Josh Rouse cannot make a dark-sounding record to save his life. His latest offering, Country Mouse, City House, was supposed to contain the musical equivalency of a New England winter day: overcast and cold with a high probability for snow. Instead, the disc sparkles with sunshine, smiling melodies and enough R&B sensibilities to make Berry Gordy chuckle. The prolific Rouse, a Henry James of singer/songwriter pop who relocated to Spain some time back, recently spoke with the Westword about his new disc, his fear of minor chords and his obsession with vintage record production.
You said that with this record, you were aiming more towards a “wintry” record.
Yeah, I tried. It didn’t turn out that way. That was my intention [laughs]. I guess I didn’t use enough minor chords. I started out using a few more minor chords and then I eventually went to majors. Major chords work better in the live situation, I’ve found. You go see a guy or a band and they play a lot of minor songs, everyone just kind of stands there and looks dark and looks really serious. I think I’ve done that before, and it kind of bums you out. You’re like, “Why am I doing this?” But then you kind of get into the major chords, and everyone throws a little grin and they might even move their ass a little bit, and it’s like, “Okay, this is worth traveling all over the world, playing an hour and living out of a suitcase.”
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Now, I know that you have a love for the production of records of the ‘60s and ‘70s, kind of the singer-songwriter records. What draws you to those records?
I think they’re just better than the records that come out today. I think they sound better and, you know, it’s pretty obvious, really [chuckles]. I don’t want to say that there aren’t good records, but they’re just, I don’t know, they’re harder to find and they seem to be more underground. As attention spans get shorter and peoples’ patience levels seem to get smaller and smaller as well, it makes for records that aren’t so good. The industry has kind of done that, too. Everybody wants immediate music, and I like music that can actually grow on you and you enjoy more over time, and there were a lot of those records in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Do you think there’s a lack of emotional honesty on a lot of records coming out today?
Everybody wants to be cool now. If you put a good lyric together and you have a since of humor, that’s one thing, but then just being so cynical about everything, it’s just kind of the state of indie rock. It’s fine, but if everyone’s doing it, it’s boring.