Rising star Joel Crouse has been working for a long time towards the release of his Debut album with Show Dog-Universal, Even The River Runs. In this exclusive conversation, Joel tells us a little about the process of crafting the album with his co-writer/producer Jamie Houston, how he came to be in Nashville and how personal some of these songs on the album are to him. Get to know more about the album and Joel Crouse in "The Interview, A Conversation with Joel Crouse."
Matt Bjorke: Alright. So here I am, staring at the physical copy of your debut record, Even The River Runs...
Joel Crouse: (Looking at the album) There it is.
Matt: I’m sure you did the same thing when you got your first one, taking it all in. Realizing the dream is about to be tangible and real, with music available for fans to buy.
Joel: Yeah. Actually, I just saw them, just at the beginning of last week. It was pretty cool.
Matt: So you’ve been working towards that moment for a while now, um, where this record’s coming out. How does it feel to have it in stores and available for fans.
Joel: It’s cool man, and I think when we first met, God it had to have been two years ago, at least...
Matt: It was, yeah, I think it was the first Country Radio Seminar that I believe you went to, the one where you showcased at The Standard…
Joel: Yeah, and we were doing my first single “If You Want Some,” which is funny because it’s the last song we wrote for that album. So it’s been done, and this album is gonna be a great representation of my story and when I first moved to Nashville, um, up until about the ages of 17-20, my story of, you know, living back home and kinda sneaking out of my parents’ house, having fun, which is in my song called “Summer Love” and so all the way up to the last song I wrote, you know the party song “If You Want Some”. So it’s really cool for me to be able to have the fans go and purchase it, and like, learn about me during that time in my life, and it makes me look forward to the journey ahead, of, you know, a second record and a third record.
Matt: And, um you got to work obviously with Jamie Houston on this project and I knew of Jamie but not many people probably do. I knew of him from working with Mark McGuinn and all those cats…
Joel: Yeah. Jamie has a very diverse, uh, artist list that he’s worked with. (Thanks ma’am) I mean VERY diverse, all the way from Judas Priest to Santana to Christina Aguilera.
Joel: He had some Gary Allen cuts along the way too. You know, he’s really been all over the place musically, and so when we met, and also he did all the High School Musical stuff, which he doesn’t’ really come out with, but he did it, you know. He did a lot of stuff for Disney so when I first met Jamie I was kinda wondering when I first met Jamie, you know, how’s this gonna work and it turned out when we got together, we both really loved that kinda California country sound, like The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, so I was kinda wanting to infuse that with you know my Keith Urban influence, my Waylon Jennings kind of influence a little bit, and so when we met, and we wrote a few songs when I was 17, man it was just, clicked, and actually one of the first songs we wrote was the third track, “You Can Break a Heart Like That” I think that was the second song we wrote together …
Matt: And that does have that Eagles-y vibe…
Joel: Yeah, it does. And so that’s kind of, you can totally tell you know that’s where we were lyrically back then, you know , I was 17 and I actually had just walked in on my girlfriend with a college basketball player, and he was 6’7” and I’m 6 feet on a really good day and so I was just, that was my inspiration I brought to Jamie for one of our first tunes [that they wrote together-ed]. So now Jamie and I are just like brothers, and we’re gonna make a lot more records together.
Matt: I was gonna say, the title track sounds like it would fit perfect on radio today.
Joel: Yeah, man, yeah I’ve been thinking the same, and we actually just made a little video for it with all the live footage from the road, and it’s coming out soon.
Matt: What made "Even The River Runs" the right song to be the anchor, the title track for the project??
Joel: Um, it’s funny I actually picked that title track. I wanna say two years ago as well, because the manager I was working with at the time, Scott McGhee, and I talked about it and he just said “What do you think you want it to be called?” And I said, “Honestly, Even the River Runs is you know, it’s cool. And I didn’t want any of the album artwork to have anything to do with a river because that would be cliché.
And so I wanted it to stand out on itself. The reason why I chose “Even the River Runs” is because it’s a story, literally my story of leaving home and to go down to Nashville and to pursue what I wanna do in music and I remember I was 17 and I’d been visiting Nashville with my Dad, staying for a few months at a time in, you know, at these cheap hotels out near the airport and trying to get my career going…
Matt: Oh, I bet that was fun…
Joel: And so we lived there for 3 months and we went back home to Massachusetts, and my Dad just said, “You know,if you do this, if you’re serious about this, you’ve gotta go down there and do it on your own. You’ve gotta just, and there’s nothing left for you here. You can’t get to where you wanna be by staying in Holland, Massachusetts,” is what he said. And so that was my story and I wrote it with Craig Wiseman and Jamie Houston. It says “Watchin’ the Missouri flow”. The Missouri River. That was because there’s really not a river that sounds good in a song from Massachusetts.
Matt: Or in New York.
Joel: I couldn’t say that, or the Connecticut.
Matt: Or the Mohawk.
Joel: Yeah, and so the Missouri was more of a fit, and I wanted to kinda keep that southern feel of it...
Joel: And so that’s, the song is really about the start of my journey, you know. And so that’s why I thought it would be an appropriate, you know, title for the album.
Matt: And you were just announced as one of the, as the opening artist for the new Love and Theft Tour.
Joel: Yeah, and I've been keeping that a secret for a while.
Matt: So what does that mean for you, to be going out on this tour with them?
Joel: Uh, it’s wicked cool .When I found out about the tour man, I love Steven and Eric. You know, they’re some of the first dudes I met, you know, out playing radio gigs and everything, and they’re some of the nicest guys and you know, love some of their tunes, been a fan of them for a while, so to go out on the road, and uh share a bus and everything and you know do it old school...
Matt: Yeah. I’ve been on their bus, fun times. I’ve known them for a long time and to me, it seems like a perfect fit, musically.
Joel: Yeah, I think so too.
Matt: Have any ideas how it's all gonna go?
Joel: It’s gonna be cool, man, and they’re gonna expose me to a lot of their fans which I’m grateful for, and hopefully I can bring some of mine out.
Matt: I think they did the Taylor Swift opening slot too, just like you did.
Joel: Oh really?
Matt: Yeah, I think so. I think they were one of the earliest ones.
Matt: Yeah, so you can kind of talk the Taylor Tour experience…
Joel: There’s a lot of people who’ve been on that Taylor tour. Charlie Worsham,…
Matt: Hunter [Hayes].
Joel: Hunter, yeah man.
Matt: It’s crazy.
Joel: But I’m gonna say it’s a 30 day tour, and uh October just about right to the holidays. It’s gonna be fun.
Matt: It must be pretty cool to be on a label like Show Dog that will help see you through, and release the record even if you don’t have a top ten or a top five or something yet, like a lot of other labels would do, so that you can actually get the record out there and build your fan base even more.
Joel: Yeah, I’m excited to have it out there for the fans for sure. I’m just excited for them to hear the songs.