Folk artist and NH native Tom Rush lets his own songwriting do the talking on upcoming album, tour

Special to the Union Leader
November 29. 2017 12:41PM

In early days, Tom Rush, an American folk music artist and New Hampshire native, introduced the world to the songwriting of iconic storytelling musicians such as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne. But for Rush’s forthcoming “Voices” release, Rush has taken over songwriting duties, penning 10 of 12 tracks. 
If you go...
WHO: Tom Rush

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, 30 So. Main St., Plymouth

TICKETS: $29 to $39

INFO: 536-1551; flyingmonkeynh.com

With a historic 55 years in the music business already under his belt, it stands to reason that Tom Rush would be well past the point of celebrating any career firsts.

But with the upcoming release of “Voices,” the Portsmouth native will have done just that.

After spending much of his career recording and performing material from other writers, Rush is releasing an album flush with his own compositions.

“I’ve probably done more writing in the past two years than I’ve done in the past 20 (prior to that),” Rush said. “I’m really happy with this project. I don’t like listening to myself, and I’ve really enjoyed listening to this.”

Rush’s career has included more than 25 releases, but he said “Voices” is truly his first self-penned album, with 10 originals of the 12 songs.

“I can’t speak to the inspiration; the songs are all over the map,” he said. “There is some contemplative stuff, some rock ’n’ roll stuff. (The songs) just arrive and I just have to pay attention and let them arrive.”

Rush got his start during the folk music revival of the early 1960s, playing around Boston and Cambridge while a student at Harvard. But he’s better known for his impact on the singer-songwriter era of the 1970s.

Rush’s versions of songs by Jackson Browne and James Taylor on his 1970 self-titled album helped launch their careers as mainstream artists.

To record “Voices,” Rush returned to Nashville to work with longtime friend Jim Rooney, who produced Rush’s 2009 album “What I Know,” which marked a return to the studio after a decades-long respite.

“We recorded with his session players, ‘Rooney’s Irregulars,’” Rush said. “They are some of the best players on the planet. They’ve got this Nashville telepathy. Everyone knows what everyone is going to play before they do it.”

In producing the album, Rush embraced a tactic favored by a number of new and independent artists — crowdfunding. Using PledgeMusic, Rush raised 142 percent of his fundraising goal, allowing for both a vinyl and CD release.

“The folks have been very supportive,” he said. “I’m blessed in that I have long-term fans that have been very supportive of my work and want to hear my music.”

He expects the CD to be released late this year with the vinyl-pressing forcing that release into early 2018. He is also planning an accompanying booklet for download to allow for a larger format print.

Rush said the role of the songwriter hasn’t changed over the past 50 years, but perhaps the music’s mood changes to reflect the country’s collective disposition.

“I think it’s interesting,” he said. “I think the music is starting to get more combative. Not this project — I’ve never been a protest singer — but I think it’s refreshing and overdue.”

Rush said it’s a treat to be able to play in his home state — and so close to his current home — Rush presently lives just over of the border in Maine.

“The travel is more and more onerous as I get older,” he said. “It’s either a flight a day or a 4- to 5-hour drive plus sound check. It’s a lot like work. The time I get to spend on stage, I really do love that part of it.”

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