By Tim W. Jackson
Rod Picott is a writer. He has an excellent collection of short stories out now called Out Past the Wires. When you ask him what’s on his plate now he says, “I’ve got a second book of short stories that’s finished that’ll go to the editor this winter, the first draft of a novel, and I’ve got a screenplay that I’ve been playing with for a couple of years that I might start pitching around.” Oh, and he just happens to have his next album releasing July 19 on Welding Rod Records.
Picott falls into that line of musical artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan, for whom it’s the song that matters. It’s the message, the writing. That certainly is apparent on Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil.
At this point, it should be noted that there are a lot of different ways to record an album. Some take months to record with hundreds of overdubs, multiple musicians, and numerous layers of sound. Some albums are recorded by bands essentially live with a minimal number of overdubs. And then some are recorded in a living room by a guy with a guitar and some occasional harmonica using GarageBand. Picott’s new album falls into the latter category, and it’s a beautiful reminder of what pure, raw music should sound like.
The album begins with a song called “Ghost,” (an accompanying video can be seen on DittyTV) where Picott examines his own mortality and says he tries to ask himself some serious questions that he didn’t have answers to. With the sound of a thunderstorm beginning the track, Picott then goes on to examine life decisions and wrestle with demons. It’s that honesty that draws the listener in and keeps you engaged through 11 songs.
Even the album’s title speaks to honesty. Picott says he saw the old adage on an old hand-cut poster and it struck him that it would be perfect for the album. “The goal was to be as honest and raw and open as possible, so it just felt like that title spoke to a group of songs, overall, in a really nice way,” Picott said. “It’s kind of dramatic, too, and even the album cover, the artwork, it’s got a certain drama to it.”
The songwriting for the album came both before and after a health scare for Picott. Last winter a call from his doctor at night sent off major alarms. Years of back problems and the medication required to keep the pain in check had led to heart issues—dire heart issues. Much of the winter was spent trying to chase down the specific causes and then later the recovery. It gave Picott a lot of time to think. And those thoughts translated into songs.
Picott follows up “Ghost” with another honest and raw song, “Bailing,” which he calls a four-minute memoir. “Mark,” Picott says, looks at the shocking jolt into the world of adulthood when a high school friend committed suicide at age 17. Picott calls the album his most intimate yet, and the subject matter certainly proves that.
With the release of the new album this week, Picott hits the road again to promote it, something which he admits isn’t as easy as it used to be. He says that at around 100 shows, 2019 is a light year for him touring. Still, he admits to being “a bit of a workaholic,” so when he’s not touring or making records, he’s reading and, of course, writing.
“I’m just really grateful to be in the position that I’m in,” Picott says. “You always want more. That’s just part of the deal. You always want a bigger audience. You want that spot on the Jimmy Kimmel show or whatever. But I’m really grateful for what I’ve been given and, for the most part, I feel like I’m right where I should be.”