This weeks Q&A – Electric Mary’s Rusty – This guy represents the demographic that wouldn’t normally answer these types of questions. Forever grateful for his wisdom and brutal honesty over the years.
In an industry where expression collides with business, how do you keep the passion to play/write music alive?
To be honest, I think my inner child keeps the music alive for me. I still shed a tear or have the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I hear something new and inspiring or something I see live that I know and love. My love of playing live is a huge part of who I am.
Have you ever come close to leaving music? If so, what prompted it and what inspired you to stay?
From an early age I’ve wanted to travel the world playing my music. It was my dream and it was strong, but honestly I didn’t know how to go about it. There are times where things simply aren’t in your control, which can be devastating for a musician because their existence relies on being in control of what they do.
Later on two people came into my life that believed in me, Jack Jones (Irwin Thomas) and Little Steven (Bruce Springsteen). Cutting a long story short, Little Steven introduced me to Bruce (the boss) as a great songwriter (whether I am is to be debated), but when I woke up the next morning I said to myself, ‘Rusty you are now in the game’ – it was a great step forward for me.
How do you stay true to your vision, in an industry that is filled with opinion?
This band was created with a different motive – I wanted to have a band that had fun, and did what they wanted to do with no restrictions, and that has been the greatest thing I could ever have done. I’ve had more fun in this band in the last 14 years than I have ever I had, and I am now 56 years of age.
What does the day of a gig right up until stepping on stage look like?
On the road we get up at around 9am get ourselves to the van by 10am and head to the nearest roadhouse for a good breakfast.
We do our drive with a couple of food and toilet stops… Sound check is first cab off the rank and we set up merch… We find our hotel and some members have dinner, but I rarely do… We shower and get ourselves ready and get to gig around an hour and a half before show time… We get a feel for the place and watch some of the support band.
I like to stay in the band room and not go outside where possible… I believe you lose the mystique if you wander around the venue where everyone can see you. Showtime is our time – 22 hours getting set up for the 2 hours we prove that rock music is well and truly alive.
What tips do you have in balancing family with music life?
Find a good partner – music is not an easy game so your partner needs to be strong and understand that they will never fully understand the hold music has on you.
What do you do to stay physically and mentally balanced? (on and off the road if you are a touring artist)
I feel totally balanced when I am on the road… I watch what I eat, I make sure I sleep for at least seven hours… Periodically I hum and trill from the moment I wake up until the time I go on stage. When I’m off the road I am the laziest bastard going around – I need to get that balance right.
How do you carry out the roles of a performing artist/writer during times when you’re feeling sub-par? Be it unwell or emotionally unstable.
I’ve never been a writer that sits down everyday to write, I only write when I feel the urge. I usually write quite a lot of little things at once and then look them up again when I know it’s time to put songs together – I rarely write a song on the spot.
Over the last ten years I’ve gone somewhere away from everyone for a few days and put all my ideas together. In 2016, I went away for two days and came home with 14 songs. I had accumulated a lot of bits and I put them together into a cohesive form, it was a great couple of days for me… I have never done that before, it’s usually around five or six songs at a time.
What epiphany(s) has altered your approach to music/life?
It was not an epiphany it was Little Steven, his words set it all off for me.
Have you ever experienced anxiety/depression/nervousness around a tour? If so, what are (were) the triggers and how do (did) you manage it?
I suffer from slight depression now so I live with it on a day-to-day basis. I take tablets and manage what my intake of agitation will be from day-to-day. If I don’t like something I either confront it or walk away from it. I used to take every word from others and analyse it, scrutinise it, and devour it to my own detriment.
Can you trace your current successes back to any big risks or leaps? If so, what were they?
It’s simple for me now… I make myself happy… I want people to like our music but if they don’t I don’t care… I believe as long as I love it, the rest will follow. In saying that, I am very hard on myself… I have a rule when writing: [I ask myself], ‘would I sing that in ten years?’, if I have any doubts it doesn’t make the cut.
Help those who are falling and relay an experience you’ve had that landed you flat on your face.
That’s a hard one… I think it’s a cruel world now, and if we chose [music], our existence is there to be scrutinized day in day and day out. Facebook has a lot to answer for… if I weren’t in a band I wouldn’t have a Facebook… It can be a world wide jury on your life if you let it be.
When we had a bust up in the band and a member left and decided he would air his dirty laundry on social media, I took it hard and it changed me forever – I can never and will never forget that. I went to the doctors and spoke about it, it was a great help for me.
You must talk to someone it is very important… Don’t be scared of feeling down… Keep talking over any little guy on your shoulder telling you different… Talk to everyone about it, some won’t know what to say and some will help you greatly… Feeling down is nothing to be embarrassed about.
What is your philosophy on fear? How do you deal with it?
In terms of music, I have no fear. I believe in what I do and I am happy to be judged. I know not everyone will like our music or my singing, so I continue to move forward each day.
If you were to wave a magic wand, how would you like to spend your time in the future?
Skinnier, with a few more zero’s in my bank balance, living in New York and doing exactly what I do now.
Are there any other wisdoms you’d like to share
If it’s good enough for John Lennon, It’s good enough for us