Some artists just get it... They understand how important they are to the fans and how important the fans are to them. They understand it really is about the music and the connection people make to their music they make. They understand that feeling they had at one time when they connected to someone else's music. Rick Monroe is one of those artists. Whether he is emceeing and supporting national tours or grabbing an acoustic guitar and playing to a room full of fans - longtime fans and those that are about to be fans - he keeps it real... just as he did during a recent phone call.
Toddstar: I appreciate you taking time out for us, man. We're super excited to talk to you today.
Toddstar: You just came off an interesting tour. What can you tell us about that tour?
Rick: Let's see. Well, we went coast to coast. Kind of went everywhere. It was pretty amazing. It was cool for a lot of reasons. One, because Lee [Brice] is trying to do 50 states in 52 weeks, we got to pick up a lot of venues in states that you probably usually wouldn't do on a regular tour. You know you play everything from like a really big, nice civic center down to like a 400-600 cap room so they could get the state. That was really interesting. Then just that whole crew, there was so many different artists that came out on it. There was, I can't even describe, Canaan Smith, Granger Smith, American Young, Lewis Brice was out there, Josh Dorr. All these bands were coming out, so every day, I'd wake up and be like, "Who's going to be out here today?" That was great thing.
Toddstar: That's very cool. It's become an annual thing for you and you're synonymous with just being one of those road dogs. Is that something you kind of dig about your career or would you rather spend more time with the recording side of it? What's kind of your take on your favorite part?
Rick: It's kind of weird. Each one has its benefits to it. When you're on the road, you get to connect with people and that's a really good thing. You get to play. Really, at the end of the day, the only reason I do any of this is because I like to play music. I mean, all the other stuff is completely secondary to just getting to play. As long as I get to go play music, I'm happy. 15 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour - it doesn't really matter. That makes the day worthwhile. When you're recording and writing, the cool thing about that is you create something that can last and can be done over and over and over again. Those are the two differences in that.
Toddstar: The music world has evolved and changed so much. This isn't your first rodeo. You've been around a long time. What have you seen change that has been advantageous to you as an artist?
Rick: That's obviously the rise in social media over the last couple of years. It's actually probably been the last 5 years has really made a difference. It's been around, obviously, for a while, but really with the way you can socially connect and do things. It's amazing because now you can go play a show, have people take pictures, then they walk out to the merch table and you're talking to the same people that you've been talking to online for years. That's kind of a neat way to stay directly connected to people and develop friendships instead of just fans. That's something that if you nurture those relationships, I think you can create a long-term career. Again, if you just want to be famous, then none of it really matters. But if you want to be successful and stay in the business, I think that using those outlets properly will help you sustain that.
Toddstar: It's fun watching you on social media. Like you said, you do that interaction and you're totally all over it. I think it comes across, not only in your performance, but in the way you do the social media; you dig the people you're dealing with, whether it is the fans, the crew, and the other bands. You seem to just kind of dig who you're dealing with.
Rick: Well, I've been very fortunate. I've got to work with some great people. Somebody treats me well I'm always going to give them as much love as I possibly can because I think it's tough enough as is. There are enough naysayers and enough people who are going to knock you down and beat you up. Even the closest people to you will sometimes treat you very poorly. You just have to give love to get love, I guess.
Toddstar: You talk about social media and using it and being able to reach out to people. You released a cool video for “Great Minds Drink Alike” and that just has that whole social media connotation to it. Can you give us a little bit of background to that video itself?
Rick: The concept was just to try to get everybody that I could to send in a video clip of them saying, "Great minds drink alike." That's how it started. Then it just became people drinking and all kinds of crazy stuff. Then we decided we can make a full video out of this because one of my buddies, Don Jones, actually shot a bunch of stuff on his GoPro. We were all like, "Wow, this all syncs up and if we can put all this together, this is like a full video." It's all content brought in by other people. It wasn't like a production company that did it or anything. We just kind of had all these people send in footage. It's kind of a cool thing that it's due to social media because we put out the call and we get the clips in.
Toddstar: The fun part was a band that I dig, and you happen to be friends with, is in the opening of that. You can see Halestorm in there. What's it like for you? You're not a mainstream country artist. You've got that cool rock feel while staying into your country roots. But you get a band like Halestorm that's all over you and you're all over them. I love the cover that you just did of theirs. How is it you find that country and rock seems to be able to just crossover these days?
Rick: It's because, I think, it evolves. Because everybody as they were growing up, most of us that are now are doing country, as we were growing up the bands that we were listening to were like towards the tail end of all the rock stuff. You'd also be listening to Garth Brooks. You'd listen to a Judas Priest record and a Garth Brooks record. You know what I mean? Something weird like that. For some reason, they seem to go together in parties. Or AC/DC. Everybody I know is like AC/DC and Tim McGraw. You'd see that in people's playlists. That kind of thing, as it evolved, I think that as we grew up, we're kind of like, "All right, well, I'm not really this angry rocker guy, but this kind of country thing seems to fit." I think a lot of people evolved into that.
Toddstar: It makes sense, because you've got “Great Minds Drink Alike,” which is country, but it's also got that rock flavor to it. Then you flip over and you've got “Just the Same” in your repertoire, which is just a cool country ballad. Again, it just plays true to who you are.
Rick: Right. It's a weird thing, too. As we're looking forward to the next thing, it's kind of like you got to, I don't like to be Joe Marketer all the time, because you obviously have to work on the art of the music first. Then once it's done, then you have to figure out where to go. It is interesting to figure out what niche you're going to fit into and where you're going to excel as an artist. Coming to the end of the year, that becomes the big discussion of where do we go next year? What do we do next?
Toddstar: It goes back to the marketing. Some people see you on the country tours and things like that and yet you turn on That Metal Show and there's Rick Monroe.
Rick: Yeah, I've stumbled into some amazing things. This year's been extremely weird. I've done everything from That Metal Show to I've been involved with a bunch of digital transactions. I've got these guys that are in the forefront of mobile transactions and doing everything through phones. Some of the guys who created Bitcoin, but then some of the guys were going on to tokenization and all this crazy technology. Somehow I've ended up on a bunch of panels doing that. Now I'm getting written up in Yahoo Business and all these trades and trends and all this major digital tech stuff I have nothing to do with. I don't know about, but I've been on the panels. Yeah, I'm definitely an anomaly, I guess.
Toddstar: Let's go back to the touring end of this for a minute. Like you said, you've played civic centers and larger halls, and then you get the smaller places. When it comes down to it, do you have a preference?
Rick: I like places where people are smashed up against the stage. The closer they are the better. I like to be able to see people. I kind of hate it when you're playing one of these places that are just massive and you can see maybe 3 people in front of you. It's great; it's awesome if you can connect. You can always tell your lighting guy to light the crowd up as much as you can so I can see them. It all depends on energy, too. You could have a room of 400 people that are on fire and you could have a room of 40,000 people... once you get 40,000 people, they're on fire. But you get a room of 4,000 people that aren't. You know what I mean? I'd rather have the 400 people that are just ready to go. That's always fun. At the end of the day, again, it all comes down to getting to play. Whether it's 2 or 200,000, you do the same thing.
Toddstar: I don't know you knew or not, but another website this is going to run is The Machine Shop (http://www.themachineshop.info/).
Rick: Kevin? Kevin's place? Do they have their own website or is this a different shop, a different thing?
Toddstar: No, it's Kevin's place.
Rick: Yeah. I love that guy. Yeah, Minty actually came when we played Detroit. Brought me a new Machine Shop shirt because the one I have is okay, but it was a bigger one. I said, "Man, I need a smaller one. A little bit tighter. A little bit more rock and roll looking." They sent one down with Minty. Minty got some great pictures.
Toddstar: What's it about a place like the Machine Shop that just draws you in, Rick?
Rick: It's because it's a venue that understands music. It's a venue that understands if you're a touring artist and you're coming into this place, it's just like being at your local bar. It's like they're your friends already. They get that you're working, they get you're on the road, they make sure everything's as cool as can be. The crew works really hard. They're all excellent at what they do. It's just a good vibe and that's worth so much. Especially when you're on the road. You get into a place like that and we always call places like that a soft place to land. When you're in the hectic schedule and you can find that one place you can look on your schedule and be like, "Oh, I love this venue." It comes from the top down. That's the same thing with bands, crews, and everything else. You can always tell what the boss man's like by how everybody in his crew is. Kevin's obviously just an amazing guy because everyone in his crew is always super cool. That's the same thing with like Lee Brice. That tour was amazing, not just because of what we got to do, but because of the people I got to work with every day. Lee himself is an amazing guy and it just goes all the way down through everyone in his crew. Everyone to the very last one. They were all the best people I've ever worked with.
Toddstar: That's good to know. Again, you put out this cool video; you've got some great tunes out there and now you're working yourself into the financial world, as you let us know about. What's next for Rick Monroe? What's the next thing you want to achieve?
Rick: I just want to achieve some consistency. It seems like I've gotten 20 million things out and I want to try to get one solid one in the fire. Again, I don't know what that is. I don't know if it's my personality that I never feel like I achieve enough. I don't really know what the watermark for success or whatever is. I never seem to reach it, so I don't know. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing, but I constantly am driving for something. I don't know if that drives people around me crazy or not, but yeah, I guess I'm just going to keep pushing forward and try to find the next thing. Obviously, I want to keep going with the headway we have made with radio for the first time. Maybe keep pursuing that. Obviously, I need to get back out on the road, but on the road on my own. Not as an acoustic opener or opener for somebody, but actually get out and try to do some smaller venues just myself or just my band and try to develop that way. I think that's the one thing we haven't really developed that kind of a following. A lot of people know who I am, but not a lot of them get to come out to see me by myself.
Toddstar: If you look back over your career so far Rick, what are the couple things you're most proud of or that you want to be remembered for thus far?
Rick: Probably the first one is being able to work with charities. Honestly, to be able to get to a point where I can actually facilitate helping somebody else, more so than just myself. Really, the one thing about being successful is to be able to do that kind of thing. I guess that would probably be the first. The second one would be the fact that I've gotten to tour the world multiple times and with nothing but a guitar. That's kind of a cool thing. I have an idea in my head, I say it, I sing it, and it goes out. That's kind of cool, too. Gotten to get drunk with Gorbachev. That was interesting. Yeah, I've gotten to stumble into some pretty amazing things. I guess if I wrote a memoir, I would probably be fairly interesting if I could remember it all.
Toddstar: Like you said, you've done cool things. You were one of the first country guys to go play Russia and China. You do so much with charity. You're just the well-rounded real guy.
Rick: Make sure you quote that really big because some people don't believe that side of me. Well, thank you. I appreciate that. I try to be because at the end of the day, we don't cure cancer. I've had enough cancer in my family to know that music doesn't cure cancer. My brother just finished dealing with throat cancer. My mom's had breast cancer. My dad's had prostate. At the end of the day, if music were that important, then I guess I could see people having more of an attitude. But all I do is get up and try to get through every day like everyone else.
Toddstar: Again, I appreciate you taking time out. I know you're busy. I know you just got off the road. When can we expect to see-
Rick: Actually, right now I'm not busy. Actually, I'm done for a little bit. Actually, I'm busy doing busy work, I think I fell asleep last night at 9:00. I can't remember the last time I fell asleep that early. I fell asleep at like 9 and woke up at like 8. Then it was like all this frantic stuff going on. I had to deal with that, but I think that's like the first time I've slept that long. Probably all year.
Toddstar: Then enjoy your mini vacation, but when can we expect a possibly see you back up here in the Detroit area?
Rick: I don't know. I'm obviously talking to Kevin always about trying to get back to The Machine Shop. I know we have some stuff coming up the first of the year. I know we've got a couple shows, and then I'd have to look and see what the schedule is. I kind of haven't really looked at scheduling and that's something that starts probably later on this afternoon or tomorrow. I'm going to actually start really taking a hard look at what we're doing. They said we're going to kind of regroup for the year and look at what we've accomplished and try to gauge what the next step is. I guess one of the cool things is we've always been playing catch up. Because of the time of year, we kind of have breathing room that we don't have to be chasing something. Because of the holidays, no one's doing anything, so it gives you that opportunity to kind of stop everything and go, "Okay, well, where do we really want to go?" Instead of letting the career lead us, hopefully we can make some plans to do the best. Obviously, God laughs at any plans we make, but you still make them.
Toddstar: Sure. Again, man, I appreciate you taking time out for us. We wish you well on your little mini vacation from the business while you're lining everything up and we look forward to 2016 being bigger and better for Rick Monroe.
Rick: Thank you, Todd. I really appreciate it, man. Thank you so much.
Toddstar: All right, brother. We'll talk to you soon.
Rick: Talk to you later, man.
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