Justin Rutledge Strips Down His Sound On Valleyheart

Justin Rutledge

Justin Rutledge knows all too well what it’s like to be the underdog. Over the course of his five studio records, he has garnered seemingly endless critical acclaim while also earning the respect of fellow musicians including members of Blue Rodeo, Kathleen Edwards and more. Rutledge has the enviable and uncanny ability to break your heart with his simple yet reflective roots-infused songs.

Currently on the road promoting his fifth full-length record Valleyheart, released this past February via Outside Music, Justin Rutledge performs at the Tide & Boar in Downtown Moncton next Tuesday night.

“I’ve heard from a number of different people, especially music journalists, who ask why I am not a household name yet. The fact of the matter is, I can’t really specify why that would be,” Rutledge laughs. “It can be hard these days, trying to do what I do. I can only keep doing it with the hopes that eventually it will catch on.

“The very fact I am still making music is a testament of sorts to some degree of success. Valleyheart is challenging in that it is a very bare sounding record that is fighting against what is happening in pop music right now. Nothing seems to really be selling in music these days. The fact that I can do what I do and make records is a reward in itself. Building a career in music is a very slow burn. There are still people supporting it, I can only do my part.”

Rutledge deems Valleyheart as being a very bare kind of record, unique in its stripped down sound. After having worked with Hawksley Workman on 2010’s The Early Widows, getting back to basics was important for the singer-songwriter.

“Aside from my last record where Hawksley and I went for an intentional bigger kind of sound, it didn’t really change my overall perception of what I do well. I always want to stay true to myself. This record is a very pure and simple kind of record.”

It turns out that while we might not have heard much from Rutledge over the past few years, he has been anything but idle. He has spent the last couple of years writing music, just not for the traditional outlet of his solo work.

“I had the chance to become involved with some theatre work,” he shares. “I acted in a couple of plays and wrote the music for both of them. I was also commissioned to write the music for a fairly large production of The Arsonists, which in turn took up a lot of time and creative energy, adapting text to music.

“I have been busy but I have really enjoyed my time away from my solo career. It has been refreshing. I don’t want to only think about myself all of the time, it is not the way I was raised. Plus, I am sort of my own worst enemy when it comes to self-promotion. The more time I spend in my own head, the worse I feel about what I do,” Rutledge laughs.

Article published in the April 26, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript