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- Posted on Mar 8th 2010 1:15PM by Stephen Dowling
Rouse and family now live in Valencia, further along the coast and the Spanish culture has begun to rub off on Rouse's music. Eighth album 'El Turista' has more than just a Spanish title. Latin rhythms are never far away, and the piano of Brad Jones owes more to Cuban bars than it does to the soft rock and soul Rouse mined on 2003's classic LP '1972.' He's even --on a handful of tracks -- singing in Spanish. What will they make of that in Nashville?
How difficult has it been learning to sing in Spanish?
The biggest challenge was just making it sound good. Cutting the syllables. This guy Bolar di Nieve he does it really well, he was the inspiration, so I started with a couple of his songs and re-recorded them. At first it was kind of weird -- 'Wow, I'm singing in Spanish' -- and the I got used to it. All the while I was working on some of my own sings in Spanish. We managed to get 'Valencia' and 'Las Voces.'
You feel like you've reinvented yourself, just to sing in a different language. I was just thinking, I change a bit with every record, and I thought some of the fans would be up for this, and if not, big deal.
Are we now going to see all-Spanish Josh Rouse albums?
It was more something to do, a new challenge. I haven't written anything in Spanish since -- I probably will, I just haven't yet. I'm still looking for my thing, I guess. I consider myself a songwriter who can work in different styles. I don't have a signature sound or a thing that I do all the time.
There are some really traditional Spanish language songs on the record.
We did the [Cuban singer] Bolar di Nieve songs, 'Mesie Julian,' and 'Duerme.' 'Duerme' is kind of an old children's lullaby, it's not really his song. I first heard it from him and really liked it. I studied this song, and it comes from the border of Columbia and Venezuela, it comes from the coffee fields, the guy saying to his son 'Don't cry, your mum will be back soon, she's gone to get food.' It's about hunger.
I knew the song was about hunger, and I had this fan who is English and lives here in Spain, and he did all this background checking, and it's really interesting with the origins. They don't know who the original author is. I took it and kind of did my own folk thing.
There's a really old-school echo in a lot of the songs - the kind of thing you might hear in a Havana bar.
When Brad and I got together and we had these songs, he just started playing that kind of style of piano, and it really gave it that Latin thing, but in a good way, almost like 'Buena Vista Social Club.' Not like the new Latino, which is pretty gross. It's old school 50s.
The track 'I Will live on Islands' has a Paul Simon feel. Intentional?
It wasn't intentional. We recorded it, and I guess the way I sing it it has the same timbre he has but I definitely hear it. That's OK.
You've also covered the old folk tune 'Cotton Eye Joe.'
When I was living in New York, I was thinking 'What can I do, I'm so bored with what I've been doing,' and I was listening to a lot of Folkways stuff and getting inspired by that and digging through older songs, and trying to see if I could put a spin on something old. Public domain, baby. If you don't have anything to say, go digging in the old Folkways Library.
This is the third album you've released with your own money. Exciting times, or just difficult?
Everyone's trying to figure out how to do it. But it's sinking. The ship is really sinking everywhere. Every year everyone's sales are cut in half. I guess they'll figure out something, through these things like Spotify they'll figure out a way of paying people. With the crisis, record sales are really really down, and for people who do OK like me it's fine, but still -- you cut 10,000 sales out of 30,000 and it's like, 'OK.'
What do you think the Josh Rouse who made 'Dressed Up Like Nebraska would make of it?
I do think about it sometimes. I listen back to those records and think, 'Wow, what a change.' Especially for fans. I find with every record I get new fans and I lose fans. I saw some guy complaining saying 'You just need to go back to your roots, 'Dressed Up Like Nebraska, that's who you are.' Some people internalise it and get really upset.
Josh Rouse's 'El Turista' is out on Monday (Mar. 8) through Yep Rock in the UK, and on Tuesday (Mar. 9) in the US. He tours the UK later this month (London Mar. 24, Manchester Mar. 25 and Edinburgh Mar. 26), and then the US in April.