [Norman, bass/vocals] have a keen ear for structure. Sometimes I’ll have too many ideas in a song, and they’re a good perspective to have, to lean on every once in a while. Preach [Freedom, percussion] is really good on the grooves—he’s well-versed in soul, and so he brings a new thing to the table.
e: Why are African and Eastern musical influences attractive to you?
MG: That’s hard to say. I don’t know why. When I write music, I let it come to me. I don’t necessarily hear something and go out and search how to do that. So, it’s whatever comes through the ground and my feet, and out of my brain and my fingers playing my guitar, and then my voice. If I try to do it any other way, it doesn’t work. I’d say it fits my emotional and spiritual landscape of the time and what I need to express.
e: Rusted Root is known to tour heavily. What do you appreciate about playing live for an audience?
MG: Sometimes I enjoy being completely unhinged, and that can be just moving my body, or singing or taking the song in a different direction. There’s complete freedom onstage. That’s fun, but at times I enjoy showing off well thought-out ideas, hitting people with a strong emotion or lyric. I just like seeing people and playing music for them—their expressions and dance movements, or yells and screams, kind of directs the music in a way.
e: Yet you guys often return the studio.
MG: I like the challenge of recording and the spontaneity—if you can make it that. It’s a lot easier to have an idea in the moment and have it get down to tape, especially if it’s something you never could recreate. I’m enjoying being able to capture that spark.
e: In your most recent release [“Stereo Rodeo,” 2009], you covered Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds.” What made you want to do that? It seems different from your normal work.
MG: The song has always been very powerful and mysterious. It’s such a simple song, yet it’s so murky and emotional. I was just onstage in sound check and started strumming it. The drummer added the perfect Latin beat, then we played it and the crowd went nuts, so we’ve been playing it every night ever since.
e: Your tunes have been featured in “Twister,” “Charmed” and more. What’s it like hearing your songs played in a movie or on TV?
MG: That’s easiest. I can look at a visual and put music to it. It’s harder for me to listen to it on the radio. It’s kind of fun when it shows up in the movie. But if it’s just listening to it, I’d rather play it.
e: Did you watch “Matilda”?
MG: Yeah, I did. I remember taking my son to see “Ice Age” in the theater when he was 5 or 6. [The song] came on, and Sid’s ice skating, and [my son] stands up and points and says, ‘That’s you! That’s you, Dad!’
Tickets to the Rusted Root concert at Brooklyn Arts Center are $20 in advance, available at the venue’s website (www.brooklynartsnc.com), at their box office, or at Gravity Records. They will be $25 at the door. However, encore will give away two pairs of tickets on our Facebook page on Friday morning.