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It's been 15 years since Rod Picott laid down his work belt, picked up an acoustic guitar and put a permanent end to his gig as a sheet rock hanger. He'd been writing music in private for years, but it was 2001's Tiger Tom Dixon's Blues — a debut album that bridged the gap between between folk and Americana — that officially introduced him as a singer/songwriter, kick starting one of the more acclaimed careers in modern-day roots music. Since then, he's focused on a different kind of construction: building a catalog of songs that spin stories of hard work, heartache and the human condition.
On Fortune, he turns his focus inward, using himself — not the people around him — as the album's main character. It's his seventh solo release, written and recorded after years of heavy touring. Looking to make a record that could serve as a raw, authentic document of his live show, Picott recorded Fortune quickly, cutting six songs during his first day in the studio and finishing the entire album within a week and a half.
"I wanted to make a record where we captured performances, as opposed to imitating performances," says Picott, who grew up in rural New England before relocating to Nashville. "Technology makes it so easy to do an imitation of what your best performance would sound like, but that's not a real performance. That's just what you would want yourself to sound like. I didn't want to do that. For better or worse, Fortune is what I actually sound like."
Musicians like Slaid Cleaves, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Fred Eaglesmith would claim it's for the better. All three have recorded Picott's songs, showing their support for a self-sufficient songwriter who plays most of his shows alone, relying on his voice and acoustic guitar to pack a punch. Fortune gave him a chance to put together a small band, though, with Will Kimbrough (Steve Earle, Guy Clark) handling the electric guitar parts and producer Neilson Hubbard (The Apache Relay, Matthew Ryan) doubling as the group's drummer. With Lex Price joining in on bass, the group kept things as real and raw as possible. They just plugged in and played.
"A lot of these songs explore a sense of chance, of what might happen with your life,” Picott says. “Jeremiah” is the story of a soldier who doesn’t home from Iraq, “Uncle John” is a wry look at family dysfunction, and "Alicia" is a naked telling of a romantic break. The songs come from his life, and the details tell a vivid story. "There's a sense of luck, and how things might unfold for someone. I thought that calling it Fortune would put a positive spin on that idea of chance and circumstance. It helps wrap up the feeling that runs through the record."
Decades ago, during his sheet rock days, Picott promised himself that he wouldn't release an album until he figured out who he was as a writer. Having a good voice wasn't enough; he needed an opinion, a perspective, an ability to turn the world around him into music. With Fortune, he shines a light on himself, strips bare what he found rattling around in his heart and invites the listener to follow a deeper and more intimate journey.
Until I'm Satisfied [Picott/Cleaves] from Rod Picott's Fortune CD
Video by Stacie Huckeba
Year End Note:
2015 was a wonderful year for The Circus of Misery & Heartbreak. The never ending tour never ended but paused briefly for me to water the cactus. I had the good fortune of having a song placed in the final season of the FX series Justified and there were other highlights as well. The making and release of the new album Fortune was a cathartic and uplifting experience. I’ve never worked as hard to deliver an honest and raw piece of work as I did for this album. I continue to be grateful to Neilson Hubbard for his production and for how deep down into the well he was willing to go with me to make the album. I’m also enormously grateful to Lindsay Hayes for helping put the plan together for the release and to Maria Drummond who worked tirelessly to get Fortune noticed and reviewed. To see my name on Rolling Stone’s website was a genuine thrill. I might have danced a small jig awkward as it was [I was only wearing one boot one I saw the post]. There were sold out shows and sparsely attended shows as it is with a career in the margins but I’m grateful to be on the page at all. Buckets of thanks to my hard working agent Craig Grossman from Green Room Music Source for scratching together the not-so-small mountain of shows I played this year in the U.S. Thanks to Camilla Sorhus, The Grapevine Agency and Lucky Dice for the shows in Europe and to Stacie Huckeba for the beautiful ongoing video projects. There are many more people to thank but I dropped a hammer on my arm working on the house yesterday so I need to stop typing now. All I’ve learned in this world is this: Driving around playing songs for a living beats the shit out of hanging drywall. Don’t even argue with me about it.
Or listen to the birds sing
That’s all you get to choose from...
The new cd Fortune is now available...
“mesmerizing” - Rolling Stone.com
“songs like Raymond Carver short stories” - Houston Chronicle
“proves once again he’s a ringmaster at turning misery into art” - Boston Globe
“carefully crafted and vibrant” - American Songwriter
“perfectly crafted” - NewsHub
“it’s the songwriting that really makes the difference” - The Bluegrass Situation
“a truly great songwriter” - 3rd Coast Music
“poignant, blatantly honest and emotive” - The Boot
“seriously gifted” - No Depression
Year End Note- 2014 was a wonderful year for Rod Picott’s Circus of Misery and Heartbreak. Here are a fistful of highlights from the many…
Hang Your Hopes On A Crooked Nail reached #22 on the Americana Music Association Airplay Chart and nestled in the top 40 for 8 weeks making it one of the 100 most played albums of the year.
Novelist Nicholson Baker [Vox, The Anthologist, House Of Holes] sent an email and invited me to eat a sandwich with him sometime. This is the best email I’ve ever received.
The Broken Jukebox website named Hang Your Hopes On A Crooked Nail the #5 album of 2014.
In NYC I parked in an illegal spot for several hours while playing a show and didn’t get a ticket.
Australian DJ Colin Fielding named Hang Your Hopes On A Crooked Nail the #1 album of the year for his radio program “Far & Away”.
I played a house concert in the house where I grew up in South Berwick Maine. It was much better than the show I played to myself in the bedroom mirror when I was 13 pretending my tennis racket was a guitar. What a relief.
BBC Radio legend Bob Harris played “Milkweed” on his BBC Country program in October. Bob has one of the great radio voices ever and it’s a thrill to hear him say your name. He once hollered to me across the lobby of a hotel in Nashville and I thought either God or James Earl Jones was calling to me.
“Trouble Girl” from 2007’s Summerbirds cd was featured in the season ending episode of the television show Justified.
Now back to work…
"Accept Rod Picott for what he is; Americana of the highest order"
Julian Piper/ Acoustic Magazine
"Gems that finely balance despair, desire and optimism with dexterity"
Arthur Wood/Maverick Magazine
"Hangdog lyrics and deadpan delivery have the ability to strike a chord with anyone who has a heart."
Alison Stokes/Country Music People
"The world of Americana music has recognised that Rod is one of the finest singer-songwriters on the scene today. It really is about time that everybody else caught on to that fact."
The UK tour is booked and finalized. Looking forward to a trip across the deep blue with support guests Wild Ponies. Bringing a small but mighty three piece band we're calling Rod Picott & The Gun Shy Dogs. Netherlands, Germany and Norway dates as well. Check out one of the posters for the UK dates...
Take a look around. It's easy to navigate - simple as hammer and pretty as a cut nail. There are new tour dates added to the Tour page, new photos on the Photos page and after many requests over the last few years, there is finally a beautiful new Rod Picott's Circus of Misery and Heartbreak T-shirt available. The incredibly soft, high quality T-shirt comes in Guinness Brown and Lonely Blue and is only available right here...READ MORE