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What drew you to the Music Industry?
As a kid working in cotton fields out in west Texas, the only entertainment we had to help pass the time was listening to the radio. I was also drawn to the radio whenever my family would go on long trips. While I was in high school, a friend invited me to go to a music festival, and when I did that was when I knew I wanted to play music for a living.
Who are you inspired by?
There are artists I have admired over the years. I have tried to emulate artists like Kenny Rogers, Waylon Jennings, George Strait, Don Williams, Garth Brooks, Dwight Yoakam, and many others.
Please explain your creative process.
When I write a song, it comes from a single idea that I think maybe worth something. I try to visualize the story that will go into my music. I also will get a feeling of how the melody would sound, which helps me in phrasing the lyrics. I never try to force the song, but let it develop over time. It usually takes a month for my music completion, and when I feel it, then I will play it for several people to see what their reaction is to it.
What’s an average day like for you?
When I am not working, I spend time thinking about music. I study other artists’ approach to a song, and also, study what I am doing with songs. I also spend time learning more about the music industry.
Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?
My music is pretty much upfront with no hidden meanings. I like music to be easily digestible so the listener can simply enjoy the song.
Do you collaborate with others? What is that process?
I have written songs with one other person. She would send me song ideas and I would take what she had and put a story to it as well the melody. We did this for several songs doing it over the telephone.
Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans.
I like to have fun with the audience. I may say something to get laughter or even set the tone for a sadder song. When off stage, I have found people really want to tell you their story, and so I listen to them. I think it is of the essence to connect with the audience. By doing this, I hope to be able to be a bright spot in their day.
What is your favorite part of this line of work? Your least favorite? Why?
My favorite part is just cutting loose on stage. Having nights where the sound is grooving, and the whole band is having fun, as well as the audience. What I don’t care for is when I have to deal with egos. I never feel I am any better than anybody else and don’t like it when I come across someone who thinks they are.
Have you ever dealt with performance anxiety?
I learned pretty quickly that to be on stage in front of a crowd of people takes being quick on your feet, including someone who is heckling you to equipment malfunctions. Sometimes there isn’t much you can do so, you have to do the best you can. I don’t ever get nervous when I am on stage.
Tell me about your favorite performance venues.
I traveled with a college band one year, and we played outdoor shows most of the time. It was the first band that I travel with, and I loved being in a different place each night. I have also performed at the state fair of Texas, and that was fun. Even if I played in a small bar or even in a church, I always seemed to have fun doing it.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I would say never give up and learn everything you can. Never find yourself at the point where you think you know everything. Keep pushing for the next goal in your career, and never stop believing that you can reach that goal.
When and why did you start playing?
I started playing when I went to college. There were classes offered to learn to play, sing, and perform. I jumped at the chance to do this.
Which instruments do you play?
I primarily play rhythm guitar but I have also played bass guitar.
What was the first tune(s) you learned?
The first song I learned was called wildwood flower by the Carter family. It was also the first song I played the lead. As far as playing rhythm guitar, I would have to say it was The Cowboy Rides Away by George Strait.
Is your family musical?
I do have a couple of cousins who play, but as far as an immediate family, they don’t play anything.
Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
Well, being from Texas, I would have to say, George Strait. I’m impressed with his smooth voice and the fact that he has been in the business for so long. I also appreciate the fact that if you see him live, he sounds just like he does on his recordings.
Which famous musicians have you learned from?
I study vocal styles from just about anyone I hear on the radio. I also take note of how artists perform live when I go to their concerts.
Who was your first teacher? Other teachers?
I had several teachers in college. Rusty Huddleson taught me voice. Joe Carr taught me the guitar, Tim McCasland taught me performance.
Describe your first instrument. Other instruments.
My first instrument was the clarinet. I played that for a couple of years in junior high and then after high school I learned guitar.
What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town?
I remember getting to play in small bars around the Lubbock area. I made a lot of good friends there. I also enjoyed getting to travel with bands seeing new places and meeting new people. Even when I played in cowboy churches I enjoyed traveling even though I did that by myself most of the time.
Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?
I love older country artists. I would sing along to Kenny Rogers, the oak ridge boys, Don Williams, Waylon Jennings, and so many others. I do think that they influenced the way I sing, play, and write.
Who are your favorite musicians? Groups? CDs?
George Strait, of course, Garth Brooks, Dwight Yoakam, Restless Heart, Charlie Pride, and so many others.
Have you been to competitions? Fleadh’s? Any prizes?
I competed in NACMAI for a couple of years, and I won co-songwriter of the year, male vocalist of the year, the album of the year, and entertainer of the year
Do you perform in public? Describe those occasions? Concerts, radio, TV?
I have done shows for a number of years. I have played in bars, weddings, churches, outdoor shows, and even a political rally. I have also performed on TV with a local college station.
Do you play for dances? Step-dancers? Describe the differences.
I have played for dances at certain events. Pretty much anywhere I play, the fans can dance, and that is why I tend to write and perform music people can dance.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
I have fun with it. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, then we are taking ourselves too seriously. Things happen sometimes, and we have to make the best of it. I remember one time I forgot the words to the second verse of a song which I had written. After I got back on track and finished the song, I encouraged the audience to buy one of my CDs and let me know what the second verse was! Lol.
Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition?
I don’t get nervous when I perform. I see it as this is my job, and I have been doing it for a long time. So, I am comfortable being on stage.
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
The thing I tell people is either you will control the stage, or the audience will control you. It is your choice on what happens. So, take control of the vibe. Be confident in what you are doing. Also, to have fun doing it because if you don’t have fun, then what is the point?
How often and for how long do you practice?
I tend to practice for at least 2 hours a day. If I am preparing to record in the studio, I will go longer. I like to sing a song and play it enough that it is ingrained in my mind.
What do you practice – exercises, new tunes, hard tunes, etc.?
I practice a lot on songs. I know a lot, but I do like to learn new songs as well. I especially like putting my music together and figuring out how it will play.
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Facts and information about Rusty’s music career and history coming soon…
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