Posted On 18 Oct 2018
On September 21st, Rick Monroe, the seven-time Jägermeister Country Brand Ambassador, released his album, “Smoke Out the Window,“ via Thermal Entertainment.
From the raw grit of the opening track “Good as Gone” to the honky-tonk twang of “Truth in the Story” to the soulful testifying of “Rage On” to the sensitive revelations of “October,” Smoke Out the Window signals a powerful new direction for a man who has an unbridled passion for performing in front of audiences all across the globe. In fact, in 2017 alone, vocalist/guitarist Monroe and his ace touring band logged over 120,000 miles and performed more than 170 shows as a result — proof that they’re all serious road dogs to the very core. “Honestly, everything we put into the making of this album has been gauged around what we do in our live show,” Monroe admits. “The truth is, this record was developed because of our live show.”
At the heart of it, these 11 tracks of Smoke are the literal extension of Monroe’s stage presence, now properly unleashed in the studio environment, with the resulting music having forged a category all its own. “I know we’re not up-the-gut mainstream country by any means — and I don’t even know what mainstream country even is anymore,” Monroe confesses. “I also know we’re not super-heavy rock either, so I’d like to call what we do blue-jean country rock. Fashions come and go, but blue jeans are a timeless statement that never fades — and that’s what I want my music to be.”
Monroe’s ultimate goal is to be recognized as a multi-faceted performer whose very name defines who he is as an artist. “No doubt about it, that’s the hardest level to get to,” he acknowledges. “Some people find that early in their careers, but I just needed a little more time to find out who I am as an artist. When you grow up with so many musical influences like I did, you kinda think you can do a little bit of everything. I probably chased more directions than I needed to. But with this record, we all finally honed in on, ‘This is you. This is what you do, and this is what you thrive at doing. Stick to this.’ And that’s a healthy thing to finally be able to realize, because now I can focus on doing the best of what I do.”
Connect With Rick Monrow Here:
Learn more about Rick Monroe in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you now? Is there music playing in the background?
Well, right now I’m on the road and as far as the music we are listening to it’s White Zombie. I know, not your usual country fair but it is really early in the morning and we’ve been on the road for about 10 hours.
Now that we are on the back end of the year, how do you think 2018 has treated you and your career? What has been one goal that you have had this year and how close are you to reaching it? Or did you already reach it?
This year was a great year. We really needed to find out what our sound was and with “Smoke Out The Window “ I think we found it. With us really focusing on that we were able to make an album that I feel is the best one I’ve ever made. Plus we got to do a lot of shows which helps a lot for solid and consistent musical growth.
The biggest goal was to come up with something that was more reflective of our live sound and yeah I really believe that we nailed it this time.
Growing up, was music always a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience? Can you see yourself ever doing anything else?
Growing up no one in my family really played music but they’re all big music fans with very diverse tastes. My first recollection of music was of my mom breaking to the beat of her favorite song and I think that’s why I started out on drums until I realized it was too much gear to carry. At this point I can’t see myself doing anything outside of music but I have learned a lot of marketing skills so you never know.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
As far as the biggest surprise, I’m constantly surprised by so many different things, especially the randomness of the music business. Something you think would be a sure fire hit misses completely. Where as something that you didn’t even expect comes out of nowhere and explodes. You just have no idea, there’s no real rhyme or reason
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live today?
Since I’ve moved around so much I have no “hometown.” I was born in Clearwater, FL, lived in England, Connecticut, Kansas, North Carolina, California, back to Florida, and now Nashville. I’m influenced by everything around me, everything I see and everything I hear. It’s like I always say “LIFE is my number one influence.”
How does your forthcoming album, “Smoke Out The Window” show your overall growth as an artist? How does it show what you have continued to maintain through the years?
I have to say that “Smoke Out The Window” is the culmination of several years of really heavy touring and concerted effort to focus on and to define my sound. We tried to hone in on what seemed to work at our live shows and capture that in the studio. Until now that aspect of raw honesty wasn’t quite getting there in my last recordings. Not until we sat down with my touring band all in one room doing what comes natural.
How did you approach the making of “Smoke Out The Window”? Did you go into the studio with a definite plan unlike your previous collections?
We initially went in only to demo a couple songs because I liked the way “Rage On” turned out and I wanted to go back and work with that same producer to see if some of the newer stuff would work. A lot of the songs are songs we’ve been playing live that have never been recorded and we figured it was time to get them down. We kept working and putting new songs in until we finally ended up with 11 songs. I know I use the word organic quite a bit but it’s exactly what it was. It was an organic experience of just going in and making music. We stayed out of our own way and just let it happen.
“Good As Gone” was the first track to be cut. That was one that I had a riff that I kept trying to find someone to write it with and finally Matt Willis and I were writing another song and at the end of the session I played him the riff and he was like “I’ve got the hook” for that. That one came along as an afterthought and it’s one of my favorites.
Can you pick out of a few of your favorites songs on this new album and talk about the inspiration behind them? How did they get to a part of this album?
“October” is an extremely personal song but that one would take a whole lot of time to get into – just know that one means a lot to me. Obviously as a songwriter, songs become like your children so you love them all even with their little bumps, bruises and disfigurements.
The last song that we wrote was “Truth to the Story.” This song came about because JD Shuff, the producer, was pushing us to do one more new song. He had a drum groove, I had a riff that just matched it. So, with the help of Sam Persons we wrote the song in the studio and I knocked it out that day and now it’s on the record.
So what does it mean to be a seven-time Jagermeister Brand Ambassador? How did this first happen?
The whole Jager thing came about because I pushed them into doing country music and in return I got to be kind of the face for Jager Country. I did all the tours with Lee Brice, Dierks Bentley, Aaron Lewis, Eric Church, Pat Green, Eli Young Band and Randy Houser. I really loved my time with them but now I’m with Monster Energy drink and I couldn’t be any happier. They are a great, forward thinking company that understands music and the needs of the artists they sponsor.
Why do you think that Thermal Entertainment is the right place for you and your music today?
I believe the guys from Thermal Entertainment understand the new landscape of the music industry. With this record not really being “mainstream” and a little more “out there”, I think working with a company that works with predominately Active Rock / Rock acts might be more beneficial for us to pioneer our own direction.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period or is your music more of an escape from all that?
Politics, yeah I’m a musician, I don’t talk about that. I feel it’s more my job to help people escape some of the craziness instead of just reminding them of it or grinding them down about it. I don’t think I need to push my personal view or opinion on people just because I have a platform. I believe God will sort it all out.
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now?
Social media is amazing and the best way to stay directly connected with the people that you’re making music for. It gives me the opportunity to interact with my fans on a regular basis and makes it more personal.
My favorite social media platform kind of changes day by day, Man – depends on what you’re trying to promote.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
My favorite artist is a really difficult one because I have such a diverse taste in music. I love everything from A-to-Z. I’ll listen to Avril Lavigne, ZZ Top, Blackberry Smoke to Vern Gosdin, Vivaldi to Slipknot, Garth Brooks to the Foo Fighters. Yeah, I know I look like Dave Grohl. There’s so much music out there, there are so many different great artist, people that have never even been on the radio. So the short answer is I love MUSIC.
It depends on the project, but there are a lot of people I’d love to work with like a duet with Izzy Hale or a real good honky-tonker with Garth Brooks.
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island forever, what musical item would you take with you and why?
Yeah, I’ll take a Framus Guitar and about eight cases of ghs strings. That way I can keep playing music no matter what happens.
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
I think “Good As Gone” or “This Side Of The Dirt” would be great for any high energy sport… an ESPN break, NASCAR of course, the Lucas Oil Dirt Track or even the Monster Jam. I think “Tempt Me” would be great on a Lifetime movie, my wife would love that. Hopefully they will all become the soundtrack to several peoples lives.
Do you have any tour dates you would like to tell our readers about? What has been a favorite performance of yours? What do you think makes an idea show for you? What’s next on your musical agenda?
We’re basically on tour all the time. We are out almost every weekend so just check out our tour schedule on RickMonroe.com
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? I’d like to know more about how you want your music to be timeless?
As far as being timeless, we tried to create a record that wasn’t chasing any kind of trends or fads. We kept it to basic instrumentation, real musicians and left the mistakes (aka the happy accidents) happen. I think of it as the Blue Jeans of music. Trends will come and go, fashions will change, but jeans will always be there. In a world where everything is very disposable we tried to create something that had a little more substance to it. You know the candy at the checkout is great but it’s not gonna keep you full for long. Hopefully we created something that is more of a hearty meal for the soul. My biggest hope is that people enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.
(all photography provided by Thermal Entertainment)