It’s quite a while since I published my latest Spotlight interview episode with Carolyn Miller in mid-June 2020. The more I am happy to say that I am optimistic to present some artists in the near future again. The first one is Roderick August, who might be quite at the beginning of his career still, but is telling an interesting story of his artist life. Spontaneously deciding to go on tour in 2018, he already released his debut album Forever the Far the Closer the Near on 1st June 2020. The eleven acoustic songs are in the alt-country and folk area and tell about the American way of life. I really loved to have a look behind the scenes of this fascinating artist – hope you enjoy our chat as well.
Flyctory.com meets Roderick August
FLYC: When did you feel that you want to do professional music?
Roderick:The moment I knew I wanted more for myself was December 2017. I was working these dead end jobs in California, commuting from Oxnard to Los Angeles everyday. I was growing tired of long hours for little money and in the midst of that, the wildfires began. I remember not seeing sunlight for a week as smoke blocked out the light, it was apocalyptic. By the time the fires ended, so had my desire to stay. By new year, I was organizing a national tour which I planned to do alone that summer. I saw the fires as a sign that things needed a change.
FLYC: When did you start playing the guitar? Do you maybe even still remember your first concert?
Roderick:In high school I had a weekend gig catering at a country club in Oxnard, CA. I had some money saved and was preparing to buy my first car. It was a 1989 red Camaro that didn’t actually stop and what I mean is, the breaks didn’t work. As you probably guessed, I purchased a guitar instead. That’s really when I started writing my own songs and figuring the music thing out. It was also in high school that I began seeing more live shows. The first band I saw live was TV On The Radio at the Majestic Ventura Theatre and they were magnificent.
FLYC: You do very straight, handmade music. You typically do acoustic recordings, just your voice, the guitar, alt-country, folk style. How did you find out this is the genre you want to try out?
I think it was experience that decided my genre. Anytime you’re driving through America in a nonstop fashion, this usually leads one to some incredible country/folk songs. I remember hearing Blues Run the Game by Jackson C. Frank and just relating it, like really relating to it. Hearing the raw power a vocal, a guitar and ones own experiences could create just really changed things for me.
FLYC: Your press kit starts with the words “With a Mustang in the driveway, guitar in the trunk and a full tank of gas, Roderick August hit the I-40 East in 2018 out of California”. When you told your friends you are touring the US now, what was their reaction?
Roderick:I told one person what I had planned. Beside that, no one. I kept it a secret mainly because I didn’t want to add pressure on myself for things to work out. People who love you tend to worry in these sort of situations and it’s because of their love for me, that I knew they would understand why I had to leave. That one person I told was a little girl who loves guitar, shouting “Rock’n’Roll” at the top of her lungs and her uncle, of course. It was my niece, I didn’t want her of all people, to be confused about where I went, though I knew everyone else would understand. It was later told to me, this was the ultimate Irish goodbye.
FLYC: You so far played in over 40 states in the US. Was there maybe a show or a place on your route which impressed you most?
Roderick:That’s tough, I’ve had some great receptions in so many places but if we’re talking purely being impressed, listen to this. So they call New Mexico “The Land Of Enchantment”, I played a small town there called Tijeras, NM. The crowd was nothing short of spectacular and after that gig, I had a couple days to myself so I rented a cabin on this campground high up in the mountains. I wake up that morning, walk outside and my eyes seemed to be playing tricks on me. The air was full of color, it had a rainbow-like haze with a sort of glow to it. I found a park ranger, convinced my contact lenses we’re malfunctioning and asked her “Can you see the air right now? Do you see these colors I’m seeing?” I assumed she would ask what substances I was on although I was dead sober and she replied “Yeah that’s New Mexico, happens all the time.” Feeling completely satisfied with her answer I didn’t dare to ask anything further. I left New Mexico that morning in complete agreement full that this really is an enchanted land. Incredible.
FLYC: You state that the the album “is what American life sounds like”. Are there regions and areas which inspired you more than others?
Roderick:I have a real fascination with American deserts. They’re a little creepy and yet stunning in their own way. I’d play Flagstaff, AZ for example and drive 5 hours East through beautiful nothingness before arriving in Albuquerque, NM, I loved that! Fort Worth, TX is one of my favorite cities to play. Texas is known for being bigger than life and the love I got after playing was about as good as it gets! Love the Carolinas, too – they’re one of the most beautiful places in America as far as I’m concerned and the people just love a well written song so I hope they’ll continue to have me in the future.
FLYC: By streams, Run with the Horses is the most popular track of the album. So maybe let’s start there. What is the track about?
Roderick: Run With The Horses is a love letter of sorts to where I’m from, Ventura County, CA. It’s about feeling stuck in a beautiful place with no opportunity. It’s about being in a place that is so close to LA but it might as well be on another planet. It’s about wildfires that came through and temporarily destroyed the natural beauty that surrounded me for most my life. When the Thomas Fire settled, there were reports of neighbors horses being burned alive, left in their stables with nowhere to run. This left a mark on me, I often felt like a trapped animal with nowhere to run and fire coming in hot, all around you. Thomas Fire changed me, it changed the music. I’m oddly grateful for that.
FLYC: A very melodic song is More Easily. What did you write this one about?
Roderick:It’s about getting through the heavy times life throws on us. It’s about overcoming skeptics and doubt and where you may have come from. When you start from the bottom, there is often little or no room for mistakes and you only hope you hit your mark when the time comes. That’s the underdog energy I was feeling on this one. I’ma get there, I’ma find a better way no matter the odds, one day this whole life thing might be a little easier for everybody.
FLYC: A song which impressed me a lot is the title track, Forever the Far the Closer the Near. So what made you write this one?
Roderick:This is the oldest song on the record. I was visiting my moms place in California. She has this swimming pool in the backyard that’s been empty for as long as I could remember. I was out there with my guitar one day, feet hanging over the shallow end looking down at the emptiness and for reasons I don’t understand, I started thinking about past relationships and people I may not have appreciated as much as I should have. I had friends at the time who were having kids, unplanned in some cases. I was single at the time but I couldn’t help but think back to past loves and ask ‘what if she came to me and said, “I’m pregnant”. How would I respond? What sort of emotions would I feel? Would I be a good parent? Could we put our issues aside for something bigger than us? I still don’t have those answers but when I play this one live, I feel I’m getting closer.
FLYC: What is your favorite track on the whole album?
Roderick: Run With The Horses
FLYC: You are originally from Ventura, California. After touring the US, what does home mean for you? Is Ventura a place you love to be back at?
For some time now, home has been wherever my heart is. So as long as that was intact, I’ve been able to call some pretty strange places home but yes, Ventura County is special to me and always will be. It’s part beautiful, part disappointing. In my head it’s a California wonderland, I think of massive mountains that bend off into the horizon, I think of strawberry fields and the Pacific Ocean. But every time I’m back and driving around, it’s almost like a voice inside me, reminds me that this party has been over for a long time now. Yes, it’s gorgeous but unless you’re rich and retired, the kids there need more opportunity. Back then, starting a loud rock band was the most opportunity we could make for ourselves. And to that end, home was a magical place.
FLYC: Flyctory.com is also a travel blog. So, regardless if they are really touristic places, what are maybe the three spots in the US you would recommend an European to visit in the USA?
Roderick:Northern Arizona: So many places come to mind, first and foremost, this might not be what you expect Arizona to look like. The Northern half of the state is lush with forests and pines, snow capped mountains and breweries, lots of breweries. While in the area, you’ll also want to see Sedona course for those epic western landscapes. You’ll also want to see Flagstaff and Cottonwood, AZ. Two charming towns cut out from the mountains with nowhere to go but up!
On the east coast, visit North Carolina and drive the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll thank me later. Some of the most heavenly things I’ve seen were in those mountains going down into eastern Tennessee. If you don’t leave here a folk singer, you have taken a wrong turn.
FLYC: I guess Covid-19 hit you and reduced your potential for touring. Still, what are your plans for the near future?
Roderick: My plans right now are to keep sharing my debut album with more listeners around the globe and start being added by official Spotify Country and Folk playlists. Not being able to tour has been hard but I intend to come out of this stronger than before, with greater songs and meaning. I’ve also been enjoying working on an organic farm here in Tennessee. It’s good to make something grow against all odds, feels familiar to me I guess.
FLYC: I always finish my interviews with an “easier” question. If you could be the support act for one artist and could also chose the venue, who would that be and where would the concert take place?
Roderick:Gregory Alan Isokov Live at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN. Hi Sara!