With five albums and over a dozen top ten singles on Texas radio, singer-songwriter Rich O'Toole is gearing up for the release his of latest album, American Kid on March 17th. The new project finds O'Toole once again teaming up with Ilya Toshinsky for the ten track project which consists of nine originals and one cover ("God Save The King") that shine a light on carefree days, love, and heartbreak. O'Toole kindly called to talk about the album, what's ahead, and more.
You’ll be releasing your new album, American Kid, next month. This being your sixth album, did you do anything differently this time around?
I always try to get better with every record and I think this one, overall, has some of the best writing I’ve done. We recorded it in Nashville and mastered it in New York with Greg Calbi who did Springsteen’s Born To Run, John Mayer’s Continuum and so many other records we all know and love. Springsteen is my idol, so being able to work with Greg was a dream come true. I was a little nervous, but we met and hung out and he was just the greatest guy who has the greatest ear and really helped make the record sound great.
Why did you decide to title the album American Kid?
I like to have iconic titles that hit you in the chest when you read them. To me, American Kid, through its stories, represents what’s going on in America right now and using that as the title wrapped the whole album up for us.
The album begins with an introduction spoken by Bun B. For those who may not know, who is Bun B and why did you want him to open it up with the monologue?
A mentor and good friend of mine, Bun B, who was one-half of UGK and worked with Jay Z and Drake, is from Houston and is one of the foremost rappers in the world. I didn't think anyone ever had a rapper open a country record, so I asked him and he said yes. I thought it would be a great way to kick things off.
I think times are changing in music and I think the words he created and spoke in the introduction conveyed that. I wanted the album to be representative of all of Texas music and to show that Texas music is its own kind of art. Right now, we’re in the Texas/Red Dirt genre, but I think people, including us, are ready to venture out of that a little bit. No one asks Jimmy Buffet or Bruce Springsteen what type of music they play – they’re their own entity, their own artist, and that’s what I want to be. I want to get to a point where people hear a record and know that it’s a Rich O’Toole record - I know there’s a long way to go to becoming a songwriter who puts out a piece of art, but that’s what I’m aiming for.
I get that, you don’t want to be pigeonholed, you just want to be known and appreciated for making good music.
There are ten tracks on the album, nine originals. Did you have a hand in writing them all?
I did write them all either alone or with Evan Gamble, who co-wrote “Back to Back,” “American Kid,” The Hardest Part,” and “Heartbreak Is A Currency” with me. They’re all true stories based on my life, but we spiced them up a bit with characters so that the songs became more like a Quentin Tarantino film rather than just Rich O’Toole’s daily life.
Some of them are definitely filled with a bit of a darker flavor, but I wanted to ask the story behind either “The Hardest Part” or “Springsteen Gold.” Could you pick one and tell the story behind the song?
As I mentioned, Springsteen is my idol and "Springsteen Gold" is just about bringing back that sound. Country has gotten so Pop and Rock has gotten so hard, that there just aren’t those songs that exist, like Springsteen's or Mellencamp's, where no one is going to turn them off. I want to see songs like those come back and I want radio to play songs that they think are good, not because someone took them to dinner or convinced them to play it – but because they genuinely like it.
The album closes with my favorite track, “Take It From Here.” Why did you choose to end with that song?
Honestly, I think it’s the best song on the record. It’s a well put together, breath of fresh air song with that John Mayer drum roll and the harmonies of the choir out of San Antonio - who just sound so good. It’s a slow, savory song to close the record out on.
So, will you be playing around Texas to support the album?
We’ll be doing a lot of big shows including headlining Cowboy’s Dance Hall. We’ll also be headlining the main stage for the BBQ Cookoff in Houston, which when I was a kid was the place where I saw Robert Earl Keen and Pat Green play. So, having the opportunity to do that, well, if I were to retire today, I can say I hit my goal, I did it.
For tour dates and more information visit his official website
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Purchase American Kid here