Friday, April 19 2024

Hailing from West Texas and shaped by experiences in Houston, Los Angeles, and Seattle, Rusty Reid brings a unique perspective to his melodic, guitar-driven tunes. His latest single, ‘The United States of Selfishness,’ is anchored in robust musicianship, unfolding gracefully to let the evocative lyrics shine. This seven-minute composition, with shades of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, captivates with musical nuances, including a beautiful melodic guitar solo and a perfectly timed key change. It concludes with a contemplative outro, giving listeners time to reflect on the content. Is this release a protest song or an unadorned truth-telling expedition? Join us as Rusty shares insights into his songwriting process, the emotions he hopes to evoke, and the broader themes he explores in his music.

Whilst the title seems somewhat self-explanatory was there something specific that inspired you to write ‘The United States of Selfishness?’

Hey Matt, it’s great to chat with you. Thanks for that question. Looking back through the history of humanity, I noticed that our human penchant for individual, as well as cultural, selfishness has seemed to dominate, punctuated here and there by novel ideas that trend more toward selflessness. These were few and far between for millennia, but gradually picked up supporters and steam, and eventually helped to create the modern, democractic, interconnected, more or less cooperative world of nations that we inherited. Alas, not everyone was pleased with these developments. There were those staunchly opposed to, you know, playing well with others. We have a term for them: conservatives. Look around the world, or throughout history, you don’t really want to live in a place where conservatism gets its way. In America, as with many other liberal democracies, we are now facing this conservative backlash against the social justice movements, the environmental movement, and any other infringements on their “liberty,” which they take to mean their liberty to squelch your liberty. I felt I should write a song about this situation in this country, and came up with this term, “The United States of Selfishness.” The song could apply to many other nations as well. But I do think our American conservatives are the worst among the liberal democracies. They don’t – yet – match up with, say, those in Iran or North Korea or Russia, but they are trending in that direction. You don’t see this kind of CEO enrichment, cowboy machismo, gun-loving, climate change denying, election rigging, Capitol building rioting in the UK, the Scandinavian countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan or such. This is really nothing new in our history… as the song discusses we’ve had the Tories, the Confederates and whole menagerie of other conservatives mucking things up, running roughshod over others, and opposing every shred of social and moral progress, all while thinking they are the “real” Americans (and good “Christians” – boy is that a laugh). So this song is calling them out, and sending up a warning flag of what is ahead if we don’t disarm and diminish this entire ideology. Really, not just goodwill among peoples but the livability of the planet are at stake. BTW, I write a column at Medium.com if anyone is interested in further checking out my ideas on the awfulness of conservatives. 

Rusty Reid Single United States of Selfishness

Did the song undergo any changes or transformations during the writing or recording process? If so, how did it evolve?

I had been listening to the late Texas singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave, and he steered me right into this song. He’s got a song called, “This Land,” where he says, “I simply want my country back again.” Now, conservatives say that, too. But what they mean is they want their advantage, privilege and power back. What Jimmy is saying, is he wants back the nation that was striving to live up to its own ideals. We have never really gotten there, but at least we were on the right track. American conservatives now threaten to derail that, possibly for good. So my song goes into a bit more detail of what has gone wrong for so long that continues to thwart us ever reaching our true social and moral potential. The song flowed out pretty effortlessly. It was more or less train of thought. I think a lot of the best songs come like that. I recall reading that Paul Simon said “Bridge Over Troubled Water” came tumbling into being in a flash. Then the other players on the song, Jason Roller on guitar, Jed Demlow on keys and bass, and Darin Watkins on drums just knocked it out of the park, in my opinion. 

What emotions or reactions do you hope to evoke in listeners through ‘The United States of Selfishness?’

The title song of one of my previous albums is, “Head to Heart.” The songs on that album, as well as this one, I hope will register in the head and heart of the listener. “The United States of Selfishness” might make you mad and sad. If you agree with its statements, maybe do what you can do to push back on what conservatives are threatening in this day and age. There are way more of us who are willing to sacrifice a bit of our privilege and “liberty” to make a better world for everyone. But we have to stand up for the good and the true.

How important do you think it is for artists to use their platform to address societal issues?

I personally think it’s very important. Banksy is one of my heroes. The best art makes you think, and makes you feel. But there’s a spectrum of “gravitas,” running from pretty shallow to deeply philosophic or even spiritual. I think artists who through their art push their audience toward a higher way of thinking or being are definitely a cut above those who are simply entertainers. If all you have to offer while the world is burning up is, “Hey, look how cool I am,” or “Oh, baby, you so sexy,” you’re kinda pathetic, if you ask me. Where would our culture be if most artists – of all types – stood firm with the higher good and the true? 

Does the release of “The United States of Selfishness” signal a particular direction or theme for your upcoming musical projects?

This song is a continuation of my delving into more philosophical, political and/or spiritual (not religious) themes that actually started decades ago. I’m currently re-mixing my “Head to Heart” album, and will get that out next year. There’s also a “twin” single to “The United States of Selfishness” that will also be released in 2024. It’s titled “American Villain.” Guess who that’s about! But, I do have some projects that will be in a more normal vein. I’m just about finished with an album of all cover tunes, all sharing the same unique orientation. And I’m going to release an album of recordings by my old Houston rock band, The Unreasonables. After all that, I’ll be back with more original material. Stay tuned. 

And, for fun… If you could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Oh gosh… that’s a tough question. The Beatles are far and away my principle influence, but surely they are better off without my contribution. I do still love many of those 1960s groups. If I could transport back in time what I know now, and be in the Byrds, that would be super cool. That band may be the one that could have best put my country-rock abilities to good use. Maybe I would have had a hit or two by now. Getting to collaborate with any of my favorite artists being probably unlikely, I’ll try to bring a little of them into my songs.

Thanks so much Rusty and TIG wishes you all the best with ‘The United States of Selfishness’ and all future releases.

Keep up to date with Rust Reid on the links below:

Website / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / Spotify / Bandcamp / Instagram

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About Author

Matt Warren

Matt Warren is a Cheshire based musician who studied contemporary music and composition. When not writing for The Indie Grid he enjoys watching 'Breaking Bad' on continuous loop and going to gigs. Since a youngster his fave band have been 'The Beatles' (with 'Cardiacs' in at a close second)... and this still applies to this day.

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