Rusted Root has always seemed like what it would be like if your hippie neighbor's campfire drum circle got a record deal and made it kind of big: they have always had a kind of amorphous lineup, the overall sound is jammy and loose, and the songs have always made it feel like the journey was more important than the final destination.
Started by Michael Glabicki nearly a quarter century ago, Rusted Root has remained more or less on the periphery of mainstream success. But as far as Glabicki has always been concerned, radio play is built largely upon a feeling of familiarity, and that's never been his bag.
“I grew up listening to Cat Stevens and ‘70s music from when I was six, and I was really inspired by U2 and Peter Gabriel for a while,” he explained in a phone interview. “When I would sit down and write and start to like it because it sounded like something I knew, I would immediately throw that piece of music or lyric away, just because I wanted to come up with something really unique. The music at times isn’t very complex at all. Sometimes there’s a lot of work put into it, but at every moment I’ve always felt that 'This is really ‘me’. This is unique and something that’s beyond my musical learning'.”
The one exception to Rusted Root's career came early, with the 1996 single “Send Me on My Way.” The song was all over the radio when it was released, and went on to be featured in over a dozen television shows, commericals and feature films, including “Ice Age.” It's a song that's nearly antithetical to the rest of the band's output, and yet the fact that it endures—especially in children's movies—has kept Rusted Root on the road and performing for fresh, young audiences.
“There are some songs that have this kind of light, and “Send Me On My Way” has that particular energy,” Galbicki said.”It’s fun; it’s giggly and creates an experience that separates it.”
“Playing it out live for the first time, we realized that was going to be our “pop song” and I was like, “Okay, whatever.” It already was fun for me and I didn’t mean it to be anything more. That song had its own destiny, I guess. It’s gotten so big that I don’t even control it anymore. I’m sort of just a witness to it. I really think the way it was used in movies like “Ice Age” and “Matilda” was really great. We’ve seen a lot of young people, like 14 year-olds, now coming out to the show because of the experience with that song, and that’s exciting to us. On tour now we bring the young children up on stage to sing the song with us. It’s really their song now.”
But it is not a success that Galbicki is in a hurry to recreate. It's been nearly 20 years since “Send Me on My Way” came out, and since then Rusted Root has remained more interested in its live experience than in establishing any kind of enduring radio presence. Like with most “jam” acts, Rusted Root is an act that's best appreciated in the moment, and that's what keeps the band on the road.
“The fans are really connecting to the newer material, which is perfect because we wrote this album with the live show in mind,” he said. “(Because of “Send Me on My Way”), young kids come out to our shows, along with pretty much the same crowd people that have been coming for 23 years, and it’s amazing to have that community.”
Originally appeared in Cityview Jaunary 7, 2015