When pop/rock/hip-hop artist Kevin Rudolf visited Nashville to try his hand at writing a country song, he brought his new guilele.
Photo Credit: Marilu White
"It's a six-string ukulele tuned like a guitar, but it's tuned up to A," he told me. "When I first got it, it was just a fun tool to write on. Sometimes you pick up a new instrument and you get a fresh approach from it."
That fresh approach led to co-writing Keith Urban's No. 1 hit "Little Bit of Everything" with Brad and Brett Warren.
Rudolf said all he brought with him for his Nashville songwriting sessions last year was his guilele and an acoustic guitar. Well, the instruments and the song concept that sometimes you work towards something, and once it becomes a reality, you realize it wasn't what you really wanted.
"All you really wanted all along was just to be free and be happy and not let things weigh you down," he said.
As for the smoking and drinking part of the song's chorus, Rudolf said it wasn't really about smoking and drinking at all.
"It's really a metaphor that's saying, 'I want to do something that might be bad for me, but I only want to do it now and then. I want to do it like it was good for me,'" he said.
Rudolf and Urban exchanged emails while he was cutting the song, but the two didn't meet in person until they were at the recent No. 1 party in Nashville.
"It was a great welcome-to-Nashville experience. I mean, to go to Nashville and write two songs, and then one of them is a No. 1 record with Keith Urban? To really get into the Nashville scene under those circumstances was so great," he told me, describing Urban as a true gentleman and then asking me, "Is everyone like that there?"
Being in Nashville got Rudolf excited about music and songwriting in a new way.
"I hadn't felt that excited since I was a kid, in a way," he said. "Because in the urban world and the pop world, it's always about the song, of course, but I don't think there's that much appreciation for songwriters as there is in the country music world. It's a much warmer and welcoming world. In pop and urban, you lean on the track more. And there's a different sensibility lyrically. But in country, you can speak from the heart and have emotion and tell a story. You can really be about something. It's not just a bunch of catch phrases put together."
"When I hear Florida Georgia Line or Keith Urban, it sounds very much to me like feel-good music. And there's not a lot of feel-good stuff going on in other arenas," he added.
It must feel good because Rudolf is heading back to Nashville to write some more country tunes. And even though he has his own pop single "Here's to Us" premiering on Ryan Seacrest's radio show next week, and he told me his whole album is "pretty much done," he isn't going country himself.
"My next phase is tying in nicely with the Keith song, though, because my sound is a lot more organic and heartfelt than people know me as Cash Money and the guy with Lil' Wayne," he said. "That was part of my career, but it's not the whole picture. So I'm showing a different side of myself and evolving as an artist with this album."
He said he'd describe his new album in a pop/rock genre but that it also has "a little bit of country, a little bit of folk and a little bit of rock."
In other words, a little bit of everything.