It's a major milestone for Rural Rhythm's Nu-Blu, who are celebrating a decade together in 2013. According to the group's Daniel Routh, it's an anniversary worth celebrating, and the progressive bluegrass group is doing so with a new album, appropriately titled "Ten."
"We are so excited," Routh tells Billboard. "This is one that we've been anticipating and collecting material for awhile. Celebrating a ten-year anniversary is always a big point in a musician's career, and being able to put the album out to coincide with it is very cool."
Comprised of wife Carolyn Routh on bass and lead vocals, Levi Austin on the banjo, and Austin Koerner on the mandolin, Daniel says the band takes somewhat of a different approach to going into the studio to record. "I think one of the things that makes us unique is that we engineer, mix, master, and produce all of our own material. We actually own a studio, and we do all of our recording there. It's a different approach that we take to material. When we listen to demos, unless it's a song we've written, we pick out the songs we like and what we think will be a good fit. We go straight in, chart them out, and record them. So, what you're hearing on the CD sometimes is the first time through that we're playing these songs. I don't know how many other bands do that, it might be common, but for us, it really allows us to capture the emotion of the song a little more."
One of the highlights of the album is the heartbreaking "Without A Kiss," co-written by Michael Mahler of the Texas country band Wildhorses. "That was the first song we've recorded that has been written by him. Carolyn was the first person to hear that song. It was pitched to us, and she listened to the demo, and when she heard it, she started crying. She called me, and I thought something was wrong. When we heard it, we knew for sure that was going on the record."
The song is making an impact with their fans already. "That's actually becoming a crowd favorite. Folks are already coming up to the record table after the shows wanting to buy the CD just for that song."
What is Nu-Blu's secret to surviving the crazy world of the music business for the past ten years? "I don't know that there is a secret to it. It takes a lot of hard work," stresses Routh. "It's easy for any band to get comfortable. If you get comfortable with where you're at in the industry – no matter what level you're on, you're never going to move forward. I think that for us, that's a big thing. We constantly keep pushing for the next level. We're goal setters. We know some of those goals, it will take years to reach, but I think that having a mark to look forward to is huge. The other part is the chemistry within our band. Our personalities balance each other well, and all four have a part in producing the record. We're really hard on each other. Sometimes, it's brutal. But, it makes the final product better, and that's what we care about. When the listener puts the CD in, we want it to be a total experience, not just one song that might be good for radio. We want them to go 'Wow, the whole CD was awesome.' That's our goal."
Part of that spirit comes from their relationship with their label, which gives them total artistic control. "With them, they don't get involved in that at all. They say 'Whatever you guys bring to us is what we're going to put out.' They leave it totally up to the artists across the board to do what we want to do. That's cool, because sometimes we do some things that aren't bluegrass, especially on this album. "It's A Good Day To Be With You," is a song on there that was written by Trey Bruce that is as far as you can get from bluegrass, but it's a great song. We believe a good song deserves to be recorded. That's cool to be able to have that freedom," he says with pride.