Our conversation with Rusted Root front-man and founder Michael Glabicki

April 5, 2017

Photo Credit: John Collins

By Mark A. Leon

The core criteria for consideration into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio is 25 or more years of collective music collaboration, recording and touring.  It is a significant piece of criteria and one that most bands never achieve.  Rigorous tour schedules, personal creative conflict and life changes are among the many reasons that contribute to the obstacles a band must overcome to create music immortality.

In 1990, Michael Glabicki took his passion for music that started as early as age six, when he would hide under the dining room table listening to Cat Stevens Greatest Hits over and over, to form the globally known Rusted Root.  Twenty-seven years later, the band continues to tour, absorbing a new generation of fans and working on their first studio album since 2012.

In advance of their upcoming show at the Windjammer, we had a chance to talk to Michael about influences, fans and spirituality. (Ticket Information for April 7 Show)

Q&A with Michael Glabicki, singer, songwriter – Rusted Root

CD:  Over the years, your audience has evolved with your music, including a new younger generation.  Why do you feel a new genesis of fans is relating to your sound?

MG:  There are a few reasons.  First-of-all, kids today are treated like a commodity, with more commercialism with social media and digital sucking them in.  Our music brings out a real sense of community. A real sense of individualism and individual thought.  Kids are attracted to that.  Also, we have been in a lot of movies and television, getting into their brains early including features in ‘Ice Age’, ‘Chuck’ and ‘New Girl’.  The music is also featured in an Enterprise Rent-A-Car commercial campaign.

CD:  From your early days in Pittsburgh, who were some of your most prominent influences?

MG:  As a kid, I started listening to Cat Stevens when I was six or seven years old.  I sat underneath the dining room table and listened over and over to the best of.  I lived inside that world for a long time.  It had a very profound effect on me.  Later-on, I started moving into Beatles and Stones.  More classic rock type stuff.  Then I transitioned into heavy metal including Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath in high school.

Led Zeppelin was a big influence later-on in high school.  In college, I turned to bands like U2 and The Cure.  They helped me tell where I wanted to take my emotions.  College was short lived for me.  I only went for half a semester and then dropped out to write music.

After I completed my first song, something changed in my world.  It made me trust that there was something unique coming through me as an individual.  I tried early on not to sing or sound like anyone else.  I didn’t want any other influence in my songwriting.  Early on I thought my writing should be a form of meditation to come through me in a unique way.

CD:  Is there one song that you would call “Your Song” that has had the most meaning and transcended time?

MG:  Definitely, most of them do.  They continue to grow with my life and every night I find something new in the lyrics that has me re-thinking.  I can find new meaning in songs every night.  They are not timepieces. They have magical content in them and they keep releasing new meaning.   I almost wish I wrote down what I was thinking when I wrote all the songs over the years.

There is one song though; ‘Scattered’ that I think of when you say, “transcends time.”  I felt I wrote it before this life and passed it on to myself so I could share it in this lifetime.  I felt I used it ritualistically in a past life.  In a way, I wanted to write this and have my future self, share it.

CD:  Since you formed in 1990, the world has changed so much from Afghanistan to 9/11 to IPhone to the first African American president.  Do all these generational changes affect how and what you write about?

MG:  I separate myself from the events around me.  I separate from superficial events that seem big, but really aren’t.  I try to go to a deep sub-conscious and self-awareness.  I feel the event, but try and find a deeper meaning much further past the superficial facts of the media.

CD:  I saw you open for the Allman Brothers in 92’ or 93 at Waterloo Village in New Jersey.  Is there an artist or band you would want to collaborate with if you had the opportunity?

MG:  I am not sure if I would.  It is very iffy.  You think things will work out and they don’t.  It is a mysterious process.  If I wanted to give it a shot, artists like Neil Young and Arcade Fire come to mind.  I often forget about the newer bands I am into, but I am sure many would be great to work with.

These things happen magically.  People just fall into your world when the opportunity presents itself you take advantage of them.  If the circumstances were right and it came together for something amazing, I would be open to it.

CD:  Nature and its parallels to life are such a critical theme in your lyrics.  Can you talk a little bit more about that?

MG:  It makes sense for now.  When I talk about detaching and gettting to the deeper level of the collective, nature is a part of the whole process.  The unique embodiment of nature is profound in a real sense.  It is very necessary right now.  It is what I have chosen to communicate.  It has been there throughout thus far.

CD:  The song “Cruel Sun” – What does the sun represent (hatred, greed, violence, or something else)?

MG:  It can be oppressive as well as nurturing.  A life and society can be that way as well.  Even brutal at times.  Most of my songwriting doesn’t have a time-period or event attached to it.  I tap into a vein of songwriting.  A type of truth and magic where lyrics can create images in your head.

CD: “Send me On My Way” has been featured in 13 movies and shows and NASA used it for the Mars Exploration Rover in 2003.  Did you ever expect that kind of universal success for that song?

MG: I was very low key about it.  Many in my circle in Pittsburgh knew right away it would be a hit song.  Songs have a way of attracting people to them like magnets.  Whether it is the record label, promotions, radio, movie soundtracks or television, the avenue it finds the listener various, but when it does, it has a profound effect.

CD:  You are playing the Windjammer almost one year to the day you played in 2016, why is Charleston part of your tour schedule?

MG:  Charleston seems like a very musical audience that gets our music.  When we come there, it seems a little more, old school where people cut loose.  Also, being close to the water is good for us.  Being near the water makes me write better.  Being near water is pretty magical for us.

CD:  Any new studio albums on the horizon?

MG:  We are working on a new album right now.  We will be playing some new songs when we come there to play The Windjammer and hope the audience enjoys them.

CD:  Are there any religious or spiritual feelings that goes into the music development.  

MG:  No, but I get surprised as I get older when I look back and listen to old music and say Oh, maybe that did influence me.  I have my own practice and do meditation so the spiritual side of music is a significant influence on our sound.

Photo Credit: John Collins

As a journalist and a fan, I found myself at a crossroads maintaining my professional integrity during the interview process while still having the goosebumps and feeling like a teenager having a conversation with one of his favorite bands

Their music was part of one of my most profound life periods, my college experience.  Now 24 years since the last time I saw Rusted Root perform, I will be taken back to a special place when a lighter signaled an encore, the connection between the band and the fan had a connection that penetrated deeper than the music and lyrics and the sense of community between the band and the fans was stronger than concrete.

“Rusted Root” has created a sound that truly engulfs you with wisdom and hope.  It humanizes our journey through life and gives meaning in times of doubt.

We are excited to have the band come and share their music this Friday at the Windjammer on Isle of Palms.

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