Singer/songwriter A.M. Rodriguez is a wanderer, a true troubadour from Texas.
His peripatetic life has led him from his hometown of Austin, Texas, around the U.S., to a short life in Philadelphia, to an extended stay in Savannah and now to a farm situated between Atlanta and Athens. Through his many journeys, Rodriguez was always writing songs that carry on the traditions of folk, Americana and outlaw country with a harder edge and delivered mostly in the one-man-band tradition.
A one-time English major at the University of Texas Austin, language and music have always been the core medium Rodriguez has used to express his creativity. On his debut album, “A.M. High on the Farm,” Rodriguez pieced together songs from his time in Austin, Philadelphia and Savannah for an accidentally chronological album that charts his travels.
Rodriguez returns to Savannah on March 29 for an album release party at The Jinx — where he used to work the door and run sound — with special guest Jezebel Heart and Sylvia Rose Novak.
In 2014, Rodriguez was living in Philadelphia. Friends of his in the now-defunct band Creepoid had decided to move to Savannah. They had rented a house, but were about to embark on a long tour and needed a dog sitter. Nearly out of money, Rodriguez offered to tag along and stay in Savannah with their dogs while they toured.
Creepoid returned from tour and immediately moved back to their home in Philadelphia. As with many visitors who stay in Savannah, Rodriguez ended up sticking around the Lowcountry for about four years.
“It’s not easy to be poor anywhere, but it’s easier to be poor in the south and have a higher quality of living,” Rodriguez said.
While here, he implanted himself into the music scene, playing open mics and gigs at The Jinx and elsewhere. A year a half ago, Rodriguez uprooted once again and moved to the farm to be with his new wife, Shannon.
Hoping to release something this year, Rodriguez stitched together the album’s set list from songs he had been performing live for years, but didn’t necessarily have a place on a single album.
“It’s a pretty good mix,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not 100 percent in chronological order, but pretty close. The first part of the album is stuff I wrote — it generally goes from stuff I wrote in Austin, to stuff I wrote in Philly, to stuff I wrote in Savannah and ends with a couple tunes I wrote out here on the farm.”
After two computers he was recording on broke, Rodriguez was forced into the album’s format. He made the track list, set up three mics in his home studio and recorded the entire album live. He added backing tracks himself later.
“There’s some mess-ups on there and stuff," he said. "It was really live. For the backing guitar, keyboard and harmonic, I just went through and did all of those in one take so nothing would feel too overly polished. I wanted it to have a live feel. I am happy it came out cohesive.”
Rodriguez went back in time to the days when he wrote the songs on the album to see where he was at in life. One song came from a time when he had just returned to Philadelphia from a trip to his beloved Austin. One was just after moving out of Austin and one was written just after arriving in Savannah.
“I was doing a radio interview with David Lake and he was questioning me on some stuff,” Rodriguez said. “We came to the conclusion that a lot of them [songs] are about changes, big changes, fundamental changes in setting and scenery in phases of life. It’s more on figuring out and adjusting to new situations in a lot of songs.
“A couple from arriving at the farm and figuring out — well, I am a married man now,” Rodriguez continued. “I don’t do most of what I did before. My whole life is different. What’s that about? A new set of anxieties. The old ones don’t apply as much. I’ve got new ones to worry about in good and bad ways. Whatever spot the narrator happens to be at. They’re not autobiographical as some of my old songs. A lot of them are. But there are some I played around with the narratives.”
Jezebel Heart is a new project from Savannah singer/songwriter Britt Scott. Scott’s solo work, with concepts of the afterlife, ghosts and lasting effects of love, is brought to life with Ethan Stewart (lead guitar), Susanna Kennedy (violin, vocals) Marc Chesanow (bass) and Jalen Reyes (drums) backing her up.
Novak, a friend of Rodriguez's who’s also playing two other shows with him in Atlanta and Athens, is an Alabama native who was “raised on a steady diet of folk staples, including Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Joan Baez… and classic country like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Eddy Arnold.” Her Americana blends influence from all of those famous names through her own modern Southern lens.