The rising Americana songwriter and Cherry Creek resident jokes that he knew he’d made the big time when Odyssey Beerwerks of Arvada agreed to name an ale, Already Yours IPA, after one of his new tunes.
Rouch and his group celebrated the release of the single, “Already Yours,” and the brew with a party at Odyssey on August 4.
“It’s pretty cool,” says Rouch, 33, who moved to the Mile High City from Virginia in 2015. “It was a shot in the dark, but they agreed to do it. It’s yet another reason I love this place, and I love working with people here.
They’re way less stressed. It’s probably because the sun shines almost every day. My blood pressure has come down quite a bit since moving to Denver. People are more relaxed and friendly. You can’t beat it.”
Although he says his music career has been a slow if steady grind, Rouch, who holds an undergraduate degree in geography with a minor in English lit from Virginia Tech and a master’s in environmental science from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, says he couldn’t be happier.
“I grew up outside D.C. and moved to Denver a few years back,” Rouch relates. “Pretty much everyone in our band is a transplant. We all live around the Cherry Creek and Wash Park area. I work for the BLM as a contractor, and we have nine-to-five jobs, but we like to gig a lot, and we try to get out and play all over the state of Colorado as much as possible on the weekends. Denver feels like a bigger version of Richmond to me. It’s a bigger city, but it still has that small-town feel. I lived in D.C. for a while and spent time in some big East Coast cities, but I love the smaller-town vibe, with the old houses and old neighborhoods.”
Like many Mile High residents, Rouch and his musical posse wrestled with their housing situations while attempting to carve out their dreams — and the name of their band is a nod to their early days of rehearsing.
“I started as a solo artist using just my name, but when I began putting a group together, we added the ‘Noise Upstairs’ part of it,” says Rouch. “We used to practice in my girlfriend’s living room. She had a one-bedroom apartment, which to us was like a mansion at the time. We’d set up in her living room and play. When we’d go outside to smoke occasionally in the middle of the apartment complex, people would sometimes comment to us about the noise going on upstairs. Sometimes they had good things to say, and sometimes not.”
These days, Rouch and his girlfriend live together in a slightly more spacious setup, and audiences appear to thoroughly enjoy the sound produced by his band, which performs locally at venues including the Gothic Theatre and Levitt Pavilion. The group’s music falls between country and folk, with Rouch taking some of his inspiration from contemporary artists such as Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton.
“Some people say they hate country,” Rouch says, “but we try to stay away from mainstream country. My influences also include older artists like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. I tell them to give us a chance and see if we can convert them. It’s not super in-vogue to be in a country band, and we’re not an EDM group or an electronic band, so it can be a bit of a harder sell given current trends. But we just like good music.”
Rouch also cites classic literature as a force that helped shape his tunesmithing, naming writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and the Beats. In a nod to Fitzgerald’s book about the decadent swirl of the Jazz Age in the 1920s, Rouch’s first album, released under his own name in 2016, was titled The Beautiful and the Damned.
“I got an English minor when I was an undergrad,” he explains. “I read a lot of books for inspiration. I enjoy good writing. It’s a passion of mine — I like a good storyteller. A lot of songwriters are inspired by literature. I’m not the best guitar player in the world or the best singer, but I figure if I can write good songs that tell good tales, then hopefully I’ll have some successes.”
Rouch and the Noise Upstairs will drop their new EP, Half-Expected Heartbreak, produced by Denver’s Joe Richmond, on August 25 at Lost Lake Lounge, during a party that will also include performances by the Dollhouse Thieves and songwriter Ian Mahan.
“I was lucky enough to get hooked up in the studio with Joe [Richmond], who has produced projects for some excellent local artists, including Brent Cowles and Wildermiss,” Rouch says. “It’s been a great experience. He said, ‘I don’t know anything about country music or folk, but I’m willing to work with you.’ So we’re having a bit of traction now, which is great. It’s nice to be counted among a few of the more successful local artists.”
Matt Rouch and the Noise Upstairs album release, 8 p.m. Saturday, August 25, Lost Lake Lounge, 3602 East Colfax Avenue, $12-$15.