He’s regarded by many as one of Americana’s best writers, a man whose voice and lyrics have cultivated and captivated a loyal worldwide fan base with his character studies and stories of heartbreak, usually using just an acoustic guitar and the occasional harmonica. He’s also a skilled carpenter who can build himself a house to sing those songs in. But that’s another story.
Rod Picott arrived in Nashville more than two decades ago, sometimes working as a merch guy and occasional opener for Alison Krauss, while coming to terms with the realization that he probably wasn’t the type of artist the labels or publishers in Music City were going to spend their money on. A native of the New England Seacoast area, Picott has now independently recorded somewhere around a dozen albums, and has also published two books of poetry, as well as a book of short stories named for one of those albums, Out Past the Wires. As of this posting he’s tracking a still-unnamed new album. He talked about it a couple weeks ago via phone after shoveling some fresh snow during a trip to his boyhood home of Maine.
“I’m working on a series of bootleg projects, and I’m running through new songs for the album I’m recording when I get back to Nashville,” he said. “To make the best record, you look at the group of songs you want to record, and you think about what would be the right cast to record them. There’s this little crew that I’ve been working with there for about five years, a producer named Nielson Hubbard who’s got great ears, brings a lot to the table, great pitch, and he’s been in Nashville for a long time, knows everybody and has access to just amazing musicians.”
The product of a region where ships are built and syrup is bottled, Picott has recorded albums with blue-collar names like Welding Burns, while somehow making the transition from lyricist to poet and short story writer as well. “The short stories in Out Past the Wires were written over a couple of years,” he said, “but I wrote a lot of other short stories during that time that didn’t make this volume because they didn’t feel connected. This is a collection of short stories that’s kind of loosely connected to the album, which I put out a few years ago. Some of them are directly related and some of them are just like mood-wise related, tangentially related to songs on the record.”
As for his poetry books, some people think that a person who can write poetry can easily write song lyrics. But Picott pointed out the ways in which the two aren’t all that similar. “The difference to me is that with songs, you have all these handcuffs on you,” he said. “You have meter and rhyme scheme and pulses that you have to pay attention to with lyrics, so the two are very different. Lyrics are all connected, but in poetry you get to take your handcuffs off, you’re not tied to rhyme scheme or any of those exterior things. It’s not like having to follow the rules of songwriting that make songwriting work and make it beautiful.”
If there’s one way in which this road warrior provides inspiration for the rest of us, it’s with the Springsteen-like work ethic that keeps him constantly creating and moving forward. “I’m always writing, I’m writing every day,” he said. “I keep going and going and going.”
You can keep track of Picott’s comings and goings and his sundry projects at rodpicott.com.