Rouse’s Masterclass

Josh Rouse’s latest album presents a lesson in crafting refined pop songs

Josh Rouse sounds like he's entered his coolly confident and assured chapter of his songwriting life on his 2013 album The Happiness Waltz.

It's an album that is essentially a masterclass in Rouse's distinctively refined take on sophisticated adult-alternative pop and a culmination of Rouse's nearly 20-year recording career.

The album bears his signature touches of indie pop and soulful 70s light rock, with brushes of swinging low-key jazz and acoustic folk.

For Rouse, this batch of songs all grew around a simple thought that he wanted to write direct pop songs that would be familiar to his longtime listeners.

"This particular group of songs felt like a record my fans would like," Rouse says.

It comes after a stylistic interlude that saw Rouse cutting a few album leaning towards the influences found both in his current home of Valencia, Spain and in the world music section of his vinyl record collection.

2006's Subtitulo marinated in slower paces and acoustic arrangements, while its bookend companion, 2010's El Turista, was colored by Brazilian music textures, mixed with the relaxed feel of Subtitulo and 2007's Country Mouse City House.

Those textures combine in breathless and easy ways with the sunny AM pop that guided his excellent, hooky 2003 album 1972.  

The songs on The Happiness Waltz found Rouse reaching back towards that album.

"I write alot and I had songs that were in that 70s mellow blue eyed soul feel," Rouse says.

Longtime producer and collaborator Brad Jones joined Rouse and Rouse's two Spanish bandmates in Spain, where they worked on the new songs for five days.

"It was pretty much live tracking," Rouse says.

There's a certain feel and swing to the songs when they all play in a room together, Rouse says.

Rouse says he enjoyed working on pop songs that were more straight ahead than his most recent releases.

"It's not quite as jazzy or Brazilian as my last few records," Rouse says.

The release of the album also put Rouse back on the road, where he's played tons of full band shows during the past few months.

It's somewhat of a touring change for Rouse, whose touring has been tempered by marriage and fatherhood.

Now, Rouse is technically off the road and his wife and two boys have joined him at his mother's house in Paxton, Neb.

It's Rouse's vacation, but there's still one solo gig that makes sense for him to play. He'll play in Omaha, mostly to give his Nebraska family and friends a chance to see him play. After playing last year's Maha Music Festival, this will only be Rouse's second Nebraska show.

Fatherhood has made its mark on Rouse, as its slowed down his social life. The kids at ages 2 and 4 are also still too young to come along on any tours Rouse might do .

"It's crazy just getting them in the car to go somewhere," Rouse says.

At home in Valencia, the kids have also given Rouse a new test audience for material.

"If it doesn't have the right groove, they're not into it," he says of the kids.

"This Movie's Way Too Long" and "Simple Pleasure" are the two new songs that have made the grade according to his boys.

Rouse now has dedicated space in which to work, filled with pianos, pump organs and almost two dozen guitars. The boys too will sometimes make their own racket in Rouse's music room.

"They pound on the drums and play the piano," he says.

Meanwhile, Rouse's time in Spain may be winding down, as he has considered a return to Nashville, where he lived for years before moving across the ocean.

Rouse says Nashville makes sense as a place to live for a musician. It's a city that allows him musicians to easily connect and have the sort of conversations that have become less common in Spain.

"We can sit around and talk about microphones all day," Rouse says.

Josh Rouse plays with Matt Whipkey at the Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St., Friday, July 12th at 9 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 day-of-show. For more information, visit onepercentproductions.com.

posted at 04:29 pm
on Tuesday, July 09th, 2013

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