Country newcomer Joel Crouse first started writing songs at the age 14 and by age 19 inked a record deal with Show Dog Universal.
A native of Holland, Massachusetts Crouse has spent the earlier part of his career in Nashville honing his skills while building a steady fan base the old-fashioned way, charming audiences in bars and arenas across the country. From playing small venues to playing stadiums while touring with Taylor Swift and Darius Rucker, Crouse has crafted an electric live show that is sure to pull you in.
Although he’s currently gearing up for the release of his debut album, Even The River Runs, an album with a storytelling tracklist of personal experiences that define his place in the music world as both a singer and songwriter, the now 22-year-old took time to speak with College News about the making of his debut album, tour, musical influences, fast food, Eminem and more.
Adrianna Velazquez: So I’m excited about your debut album, Even The River Runs, but how excited are you for it to finally release next week?
Joel Crouse: I’m pretty freaking excited, I won’t lie to you.
AV: I’m pretty bummed you and Love and Theft aren’t coming out this way so I’ll have to take a trip out to Ohio, but that’s alright.
JC: Yeah, it’s tough going there from Detroit. I was actually surprised too when I got the dates that we weren’t going to Michigan. I’ve actually played Detroit, I’ve played Michigan State and University of Michigan so I’ve got a little base up there.
AV: So it was announced that you will be touring with Love and Theft but you also made a cameo in their music video for “Night That You’ll Never Forget,” which looked like a lot of fun.
JC: It was a blast, Stephen and Eric are great guys, great artists, we’re going to definitely have fun on that tour. We’re all sharing a bus so I’m sure it’ll end up being a night that you’ll never forget that we’ll probably end up forgetting. I’m sure it’s going to a pretty awesome, fun-filled tour.
AV: So I know the album is going to contain some songs you’ve already released such as “If You Want Some” and “Why God Made Love Songs.” What’s your favorite song on the album?
JC: I think my favorite tune would probably be “Ruby Puts Her Red Dress On.” It’s just a really cool story about this girl who keeps it together in front of her friends and then when she’s alone she becomes vulnerable and puts this red dress on and it remind her of a time when her lost loved one told her she was the prettiest and so she dances to their song. It’s just a really cool story, it’s the only tune on the record that isn’t a personal experience of mine and it’s one of my favorite songs I’ve written.
AV: You were really involved with the songwriting process for the album, you co-wrote all the songs on the album. How important is songwriting to you both personally and professionally?
JC: It’s very important because when I first moved to Nashville I kind of thought everyone wrote their own songs so that was a little bit different for me to see there’s a difference between being a songwriter and being an artist or an entertainer. I just wanted to write my own tunes because it’s how most of my influences have done it so I started songwriting at a young age when I was 14 and I started writing good songs around 17 or 18. The whole process is very important to me, especially if I’m putting out an album, I need each song to be a song that relates to me and that maybe other people will relate to as well.
AV: What inspired the name of the album, Even The River Runs?
JC: It’s a track on the record and the song is about an experience I had with my dad. I sat down in Holland, Massachusetts, where I’m from, with my dad and he kind of just told me you can’t really play— because I was in a band before I moved to Nashville— and he just said you know, you can’t really can’t be in music and live in Holland, Massachusetts. You really got to be in Nashville and play your tunes. So, Even The River Runs, I felt was an appropriate title because it’s my debut record and it’s a song about me taking my first step and moving to Nashville.
AV: Perfect. Going back, you said you were in a band, why did you decide to give country music a shot after your band broke up?
JC: Well, I didn’t write any of the tunes in that band. My songs weren’t that good like I said. So I didn’t write any of those tunes and the band broke up for its own reasons, everyone was going to college and all that. So I was going to play my songs around and this one guy, named Brandon Creed who now manages Bruno Mars, he listened to some of my tunes and he said I would do well in Nashville. I’ve always loved story songs, and I’ve always loved instrumentation and so I moved to Nashville and started writing some songs with some people here in town and it ended up linking me up with my producer, Jamie Houston. Jamie has a reputation in the country world, the pop world, but the one thing we really agreed on was our love for old 70s rock music. What I wanted to do was just fuse together an influence of Keith Urban, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, John Mayer and just kind of fuse those influences together and make a record.
AV: That’s something I find really unique about your influences is that— I read that you never really categorize music by sound, but really more by what it’s about.
JC: Yeah, I say that because people ask what’s your favorite type of music, and I don’t have a favorite type. I think who I am as an artist and the message that I’m trying to portray and the songs that I write fit in a certain genre but as far as favorite genre, I just love songs, well-written songs and usually those are attached to the artists who have written them. To me, it’s either you want to get to know that artist or they speak to you on a level that you relate to and I guess I love all types of music. Like I said, I’ve been influenced by everything and I love that I can say I’ve probably been influenced by a songwriter in every genre.
AV: Your interest for music originally sparked when your grandfather bought you your first guitar, did you ever think then that your passion and love for music would translate into a career later on?
JC: Well, quickly after I got a guitar I tried starting a band which was stupid because I didn’t know how to play guitar yet. I’ve always knew I wanted to play music, I always wanted to be in a band, it was kind of just a childhood dream. I guess it just started when I was 15 and I had that band, we would add friends to our MySpace when MySpace was big, we would book shows and just kind of build a career ever since then. Lately it’s been more of, ‘Holy crap, this is my job now,’ but it was always a huge passion of mine growing up.
AV: (laughs) Earlier you mentioned you toured with Taylor Swift and Darius Rucker, what was the most exciting part about touring with the two of them, they’re pretty big.
JC: Touring with Taylor was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had because it broadened my fanbase incredibly everywhere, on social media. Some fans are even really excited for this record to come out. Learning from someone like Taylor doesn’t suck because you know, obviously she’s doing something right. She’s a great entertainer, great songwriter, great to the people she works with and some of her new artists as well. Touring with Darius was a completely different thing because Darius and I have been touring almost 15-20 dates a year for the last three years. I met him when I was 19 and rolling around on a broke down mini-van and he saw me and I only had two tour dates with him and after those two tour dates he put me on the rest of his fall tour back when I was 19 and put me on his band bus and has really just been taking care of me and helping me through a lot while I start this career, this adventure so he’s really like a big brother.
AV: That’s really awesome and you mentioned a big part of that was expanding your fanbase. Social media is extremely important in the music industry now, how important is it to you to connect with fans on social media?
JC: It’s really important because they get to know you on a different level. It’s totally more personal, I mean my fans kind of know— when they’re bringing me my favorite candy and Chipotle gift cards, stuffed animals of lions and everything it’s kind of cool that they know my interests. It’s also important because if my songs relate to them on a personal level then I’d like to as well.
AV: Going back to the album, do you feel it’s a true representation of your artistry all together?
JC: This album was written between the ages of 17 and 20 so I think this is going to be a really great representation of me as a debut artists and it’s a setup for a second album and I’m going to keep continuing writing songs and I think my fans will get a good sense of who I am as an artists and as a songwriter.
AV: What are your thoughts on cross-genre collaborations? It seems to be a black and white debate in a lot of cases. Some think that by crossing genres it’s taking the ‘country’ out of country music while others think it’s a window of opportunity.
strong>JC: The thing is about music, is that music constantly evolves, especially genres and you’re always going to have that because of new artists. For instance, how old are you?
AV: I’m 20.
JC: Alright, so I’m 22. People like us are growing up with the internet and where we can get music pretty much anywhere and I think you’re seeing, instead of cross-genre, is younger artists who have had the internet to grow up with for finding music and that means— you know— all the YouTube and iTunes and even the illegal side that I don’t recommend because it’s not good for songwriters like myself. Anyway, we can get our hands on rap, folk, country, rock, classical, reggae, polka music all within 10 minutes. We can listen to all different songs within different genres in 10 minutes and so I think new artists have been influenced by so many different genres with the easy access to it that you’re just having all of these sub-genres break out. Pop isn’t what it used to be, country isn’t what it used to be, rock definitely isn’t what it used to be. As far as collaborations go, I don’t see the big deal, songs are songs and if people want to change stuff up— I mean people are collaborating all the time. Paul McCartney did with Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones used to go up to Detroit and collab with some of the old R&B singers so it’s been happening for awhile now.
AV: With that said, what would be some of your dream collaborations?
JC: I would love to collab with Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Tom Petty, Keith Urban or John Mayer, pretty much my influences. Outside of my influences I think it would be really cool to do something with Eminem, I don’t know if that’ll ever happen but I still think it’d be pretty awesome.
AV: You’re the second country artist I’ve talked to that said Eminem for outside of their genre.
JC: Well, if I’m the second one then let me think of something else so I can be the first. I’m just kidding. (laughs)
AV: (laughs) Chase Rice said the same thing which I thought was really cool.
JC: Yeah, I really dig Eminem as a lyricist. He took a lot of chances and wrote some interesting lyrics that were just honest about how he felt so I think that would be cool to go completely outside of the box. Willie Nelson would definitely be a dream and a half too.
AV: That’d be awesome. So do you have a motto or philosophy that you live by or that inspires you?
JC: Growing up I was pastor’s kid so a lot of times I had to put on a front for no reason so I think if any motto I live by it’s just being who you are with and without the scars.
AV: That’s really great. Well, that wraps up all of my serious questions so now I have a lightning round of some fun questions.
AV: Most embarrassing moment?
JC: I was walking out of a Hollister store— yeah, I shopped at Hollister, I was 15, I’ll admit that. I was walking out of the store and I didn’t see this leg rest or whatever and just tripped over it and just ate sh*t in the middle of the floor. So many cute girls were there and they saw and I just got up and act like nothing happened. I’ve had more moments than that I’m sure. (laughs)
AV: Guilty pleasure?
JC: I really love fast food, I’m not gonna lie, a lot of fast food, junk food.
AV: Okay then what’s your favorite fast food and least favorite?
JC: I really dig Wendy’s, I’m not a fan of Arby’s.
AV: Not surprising, I don’t think many people are.
JC: Good point.
AV: What’s your favorite song at the moment?
JC: I never have one, a lot of people ask me that question but it’s really hard for me to pick a favorite. I’ve been jamming to “Coolkids” by Echosmith, that’s a fun jam.
AV: Describe yourself in 5 words.
JC: I would say, a musician, songwriter, a rambling man, insomniac, funny.
AV: Finally, if you had to choose between Chipotle or beanies which would you choose?
JC: Putting me on the spot, huh? Well...I’d have to go with my beanie, as sad of a question that is. You’re the first person to ask me that, that’s a really good question.
AV: I’m actually surprised by your answer, I really thought you were going to pick Chipotle.
JC: I don’t think you understand the love I have for this beanie, it just keeps me from never having to do my hair.
AV: That’s true, I guess there’s always Wendy’s.
JC: Well, I’d probably just skip out at that point.