The idea for Mosaic came from a couple of developments during the summer of 2018. Rollings was on the road with Krauss, and he began recording improvised instrumental jams during sound checks with drummer Jay Bellerose, which stoked his composing muse.
Then, during a break on the tour, Rollings and his wife took a vacation in northern California, and while waiting for a dinner table one night met Ramblin' Jack Elliott. After conversing and trading stories, Rollings began hatching plans to make an album with the veteran folk singer.
"It occurred to me that I haven't made a solo record that's come out in 30 years -- that was a lightning bolt moment for me," says Rollings, whose jazz trio album Balconies came out in 1990, while some other projects fell by the wayside during the interim. "I started thinking, 'What about all these other people I have really close connections with -- Lyle? Willie?"
Rollings' original idea was "blending" the songs and the improvisations with Bellerose. "But as I got farther down the line, it became clear to me that [Mosaic] was a record of its own," he says. "It needs to stand alone, these 10 pieces we had recorded. My plan was to have interludes between the songs that came from the improvisations with Jay, but when I heard the 10 tracks with those artists singing on them, that's what it had to be. It didn't need anything else."
Though he'll maintain his busy hired gun schedule, Mosaic does return Rollings to a position of being an artist in his own right. He still hopes to make the album with Elliott and flesh out the improvisations with Bellerose, bringing Dave Matthews Band saxophonist Jeff Coffin into the mix. He’s also eyeballing a song-oriented solo album.
"It's a bit of a renaissance," Rollings says. "It's like I've woken up, to be honest -- not that I've been asleep. I feel like in my career I'm so lucky to have had the opportunities I've had, and I love all the work I've done. I love playing on other people's records, being of service that way. But I’m 55 now, and having my voice, it's become time to use more of it. It's not that the other has stopped, but this has to begin."
Mosaic, due out Aug. 14 on Found Records/Dualtone, also features the Blind Boys of Alabama and Molly Tuttle.
Get a first listen of "Accentuate The Positive" below.