Nearly three years after the amicable breakup of his former group Little Texas, vocalist Tim Rushlow has released his self-titled debut album as a solo artist. The first single, “She Misses Him,” was a Top 15 hit on Billboard’s country singles and tracks chart. The song’s subject, about a devoted wife caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s disease, has touched hearts across the nation. On his bus near Daytona Beach, Fla., Rushlow called country.com to answer questions submitted by country fans. He talked about Little Texas, about his new image and about a humorous song he threw into a set on the spur of the moment at a recent performance in Ventura, Calif.
1. So many great singers like yourself leave successful groups and start out on their own. I’ve often wondered just what makes them reach that decision?
For me and Little Texas, it was never a decision that I chose to make. We collectively decided to lay it down. We ended amicably and we are friends. The decision was mutual. I’m not the “singer that left the band.” We just decided, unless the six of us wanted to play music, we would no longer have a Little Texas, which was a very mature decision. It was sort of like we built this mountain called Little Texas and we were able to walk away from that mountain and leave it intact. Because of that, radio has been able to embrace those songs still. Listeners still call and request them. In all honesty, too, I have a much better shot at a solo career because there’s no dirt in the past. The band didn’t blow up.
2. Was this album hard to make without Little Texas, or did you find it a better experience being on your own?
Doing a record with Little Texas and doing a record on my own are two different animals. In Little Texas we played everything ourselves and we wrote everything ourselves. It was all done by us, and sometimes we weren’t as quick as studio musicians could be. So, it might have taken us longer. But I was very proud of everything we did in the band because we were self-contained, truly, in the studio and live.
Doing a record on my own was a very freeing experience because A) I took the time to write and find the right songs that I felt good about, B) I was able to use a dream team of musicians, and then C) I didn’t have to make my pistons fit the Little Texas machine. I was able to sort of let myself fly and be me totally instead of making my voice just an instrument that fit a group that was successful — which I had no problem with. It just was a lot less constricting.
3. What is the scariest thing about pursuing a solo career?
I choose to not have a lot of fear about it. That’s one of the reasons that it’s working. There’s a fine line between cocky and confident, and I don’t ever want to be cocky. Kick me if I am. I choose to be confident that it’s going to work and confident that I’m going to have fun doing it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it. So for me there really hasn’t been anything scary about it. I guess if I had to pick something to say, where I had to literally answer that, it would just be sink or swim, it’s your own rear end on the line.
4. What is the best thing about pursuing a solo career?
Again, I think it’s just having the freedom to be who you are as an artist and a person. Stand with that and be proud of that.
5. Your look has totally changed since going solo. Is that so you can distance yourself from being in a group?
No, not whatsoever. I think it’s just called evolving. Obviously, back in the group we had a sort of a different image than I have now. When I went home, when the group finally ended, the first thing I did was unpack my suitcase. It had never been unpacked. I really worked on my relationship with my wife and my daughter and becoming just a part of the house again, which was something I haven’t been doing consistently at all. At that point for me the look just became a part of what I wanted to do. I realized I wanted to make every angle of what I do 100 percent. So, I cut my hair, I lost some weight. In reality, I think that some of the image that I might have had in Little Texas was pretty dated, so I simply wanted to grow up a little bit and take my image to another place, not to distance myself from the band, because I’m proud of everything we did. I just wanted to become something more of what Tim is and not something that I was before.
6. Are you still friends with your former band members?
Yes. I talk to everybody in the group pretty frequently. Everybody’s doing well. They are pursuing what they want to do, which was writing songs or pursuing a business outside of music. I’ve talked to five of them in the last two weeks as a matter of fact.
7. Is anyone else from Little Texas going to venture out on their own in a music career? What are the other band members up to?
Probably, yes. They all love music as do I, and they all love to sing and write and do what they do. Our drummer, Del [Gray], is a great writer, and Porter Howell and Dwayne O’Brien are all writers. Duane Propes has been out on the road with Tim McGraw doing some work for Curb Records relations. Jeff Huskins has a personal fitness studio that he runs and it’s doing extremely well. Everybody is doing what they love to do. At any given time any of them could hop back in headfirst in the music industry. Whether they are now or not, they definitely have that possibility of doing that at any given time.
8. Do you think there will ever be a reunion of Little Texas?
I don’t see one. I’m not saying there probably couldn’t be one, but if there was one it would probably be in my garage [laughs]. That’s not out of the realm of possibility. The way I look at that is that we played our last show two and a half years ago. To me, that’s just not that long. I’ve taken this time off to regroup and really figure out how to cut the best record I’m capable of cutting on my own. So for me, I’m really looking forward to doing this project and being a solo artist for quite some time. I don’t see a reunion in the near future at all.
9. We are a nursing class studying geriatrics. I thought “She Misses Him” would be an extremely appropriate song to use for a demonstration. Where did the song originate and does it have any personal significance for you?
It didn’t have any personal significance to me other than the fact that it really touched me. Until I recorded it and heard it on the radio, I started to get e-mails, cards and letters and phone calls from people. Then it started to do something to me personally. The song was written by Tim Johnson. He watched the relationship between his wife’s grandparents and wrote the song off of that and the unconditional love affair he saw, which is a real beautiful story. When it’s ’for better or for worse’ and worse rolls around, it’s pretty beautiful to see what someone who loves you will do for you. I think that’s really where he wrote the song from, and I just tried to give the song the dignity and emotion that it needed to live, and basically stay out of its way. I’m very proud of the song, and I definitely think it would be a great song for anybody that’s a caregiver.
10. We love “She Misses Him,” but why was the video changed from using the Reagans? It meant a lot when they were on the video because they are people we can relate to and know it’s a true story for them.
I think that Ronald Reagan became one of the faces for Alzheimer’s because he obviously is one of the most famous patients that was willing to be heroic enough to come forward and tell what he had. Of course when we first heard it, that was what we thought of. We contacted the Reagans and we got a green light from them to explore shooting a video using footage from them. We shot the video using footage that we’d acquired from the Smithsonian and the Ronald Reagan Library. We finished the video and submitted it to CMT at the same time we submitted it to the Reagan family. Six days after it had started to air, the Reagans’ chief of staff sent a letter to Atlantic Records and to me. It was very nice. It said, ’the President and Mrs. Reagan are very honored by your tribute and they are enjoying listening to the song very much; however at this time, realizing that this footage, for the video is public domain footage, they respectfully request that you change the video without their likeness. So, what this really boils down to is that when it’s public domain footage somebody could take that footage off of the video that we have and throw it on a Web site and it would be legal. They really didn’t want that, nor would we. We did the video in the first place out of honor and respect for them, and in honor and respect for them, we pulled the video and re-shot it using a couple in Nashville instead. I really think that makes it more poignant. I didn’t think it would at first, but after I saw the video finished the second time, I realized that it was much more relatable to people because you can picture anybody in your family there instead of it just being the Reagans.
11. You wrote “The Package.” Does that song have any special meaning in your life or for any member of your family? Was it based on personal experience?
“The Package” is a song that I really consider a divine gift. When I wrote “The Package” I literally woke up at two o’clock in the morning. I went downstairs and made a pot of coffee and really felt like I got woke up to write this song. There’s all kinds of tidbits that came from different things in my life. I guess the theme of the song being that you have a gentleman that couldn’t be at home for a lot of key events in this family’s life, I surely could relate to that, having been on the road with Little Texas a lot. But, I really wanted to write a song that spanned a 50-year marriage that could showcase how everybody’s got a different way of saying ’I love you.’ Some guys don’t say ’I love you.’ They just take care of their family in other ways. So, this guy would let his wife know by sending her something in the mail. There’s a lot of key things in the song that are personal. It’s not really a story that I’ve been through. I just simply kind of got creative and really felt like I got woke up and got together with God and wrote a song.
12. In the credits on the CD jacket, you say “Special thanks to J. Walter Thompson and Ford Motor Company.” Why is that, and what did they do to help you along the way?
J. Walter Thompson is the ad agency that works for Ford Motor Company and handles all of their advertising. They called me up a couple of years ago and hunted me down and asked me to do some radio and TV spots for Ford in a five-state area, which I did. They loved it. As of right now, we’re working on some national stuff for Ford for me to possibly be a national spokesman for them in some form. They’ve been very good and very helpful and encouraging on my solo project, but also for me as an artist and my image, in ways that I may be able to help Ford and they may be able to help me. They’re a wonderful, huge corporation that’s embraced me as an artist, and that’s why they got a ’thank you’ on the record.
13. Who are you going to tour with this coming year?
I’m going to be going out with Metallica and Megadeth [laughs]. I’m not sure. I’m in a unique position because I was in a group and I’m a singer who has a greatest hits arsenal in his background. But yet, I’m a new artist. So, it’s kind of a weird place. I’m definitely a solo artist who is doing his own thing, and most solo artists in my position, they’ve got their one hit. The one hit is doing well and that’s what they do. But, I’ve got this Greatest Hits package behind me and I’ve got a great band picked out. We’ve got a really lethal show. It’s a lot of fun. We can’t just go out and open for anybody. It’s a unique situation. So, I’m not really sure what we’re going to do. My agency, all the way over to Atlantic Records, everybody, is kind of sitting back and we’re waiting. I will start working, officially touring at the end of April or May. We’ll be hitting the road pretty hard. Most of what I’m doing now are some radio shows. I’m doing listener appreciation shows for radio stations. That’s a lot of fun, too. Those are warm-up shows for when we officially start touring. I will be out there. As for who … there’s a couple of things brewing, but I really can’t say anything about ’em yet.
14. We saw you in Ventura, Calif. Did you write the funny song you sang, “I Lobster and Never Flounder”? How did that song come to be performed by you?
I’m a big fan of funny songs. Pinkard and Bowden recorded “I Lobster and Never Flounder.” It’s just a great cute song that I had heard them do years ago. We used to listen to them a lot in Little Texas. I was there and the crowd was kind of funny and it was real intimate and it was just me and a guitar, so I thought well, I’m gonna go out on a limb and play something funny. I didn’t know if I could get through it because I hadn’t played it ever. So, I played it and the place just thought it was hilarious. They started asking me, ’Is it on your album?’ It probably should be after hearing the audience laugh like that.
15. Who influenced you the most in music?
I’ve got a mosh-posh of people that have influenced me. My mother sings country and my dad sang rock ’n’ roll. They’d be first on the list. Behind that, my dad’s record collection, everything from Buck Owens to Buddy Holly would be a good start. I’m probably the only 33-year-old guy that listened to an eclectic group of oldies records early on … some country and some ’50s. Moving forward to when I was really influenced about what I ended up doing for a career, which I consider contemporary country music, my influences are exactly what I think I’m doing today: Gary Morris, Ronnie Milsap, Steve Wariner, Larry Gatlin. All of those artists were in their day, the contemporary country artists. They weren’t the hat-and-belt-buckle traditional artists. They were very contemporary. I think that I’m just doing a version of what they taught me when I was growing up.
16. When do you first remember singing in front of someone?
I’ve had drumsticks in my hands my whole life. I’ve always been playing. My grandmother’s garage was the central point where everything happened. We’ve always had music going on, so I don’t think there’s ever a time I remember playing in front of anybody for the first time because I think I’ve just always done it.
17. I understand that you worked in one of the shows at Six Flags Over Texas. What show were you in and what years did you work there? I’ve got a feeling my family saw you perform there.
I was at Six Flags Over Texas in 1984. I was a sophomore or junior in high school. I did a show at the Crazy Horse Saloon, it was a country show there. It was a lot of fun. It was called ’Gonna Have a Party’ or something like that. I learned a lot. Along the way in your career, you have different steps that you take. I call them stepping stones. Working at Six Flags was definitely one of them. You had to learn stamina because we did six or seven shows a day, six days a week, and it was a lot of work.
18. Where do you live?
I live in Nashville, Tenn. I’ve been in Nashville on and off since ’86.
19. Where is your favorite place to relax and get away from it all?
First place to relax, because I’ve been so busy right now, is on the couch with my wife [Mary Jane] on one side and my daughter [Bailey, 5] on the other snuggled up watching a movie. Second place would be camping with a nice cold-water stream close by for me to go out and fly fish and just hear nothing but what nature has for me to hear.
20. When will your fan club and web site be up and running?
Fan club is up and running through my Aunt Linda which you can reach either through the old Little Texas Web site or through the Tim Rushlow Web site that’s already up and running. The fan club is called the Rush Club [P.O. Box 1511, Southgate, MI 48195-9998] and you can find me through there, too.